Anticipate more aggression
Under Mike Smith the Bucs were a very bland … and bad defense. Since Mark Duffner took over, they’ve had a more varied approach that features early down aggression. I expect that to intensify this week facing an inexperienced QB and a suddenly potent run game. Without going outside of the confines of what gives them the best chance to win, they need to figure how to take advantage of this new-found identity to get chunk plays in the passing game.
In the shots that Lamar Jackson has taken downfield in his four games as starter, he’s shown some touch but in too many of those situations the defense knew exactly what was coming and the plays lacked a viable counter. If the Ravens are going to make a legitimate run, they are going to have to find a couple big plays in the passing game each week. It starts with this one.
Right guard Caleb Benenoch has been the sore spot for the Buccaneers offensive line all season. When watching Tampa on film he seems to be at the root of most of their breakdowns and the Ravens should look to keep it that way by using stunts and finding ways to isolate him. If I’m Wink Martindale, I’d make it my business to get him in as many one on one’s as I could with Michael Pierce and Za’Darius Smith.
Tunnel screens in obvious passing situations
This one is twofold. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Marty Mornhinweg’s ability to scheme guys open on 3rd and medium to long. Secondly, the Bucs have been able to create turnovers and get stops in obvious situations the last 3 games by sitting back in dime and baiting QB’s to throw into the deep middle of the field. Both scare me to death. I’d much rather see the Ravens try to force what despite improvements is still a bad defense to come up and tackle. I really do hate that I’m suggesting this but they, it’s where we are.
Despite his turnover issues, Jameis Winston has the NFL’s #1 passer rating from outside the pocket at 124.4. Not typically known for his scrambling prowess, he’s had over 40+ rushing yards in each of the past 2 games and averages 30 yards rushing per game on the season. Compare that to his 83.0 rating from inside the pocket (4th worst in the NFL) and the objective should be pretty clear.
Adam Humphries has become a security blanket for Jameis Winston. He ranks 8th in the NFL in receiving yards from the slot. He’s tough, shifty, crafty, a gym rat, quicker than fast, am I missing any cliché’s? Football Outsiders ranks the Bucs offensive line as the worst run blocking unit in the NFL and now they’ll come into Baltimore to face a stout Ravens run defense who has even excelled at stopping the run in lighter fronts. Humphries will likely be their primary vehicle to extending drives and the Ravens should take a page out of their playbook when defending Edelman and the Patriots by absolutely bludgeoning him at the line of scrimmage. With the depth they have and Brandon Carr’s success in the slot as the season has progressed, this is a strategy that should be relatively easy to implement.
Don’t sleep on Godwin
Godwin may have disappointed my Draft Kings lineup last week but he should not be taken lightly in this one. Tampa likes to push the ball downfield (7th most attempts 20+ yards downfield in the NFL) and Godwin is a gifted athlete with 4.4 wheels and plus ability at the catch point. Despite a rough game he had 173 air yards last week showing their willingness to give him opportunities to make big plays. While Mike Evans is obviously the marquee name, it would make more sense from a skill set standpoint to assign primary coverage of Godwin to Marlon Humphrey.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans
I could see this game approached much like the Falcons game where Jimmy Smith’s primary assignment was Julio Jones w/bracket coverage and Marlon Humphrey’s primary assignment was one on one with Calvin Ridley. Evans’ volume has been up and down this season but I expect it to be up in this game with their struggling run game facing a top run defense. If Smith can make things as difficult on Evans as he did with Julio, the Bucs will have a really inefficient afternoon in Baltimore.