Ravens - Redskins: Inside Slant

When the Ravens have the football <br><br> Expect offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh to use a steady diet of Jamal Lewis runs, including the stretch, zone play and sweeps.<br><br> Lewis needs the football to get warmed up, complaining last week about his 15 carries for 73 yards. He said afterward that he nearly pulled a muscle in the second half because of his long stints on the sidelines with the Chiefs' offense marching at will.

That was the defense's fault. However, there are still more opportunities to feed him the football, and Cavanaugh will need to utilize Lewis more to take full advantage of the 2,066-yard rusher who represents Baltimore's best offensive weapon. How about a swing pass? It worked for a long gain against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the 46-yard catch-and-run is his lone reception of the season. The Ravens are going to have to eventually adjust to life without Lewis, but it makes no sense to treat him like he's not here before the league hands down a suspension for violating the NFL drug policy.

Key matchup

RB Jamal Lewis vs. LB Marcus Washington

Lewis will get a lot of his initial reads by how the Redskins' strongside linebacker lines up, and they're likely to collide several times tonight. Both players are strong, fast and tough.

How the Ravens can win

1. Attack the line of scrimmage aggressively with Jamal Lewis in what could be the All-Pro running back's last game for a while because of impending NFL sanctions for a violation of the league substance-abuse policy stemming from a guilty plea for using a cellular phone to set up a drug transaction.

2. Bottle up running back Clinton Portis with linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis is especially eager to prove that last week's debacle against the Kansas City Chiefs was an aberration, not a trend. He flatly said that Portis isn't as formidable an opponent as Chiefs runner Priest Holmes.

3. Create separation with receiver Randy Hymes deep as he's caught touchdown passes, Baltimore's only touchdown passes this season, two weeks in a row.

When the Redskins have the football

Quarterback Mark Brunell hasn't thrown an interception in his last 84 attempts and has passed for 734 yards on 65-of-117 accuracy for three touchdowns and one interception. He has a 79.5 quarterback rating, but has been sacked six times. Under Joe Gibbs, the Redskins have been fairly balanced in terms of run-and-pass ratio, attempting 116 runs and 135 passes. Clinton Portis is heavily involved, posting 369 yards and two touchdowns on 92 carries.

Between Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner, the Redskins have a receiving tandem that has combined for 44 catches, 604 yards and two touchdowns. Turnovers and penalties are this team's chief problem. Washington has lost six fumbles, fumbling 12 times, and committed 24 penalties for 218 yards.

Key matchup

WR Laveranues Coles vs. CB Chris McAlister

In a high-profile setting, Coles and McAlister are definitely worth watching. Both skill players are supremely confident and speedy, although McAlister is coming off a subpar game and Coles seven-catch, 122-yard game against Cleveland was marred by a critical late fumble. They have something to prove tonight.

How the Redskins can win

1. Strike quickly downfield with Laveranues Coles to build a lead against a team that has trouble playing from behind. Coles and sidekick Rod Gardner sport big-play capabilities, quarterback Mark Brunell has quite a history against the Ravens and the secondary has looked suspect for two weeks in a row.

2. Lure quarterback Kyle Boller into believing he has to throw by showing a blitz look and then backing out of it into coverage to intercept the football.

3. Use a physical approach to run at Ray Lewis with Clinton Portis, copying the techniques of the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and Ravensinsider.com
 


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