Let er rip, Marty!
Once again, I’m going with the counterintuitive approach. Against an offense as electric as the Saints, the thought process usually involves calling a methodical, ball control game centered around the running the football. Welp, two holes in that theory…
1. The Ravens run game kinda sucks right now. They average a meager 3.4 yards per carry and could be down a starter at left guard.
2. The Saints have the best run defense in football in both yards per carry average (3.1) and yards per game (71.4).
While they have improved as a pass defense as the year has progressed, vulnerability remains. Outside corners Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley have shown noticeable slips in play. Free agent slot corner Patrick Robinson is out for the season. The Saints pass rush features all-world defensive end Cameron Jordan and burgeoning rookie edge Marcus Davenport but as a whole isn’t imposing enough to preclude an aggressive approach. Especially for a defense giving up 9.1 yards per pass attempt (2nd worst in the NFL).
The Ravens need to take a healthy amount of shots to the intermediate and deep areas of the field.
Willie Snead revenge week
Snead should have a large role this week with a key adjustment in how he’s deployed. The Saints’ top three corners are more boundary-type players ,giving the quicker Snead an edge versus the Ken Crawley/PJ Williams combo, but due to coverage adjustments they’ve made over the past few weeks, it won’t be as simple as quick slants and curls for him. The Saints will be on those.
The Ravens need to utilize more post and dig routes, forcing the aforementioned defenders out of their comfort zone and Snead into the areas of the field that will hurt New Orleans the most.
Early Lamar Jackson usage
I may be in the minority, but I feel like the Ravens have left a lot of meat on the bone when it comes to their Lamar Jackson packages both in actual results and tactically. Because of his gravity, I do think it’s worthwhile to keep exploring the possibilities and this may be a perfect week to do so.
During Ken McKusick’s Saints preview pod, Deuce Windham of the Athletic opined that the preference of Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be to play primarily man coverage. New Orleans could anticipate the methodical approach I alluded to earlier and come out in man…which would music to the Ravens’ ears when Jackson lines up at QB.
With how silly we’ve seen him make defenders look in the open field, one snap could be enough to put six on the scoreboard.
Encourage the run
The Saints spend 60+ percent of their time in three-wide receiver sets. When Alvin Kamara is on the field with them he’s essentially a 4th receiver with the flexibility to run routes from the backfield as well as split out wide.
Now because I have to give more of an answer than “pray” when determining how you defend the Saints when Kamara splits wide to the same side of the field as Michael Thomas…I’m going to recommend a heavy dose of the dime defense this week.
I fully understand the compromise this creates. New Orleans has the best offensive line in football and two talented running backs, but if you’re telling me I have the choice of putting the ball in Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara’s hands (BETWEEN THE TACKLES, important distinction) versus a top five run defense or the ball in the hands of that surgeon wearing number 9?
I know which side I’m picking.
Protect the seams
This is an area the Ravens have sort of conceded from personnel/scheme standpoint but adjustments will have to be made here. They’ll need to be more judicious with the zone blitz as well as the A-gap pressure. They’ll also need to chip the tight end and/or slot receiver to slow them and allow the rush to get home.
Brees will rock you to sleep with slants and short throws then slice you with pinpoint passes down the seam. The tight end tandem of Ben Watson and Josh Hill do well in that area of the field and Cam Meredith is a big slot whose health is trending in the right direction.
The Ravens will have their work cut out but they must have their antennas up for these potential shots from Sean Payton and company.
Lots of Tim Williams
Sending five or more rushers consistently versus a Drew Brees-led offense probably isn’t the best idea. The Ravens will have to mix and match in this one but part of that will be manufacturing effective four-man rushes.
Of the plethora of young pass rushers at their disposal, Williams is the most natural talented edge rusher. His initial burst is a trump card the rest of the group simply doesn’t have. He should be the most called upon to bookend Terrell Suggs versus the best offensive tackle tandem in the NFL.
Against most groups, you could count on the other guys to still have their moments, but against this one, they could get shut out. Let the young man do what he does best, and do it often.
Matchup to watch
Wink Martindale vs Drew Brees (pre-snap)
This matchup alone is worth the price of admission. The increased freedom and creativity Wink has implemented has some shown itself in the Ravens’ pre-snap movement. He gives his defenders the rope to change things and what you see may not be what you ultimately get.
This week he faces his biggest challenge yet trying to trick Drew Brees. It could ultimately be the biggest factor deciding a win or a loss this week.