Ron Chenoy/USA Today

Broncos vs Ravens: Game Preview, Part I

MHH Analyst Erick Trickel is back to break down the opening game for the Broncos. The Baltimore Ravens are coming to Denver. In Part I of the preview, Trickel goes position-by-position to determine which team has the edge.

The Denver Broncos have met the Baltimore Ravens four times since 2010. The last time being the opening kickoff, in Denver, for the 2013 season, when the Broncos won 49-27. However, the Ravens own the series with seven wins over the Broncos, including two wins in the playoffs, and only five wins for Denver. The Ravens also have outscored the Broncos 291-257 between all of their contests.

That is the history of the series between these two teams, what matters now is only the future. The Ravens have put together a strongly built team all-around, but they have some weaknesses. The Broncos are in the same situation.. 

With that all said, it's time to get into where these teams matchup position by position.

Quarterback

This is a matchup between Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. Both are good/great quarterbacks, but one is obviously better than the other. Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, while Flacco is a top-ten quarterback in the NFL today. However, there is an age difference here, and no one is certain of how Manning will play.

Edge goes to: Denver. Simply put, even if the decline of Manning is real, he is still better than his counterpart.

Running back

This is a battle between C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson vs. Justin Forsett and Javorius Allen, and also potentially Lorenzo Taliaferro, who is dealing with an MCL injury and is up in the air for game one. This is a close match at the top of the depth chart. It's a known commodity on the side of the Ravens and an up-and-comer in Anderson, who had a few big games a season ago.

However, behind Anderson, Denver has Hillman, who has been playing some great football and the hard runner Thompson. Baltimore only has the rookie Allen, behind Forsett if Taliaferro isn’t good to go.

Edge goes to: Denver. The Broncos depth at running back is superior to Baltimore's. While the starters are close, the slight edge goes to Baltimore for starter only.

Fullback

Coming up to bat for the Broncos is James Casey, while Baltimore has Kyle Juszczyk and Kiero Small. Casey has years of experience in the NFL and in this system.

Meanwhile, Juszczyk is only in his third season, and his third with a new offensive scheme, while his backup Small is only in his second season. As for their ability, Juszczyk is the better overall player than Casey.

Edge goes to: Push. This is the closest matchup between the two teams. Juszczyk is in another new scheme, but is the better player. Casey is in a scheme he has done great things in, primarily as a blocker.

Wide Receiver

There is a big gap between these two teams at this position. On the Ravens side of things they have 15-year veteran Steve Smith, who can still play some great football at his age, then Breshad Perriman, Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Darren Waller and Michael Campanaro. Two rookies, a second-year and two third-year players. A lot of youth and inexperience at the position.

The Broncos have Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Norwood and Bennie Fowler. Thomas and Sanders are coming off of huge seasons, while the rest, except Latimer, are coming off some great preseason showings. There's a huge difference between these two team's receiver corps..

Edge goes to: Denver. This was quite easy. The only known commodity the Ravens have is Steve Smith, and he can’t do it all on his own. Denver can beat you with just about any receiver and have a wide range of skill-sets. Also, Baltimore’s second receiver, Perriman, has been dealing with an injury and may be out for the game.

Tight End

On one side there is years of experience in the tight end corps, while the other is one of the youngest groups of tight ends in the NFL. The Broncos have the experience with Owen Daniels and Virgil Green, along with undrafted rookie Mitchell Henry.

As for the Ravens, they have Crockett Gillmore, who is entering his second season, and behind him are rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. Denver knows what they are going to get with Daniels, and with Green, for the most part. Baltimore really has no idea. Each of their tight ends are young, with a ridiculously high ceiling.

Edge goes to: Push. With the Ravens tight ends being so unknown, it is impossible to say which side really has the edge. They could break out and be amazing, or do nothing. Meanwhile, with Denver, you have a good idea of what you’re going to get out of the tight ends.

Offensive Line

The offensive line groups are not all that close. Baltimore had one of the top offensive lines a year ago, and every starter is back with more experience. A year ago, Denver had a really good offensive line, though not one of the best. They also have four new offensive linemen in their starting five, and lost another two who started at one point on the offensive line.

The guards for Denver look to be one of the best duos in the NFL, but between them they have a first year starter, then a rookie at left tackle and a veteran at right tackle. The starting line was a mess in the preseason, and in more ways than just one.

Edge goes to: Ravens. Just as receiver was easily going to Denver, the offensive line goes easily to Baltimore. The Ravens have their core of five starters returning and have chemistry built between them. Denver has four new starters, and one of them has yet to play a snap in Denver. Chemistry and just overall lack of experience at center and left tackle really is a major concern for the Broncos.

