Heavy 11 Personnel
The Ravens have stumbled into an interesting dynamic. Lamar Jackson’s presence forces edge defenders to do more reading than crashing. Week 11 revelation Gus Edwards is the perfect complement to that as a no-nonsense grinder. They already spend more time in 11 personnel than any other grouping but using it more exclusively would enhance their new-found identity and force defenses into a game of pick your poison.
Keep the box light and expose yourself to the downhill banging Edwards or play heavy and give Willie Snead among others advantageous matchups.
The Ravens don’t often get to dictate on offense but this is looking like a prime opportunity to do just that.
Take some risks
The Raiders defense has the worst pressure percentage in the NFL. The 8.9 yards per pass attempt they give up is 2nd worst in the league. They also give up the most yards per play in their nickel personnel grouping. These are all factors that you want to give a splash player like Jackson opportunities to exploit. The sheer threat of him running mixed with the Raiders run defense (4.8 yards per carry this season) will allow the Ravens run game to *cringes* “keep them on schedule” (I hate archaic concepts like this but hey, baby steps) which in turn will give them a few chances to take shots.
Now, it must be done in moderation, he is still a rookie making his 2nd NFL start but this a good spot to loosen the reins some and afford him the chance to make magic.
Involve the young tight ends in boot action, screens, etc.
I understand neither are established blockers and maybe it’s a tell that a pass is coming when you take Nick Boyle out, but these designed boot action plays just take such a hit when the end result is throwing to a guy that runs a 4.86 forty. With all the jet sweep action the Ravens put on tape last week, a tight end screen on the opposite side could bare fruit as well. Both Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews showed well as open field runners on the college level and it would be an easy way to get 1st year ROI from them.
Sweat the small stuff
Oakland throws the 4th most short passes (5 yards or less) in the NFL. That could climb even further without vertical threats Martavis Bryant and Amari Cooper. Much like last week, I think this a “challenge the receivers to beat you” week.
As against Cincy, disrupt the short throws with press man coverage, edge drops, and timely switches to cover 2. A few batted balls wouldn’t hurt either.
Don’t sleep on Jared Cook
If this game goes the way I suspect, which is the Ravens grabbing control early, you’ll likely see less of blocking combo Lee Smith and Derek Carrier and more of Jared Cook. Cook is one of the more physically gifted players at the position in the NFL and poses a big threat to this intermediately challenged Ravens group.
He’s not prime Gronk but I’d treat him like he is on Sunday. Bracket him in key spots, get Anthony Levine on him, chip him…I mean, who else are they going to pay attention to?
Play Tyus Bowser
One of the real let downs of the 2018 season has been the pass rush not reaching its potential. Injuries to Tim Williams and Willie Henry have really killed what could have been an exciting group. Suggs and Judon have underwhelmed as rushers and Za’Darius Smith is spending too much time on the edge instead of being able to lock in on his real trump card, interior disruptor. Tyus Bowser is coming off a pretty good showing last week and should be given the opportunity to build on it. Sometimes you just have to roll your athletes out there and let them get after it.
We’ve seen the alternative and unfortunately, it doesn’t include penetration.
Matchup to watch
Ravens interior offensive line versus Maurice Hurst
One of the lone bright spots of the Raiders’ season has been the play of their rookie 5th-round pick. Pegged as a likely first-round pick, he slid all the way to the 140th pick due to a medical red flag at the combine. He’s been active and productive as a pass rusher a really is the lone guy that poses a threat along that Oakland line. If the Ravens can neutralize him, Jackson should enjoy a clean pocket for most of the day.