Offensive Game Plan
1.) Re-establishing the running game: With or without Jamal Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens have to be able to generate a reliable running game to win ball games. More than anything, that means that the offensive line play has to improve. Over the last few weeks, the line has been beaten soundly at the point of attack, and that has led to minimal gains on the ground on first and second down. Further more, the backside running play, which worked so well for the Ravens last season, has been virtually non-existent this season.
However, one of the ways to allow the offensive line to get into some sort of rhythm is to consistently run the ball from the start, no matter how little yardage is gained. It is the attempts that matter most, because that will allow the Ravens to grind out the clock, and eventually wear down the opposition in the fourth quarter.
If the Ravens' bigger front is allowed to lean on the Bengals' front seven all game long on Sunday, they should be able to wear down Cincinnati's undersized front seven.
2.) Swinging the ball around: With Chester Taylor and Jamel White being the primary runners, the Ravens cannot rely on either player to carry the ball 20 times or more and grind out the opposition as Jamal Lewis does. Obviously, the two have to combine to run the ball for around 30 carries, because the Ravens must go back to running the ball in large doses against the Bengals. However, both backs also possess above average pass receiving skills, and the offensive coaches should take advantage of their strengths in order to extend the running game.
Of the two, White may present bigger match-up problems coming out of the backfield. He has soft hands, does a nice job of locating the ball, and is deceptively quick in the open field. Taylor has the power to break tackles in the open field, and is adept at gaining an extra yard or two when needed.
Defensive Game Plan
1.) Defending the perimeter: When the Ravens have had trouble stopping the run, it is usually because they cannot protect the edges. Specifically, the defensive ends and the outside linebackers are walled off, allowing the back to gain yards in chunks up the sidelines.
Against the Bengals, the Ravens will undoubtedly face a similar game plan. Running back Rudi Johnson possesses deceptive speed and power, as well as the patience to allow blocks to setup in front of him. One of the issues that ends Marques Douglas and Anthony Weaver will have to deal with is trying to beat tackles Willie Anderson and Levi Jones. If these two cannot win their match-ups, then it will be much easier for the Bengals to establish the perimeter running game against the Ravens.
2.) Facing a three-wide set. Despite the fact that the Bengals will try to beat the Baltimore on the ground, they also have the capability of spreading out the Ravens through the air. The receiver trio of Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Kelley Washington is a dangerous group that a depleted Ravens' secondary must account for. All three receivers are explosive game breakers that can stretch a secondary.
With the Ravens needing to stay in more of a base front to defend the Bengals' running attack, being able to defend Cincinnati's deep passing game will fall on the shoulders of safeties Will Demps and Ed Reed.
One-on-One Battle to Watch
Chad Johnson versus Chris McAlister: McAlister is likely to start in Sunday's game, and the first assignment he gets coming back from injury is against one of his rivals: Chad Johnson. Johnson is having another strong season, and he remains among the truly elite players playing at his position. Against the Ravens in particular, Johnson has had his moments. For McAlister to have a better game against Johnson in the rematch, he will need to do a better job of getting a clear hit on Johnson at the line of scrimmage. In the last game, McAlister missed his jam too often, which allowed Johnson to freely run his routes.
Devc Panchwagh is one of several writers for RavensInsider.Com The biggest and best independant site for Ravens fans on the web.
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