Offensive Game Plan
1.) Gaining yards on first down: While converting third downs is one of the biggest keys to being a successful offense, it is winning the battle on first down that sets up the way an offense can execute plays in each series. The importance of gaining even one or two yards on first down is immeasurable, because gaining those yards allows an offensive coordinator to take some more chances with his play calls on the next two downs. By the same token, an offense can better absorb an incomplete pass on first down as opposed to on second or third down.
However, losing yards is not acceptable, and that is what the Ravens did in certain series against Kansas City. Losing yards on first down led to more third-and-long conversions for the offense to hit on.
Against Washington, the Ravens may have more success if they use short pass plays like the quick out, curl or slant to gain four-to-five yards consistently against a Washington defense that will pack the box to stymie Jamal Lewis on first down.
2.) Johnson in the slot: With Todd Heap being out of the starting lineup for the past two weeks, the Ravens have had to rely more on the wideouts to produce. While Randy Hymes has stepped up and asserted himself over the past two games, Kevin Johnson has yet to make a dent in the offense. One of the primary factors for Johnson's ineffectiveness may have to do with him having a tough time getting open on the outside against the opposition's No.1 cornerback. To get him untracked, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh could motion Johnson around more consistently, and have Johnson line up in the slot in third down conversion situations.
While Johnson isn't adept at gaining yards after the catch, he is tough, and is sure handed. Working out of the slot position would also allow Johnson to operate in the middle of the field, an area of the field that Heap used to control for the Ravens. Another benefit in getting Johnson moved from the outside to the inside on third down is it allows either Clarence Moore or Devard Darling the chance to line up on one of the outside spots along with Randy Hymes. Both Moore and Darling possess the skills to be effective deep threats. Moore has the size and leaping ability to fight for jump balls; Darling has the zip needed to gain separation vertically.
3.): The need for Boller to step up: While it is evident that Kyle Boller has made incremental strides in his evolution process at the quarterback position, he is still not completing enough key passes in crucial points during a given game. Against Kansas City, particularly on the final drive of the game, Boller was not able to complete a couple of passes to Randy Hymes and Kevin Johnson that he had to complete in order for the Ravens to advance up the field. Boller also seemed to lose focus while going through his progressions.
Situations like the one Boller dealt with against the Chiefs will occur again, and in the future, Boller will need to be able to brush off the pressure he feels in order to make plays when his team needs him to.
Defensive Game Plan
1.) Defending the counter trey: One of the textbook plays featured in Joe Gibbs' offensive playbook is the counter. The counter is executed when one or two guards leave their posts to pull, while the running back follows their lead. There are of course variations of this one play, and the Redskins use all of them. There was some argument about whether a running back like Clinton Portis, who has a great burst, and made his mark on running plays where he hit the hole quickly, would be able to adjust to staying patient on counter runs. However, Portis has been gaining more and more patience as each week passes.
For the Ravens to stop this play, the lineman will need to shoot the gaps, and stop Portis in the backfield before he allows his blocks to set up. If the defensive lineman cannot stop the play in due time, and the guards are able to get through to the second level of the defense, Portis will have opportunities to rip off home run gains.
2.) Attacking Brunell: One of the challenges that defenses face when defending Mark Brunell is that he is can complete passes from either the left or right side of the field, even though he is left handed. In fact, Gibbs has rolled the pocket to the right side so that Brunell can throw the ball across the field on certain downs. As good as Brunell is, he does have his flaws, and one of those flaws is his propensity to hold the ball too long, leading to him taking more sacks. Of course, the Ravens defense thirsts for dropping quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage.
Look for the Ravens to test Brunell and the Redskins line by blitzing often. The defense was unable to get a pass rush establish against the Chiefs, but the Redskin offensive line is a notch below that of Kansas City's. One of the areas that the Ravens could attack the most is off of Brunell's blind side.
One-on-One Match-up to Watch
Laveranues Coles versus Chris McAlister: The Redskins have a number of capable playmakers on offense, and Laveranues Coles is clearly one of the top players they have. He has great speed, toughness and he is elusive after the catch. Coles also does a nice job of getting free at the line of scrimmage. Chris McAlister has had two poor games in a row, and will need to redeem himself against Coles in Sunday Night's match-up. McAlister has the size and length to bother Coles on deep patterns, but he may have trouble staying with Coles on the shorter routes, because Coles makes hard, biting cuts while rounding off his patterns.
Dev Panchwagh is a long time staff member of www.ravensinsider.com Discuss this story and others with him at the Ravens Insider message boards.