Defensive Line

Both teams boast talent on their defensive lines, but one of them is slightly more talented and brings more experience. Starting for the Broncos should be Malik Jackson, Sylvester Williams and Antonio Smith—each of them with at least a few years in the NFL. Behind them comes in Vance Walker, Darius Kilgo and Kenny Anunike, if healthy.

Kilgo had an excellent preseason, and Anunike had a great start, but it ended early because of injury. Walker had a rough preseason, filled with inconsistent play.

The Ravens come in with Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams and Chris Canty, with Canty being the experienced one here. Behind them is Carl Davis, Casey Walker, Lawrence Guy, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Christo Bilukidi.  Jernigan and Williams have potential, as do the three backups. Really, it is a close matchup between the two. Denver will be without Derek Wolfe, who is suspended the first four games. If they had Wolfe, it wouldn’t be as close as it is, as his run defense is some of the best in the NFL.

Edge goes to: Broncos. In a close one, it simply came down to the experience and just overall ability, against their specific counterpart. Jackson is more talented with just as high of an upside as Jernigan. Sylvester vs. Brandon is a wash. Smith and Canty are close—one is great vs. run, the other against the pass. It ends in a wash. The backups go to Denver.

Outside Linebacker

The difference here comes down to one player. Denver is great and four-deep at outside linebacker, with DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett and, of course, Von Miller. They also have Lerentee McCray, who has been battling injury.

On the other sideline, the Ravens boast Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw and Za'Darius Smith. Both sides have an excellent group from top to bottom, filled with potential. These teams have two of the best outside linebacker corps, in 3-4 defensive fronts, in the NFL. Arguably, they are one and two.

Edge goes to: Denver. It comes down to Suggs vs Miller, as the rest really are a wash. Ware and Upshaw goes to Ware, Dumervil wins over Ray and Barrett and Smith are a wash. The three against three also ends in a wash. Suggs is a great player and has been for a while, but Miller is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. The two groups are closer than some may think, but still the edge goes to Denver. Also, one other thing that helped push it in Denver’s favor, although not much of a push, was being five-deep compared to four.

Inside Linebacker

Both teams boast a strong inside linebacker corps. Their two starters are dynamic duos. The Ravens, with C.J. Mosley Jr. and Daryl Smith, while Denver has Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. Both duos are excellent, although there is a concern of health and rust on Denver’s side with Trevathan.

Depth is what really decides things here. Denver has Todd Davis, who could start on just about any team, and Corey Nelson behind him. Baltimore has Arthur Brown Jr., Zachary Orr and Anthony McClellan as their depth. Both teams have a good groups at inside linebacker.

Edge goes to: Ravens. Mosley and Smith are so evenly matched with Marshall and Trevathan, when there are not health or rust concerns. As for the backups, Denver has the best backup, but all three of Baltimore’s backups are better than Nelson. If there were no concerns with Trevathan, this position matchup would be a push.

Cornerback

This will be quick. Denver has Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, Kayvon Webster, Curtis Marsh, Lorenzo Doss, and one of the best corners in the NFL in Chris Harris, Jr. The Ravens have Jimmy Smith, Ladarius Webb, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker and Rashaan Melvin. Baltimore has a solid group of corners, but is one of their big concerns. Meanwhile, corner for Denver is a position of strength.

Edge goes to: Denver. Hands down. Simply going four deep, as it is unlikely anyone after that sees the field, barring injury, Denver’s top four is better than the Ravens. Not to mention, Denver has, at worst, a top three corner in the NFL in Chris Harris.

Safety

Denver will be without T.J. Ward, but they still have a solid corps of Darian Stewart, David Bruton, Omar Bolden and Josh Bush. Bruton will start in place of the suspended Ward, next to Stewart. The Ravens have Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis as their starters, with Anthony Levine, Terrance Brooks and Brynden Trawick as the backups. Both groups are close with their starters and backups. Not a push, but close to it.

Edge goes to: Denver, ever so slightly. If Ward were playing this game, it would be in Denver’s favor pretty easily, as he would be the best safety to see the field. While Hill is a good safety, next to him, Lewis is decent, but nothing special. That is where the slight edge to Denver comes from.

That wraps up the position vs position part of the preview. Keep an eye out for the next two parts, including a what layers to watch and my score prediction for the game.

Don't miss the first episode of 'In the Huddle', the Mile High Huddle podcast!

To get instant Broncos notifications, download the NEW Scout mobile app for iOS HERE! 

Be sure to check out the ever-growing benefit package of being a Mile High Huddle Insider! Check it out HERE.

Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Alaskan_Bronco. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook

Follow MileHighHuddle on Twitter @MileHighHuddle and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and discounted Broncos tickets and merchandise.

 


Mile High Huddle Top Stories