Can Edges Hold Against Denver?

Battle Plans Can Edges Hold Against Denver?

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Welp. It’s Week 3 and the Ravens already have some huge question marks. How will the Ravens defense adjust to the second week missing C.J. Mosley, a tried and true defensive leader? Will the Ravens offensive line be able to regroup after a disastrous showing last week, and have a better effort against, arguably, better edge competition?

The next several paragraphs will serve to explore the Ravens’ upcoming matchup with the Denver Broncos and shed some light on the questions raised above.

Offense

Yuck. No one wants to throw the ball as much as the Ravens did last Thursday. But even a casual observer can see that giving up 21 quick points meant that Joe Flacco and the offense were going to have to sling the rock if they had any hope of getting back into the game. Getting down big early completely shifts any game plan the coordinators had going into the contest.

Before we get in to the things I’ll be watching on Sunday, I just want to take a moment to rant: It is an absolute travesty that the Ravens are trying to use Lamar Jackson as a decoy. He is a rare talent that Marty Mornhinweg continues to use situationally. I didn’t like it when Mornhinweg alluded to this in the preseason and I certainly don’t like how those scheme plays have panned out.

It’s time to shelve that and focus on improving the offensive line.

Offensive Line Play

Honestly, this freaking bullet point might be on my “things to watch for the offense,” section indefinitely.

For another week the offensive line depth and skill concerns me. They were obviously and utterly outmatched by Cincinnati, and it’s showing that the team’s lack of investment and poor interior line drafting is wearing this unit thin.

Matt Skura might want to change his name to Sackura after last week. He was absolutely dominated at the point of attack and was a major reason the Ravens couldn’t get a consistent run game in motion. But the fault is not his alone to bear. Almost noone along the line showed any manner of gumption. Alex Lewis, James Hurst, and Ronnie Stanley all had moments of decent play and more moments of bewildering mental mistakes.

This unit needs to step up if the Ravens are going to win on Sunday. The Von Miller/Bradley Chubb duo is especially concerning to me because of the injury Stanley’s arm and Hurst’s history as an absolute liability on the edge. I really hope Joe D’Alessandris can kick Lewis to center and Hurst to guard while finally letting Orlando Brown Jr. start his first NFL game. However, Brown Jr.’s footwork is somewhat concerning against a veteran pass rusher.

This unit needs to show me something more. With more time off this past week, I hope this unit spent a lot of time reflecting on how they can improve.

Tight End

Mark Andrews came to play on Thursday. It was fun to see a rookie contribute on this side of the ball (more on that later). While three receptions for 17 yards hardly seems like a coming out party the rook did get his first touchdown and that’s something to note.

Here’s hoping he continues to play a piece of the offense even after Hayden Hurst returns.

Running Backs

As much as it pains me to say this. Alex Collins, technically, had a better game against the Bengals. It didn’t seem like it since Mornhinweg abandoned the run game early and hardly looked back. Furthermore, it seemed like all 35 yards and 3.9 yd average were hard fought and due to Collins’ elusiveness rather than his blockers. I am looking for him to get back to 2017 form against the Broncos. The Broncos have the 7th best rush defense so far this season and a good game against that front seven would re-establish Collins and the offensive line.

Play Calling

Marty needs to find his balance. I am looking for him to orchestrate a beautiful full game of football. I would like to see the offense be proactive rather than reactive.

Most importantly, I would like to see a game plan that plays to Baltimore’s offensive strengths and Denver’s weaknesses.

Defense

When Mosley was carted off the field, it was almost as if every Ravens fan watching the game could sense the chaos that ensued. It has never been more apparent to me that the inside linebacker depth is incredibly lacking. Much respect to Patrick Onwuasor but he is not a No. 1 inside backer.

At some point in the game Baltimore’s coaching staff changed things up and gave the green sticker (speaker) to Eric Weddle. Until then though, either the team’s communication was completely screwed up, or Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme was exposed. Weddle has the dot again this week (from the start), so we will quickly see if the guys appear to be back on the same page again.

Inside Linebackers

Yikes. It was apparent that Onwuasor is not going to be the every-down replacement for Mosley. Peanut did so poorly that Baltimore went out and resigned the aging Albert McClellan to, if I am postulating, free up rookie Chris Board for linebacker depth. This unit needs to step up on Sunday. One bright spot was how well Kenny Young played – he was fast and displayed good instincts. It will be interesting to see how he develops as the season progresses.

Secondary

Yikes x2. This unit was torched by the red headed red rocket for 256 yards passing and four touchdowns. That’s quite a fall from grace for a unit that returned every starter, minus Jimmy Smith, and was projected to be one of the best in the league. A lot can be extrapolated from statistics. This unit will definitely benefit from additional data points this week. Another unit looking for a bounce back game. Marlon Humphrey will have something to prove and I think he plays better with a chip on his shoulder. Looking at you, everyone who said I doubted him last season.

Outside Linebackers and Defensive Line

The only statistic I care about over the past two weeks are the numbers six and zero. Those are the number of sacks the defense registered by week. That is incredibly concerning. This unit needs to find a way to get to the quarterback, cut down on mental penalties and get back to doing what they do best. Also, Brandon Williams is slowly turning back into a pumpkin and I really hope he can prove that the price Baltimore paid him wasn’t just for past performance.

What I’m Watching

With multiple units needing big bounce back games, I will be keen to see which units’ stock goes up and which go down. The Ravens will have had 10 days off and hopefully that’s enough to shake off the shock of losing such a leader in Mosley.

Hopefully that’s enough time for John Harbaugh to get his locker room in order.

The Ravens can’t afford a slow start against the Broncos.

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About Michael Champagne

Growing up in California should have made Mike a west coast fan, but it only made him a fan of the west coast offense. He fell in love with the Ravens in 2008 and has been an avid fan since. Since moving to Boston, Mike has found solace in the fact that the city has one Ravens Bar. You can find him there most Sundays. More from Michael Champagne

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