Dev's Battle Plans: Ravens at Titans

Every week, long time Ravens Insider site staffer and all-round Ravens guru Dev Panchwagh will break down the Ravens' strategy for the upcoming game. This week the Ravens are in Nashville. How should they plan to defeat the Titans?

Offensive Keys:

1.) Running the ball out of the spread formation: Last Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts stymied the Ravens' rushing attack using just six or seven defenders in the box. The Colt lineman did a good job of breaking through blocks and getting penetration into the backfield. Additionally, the Colt linebackers used great patience and technique to bring down Jamal Lewis consistently whenever he penetrated the first line of defense.

Tennessee may use a similar defensive strategy to stop the Ravens' rushing attack, but it's more likely that they will deploy eight defenders in the box, as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz runs an attacking style defense. He likes to use strong safety Tank Williams as an extra run defender.

If Tennessee does crowd the box to take away the running lanes, the Ravens should use more three-wide sets to force the linebackers and the safeties to line up wide.

2.) Attacking the Titan cornerbacks: Tennessee's defensive backfield is green. The two starting cornerbacks, Andre Woolfolk and Tony Beckham are talented yet inexperienced. Adam "Pac Man" Jones will likely line up inside as the nickel cornerback in third-and-long situations. Although all three have the potential to make game-changing plays, they also have the potential to give up those plays.

The use of play-action and the pump-and-go pass play could work to not only get the corners out of position, but also force safeties Lamont Thompson and Tank Williams to either come up the field to stuff the run, or to stay back to support the corners.

3.) Misdirection: Against the Colts' speedy front seven, the Ravens did not use any misdirection plays to take advantage of the Colts' aggressiveness. Against the Titans, the offensive coaches would be well advised to use a few misdirection runs (counters, fake dive/ pitch toss) and misdirection passes (running back and receiver screens) to expose the Titans' potential blitz attacks. The Titans will likely overload the middle or the edges with defenders in order to collapse the pocket and to stop the run, so the chance may be there for the Ravens to gain yards on the side of the line that Tennessee doesn't occupy.

4.) Moving the pocket: Anthony Wright is a more mobile quarterback than Kyle Boller, and the offensive coaches should try to highlight Wright's ability to get outside of the pocket. Wright is a better passer while on the move as opposed to working from the pocket. While he lacks the awareness and footwork needed to be an efficient pocket passer, he has the arm strength and instincts needed to make plays in the open field. The Ravens can get Wright moving toward either sideline by using bootleg and waggle plays.

The coaches should also look at moving the line to either the right or left side in certain passing situations depending on whether the Titans bring overload blitzes off the tackle.

Defensive Keys

1.) Defending the deep ball: Even though Norm Chow won't look to air the ball out down the field as much as former offensive coordinator Mike Himerdinger did, he will still use the vertical passing game as the base of his aerial attack. In Steve McNair, he has one of the most accurate deep ball throwers in the game, and receivers Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico have the size and speed to fetch his long tosses.

To better defend the Titans' air attack, the Ravens should keep the safeties in deep coverage, and have the corners play bump-and-run coverage at the line of scrimmage. While both Bennett and Calico have the ability to defeat press coverage at the line of scrimmage, throwing off their timing before they run their deep routes is key, as McNair may get rid of the ball off of five steps instead of seven. Additionally, McAlister and Rolle will need to do a good job of getting a hand on the football before Bennett or Calico have the chance to make a play on the ball, because both receivers are very good at winning jump-ball possessions.

2.) Blitzing off the edges: Even with the return of Brad Hopkins at the left tackle spot, the Tennessee tackles are vulnerable against the edge rush. Conversely, the Ravens do a nice job of forcing quarterbacks to move out of the pocket.

While McNair still possesses the ability to throw and move out of the pocket, he has developed into a better pocket passer over the years. Bringing the heat to get McNair moving to the left or right is perhaps the best way to disrupt his passing rhythm. However, as was not the case against Peyton Manning, the defensive tackles have to do a better job of sinking the middle so McNair does not have the chance to step throw a passing lane in the middle of the pocket.

3.) Defending quick pass plays: Even though the Steelers played a solid defensive game against the Titans, they did struggle to defend the Titans' offense in certain situations, particularly on the first drive of the game. Tennessee did a nice job of using quick outs and wide receiver screens to gain yardage on the outside, and to slow down the Steelers' pass-rush. With the Ravens opening up the blitz attack this weekend, Tennessee may use similar pass plays to nickel and dime the Ravens' defense. Baltimore has to do a nice job of anticipating these pass plays, and as the game turns, the corners need to be aware of the possibility that the receivers are catching shorter routes on the outside (outs, comebacks) in order to setup the pump-fake.

4.) Bringing down Chris Brown: Brown has a slim build, but he's much tougher and stronger than he appears. Brown does a nice job of keeping his feet moving to drag defenders while he breaks through tackles to gain yards after contact.

The Ravens did a good job of not missing too many tackles on Sunday night, but need to be a little better against Brown and Travis Henry, as both backs challenge the technique of even the surest tacklers. If Brown breaks through enough tackle attempts, he has the speed and vision to run to the end zone.
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Dev Panchwagh is a long-time member of the Ravens Insider staff.  Talk to him about this article on the RavensInsider message boards where he posts under the super-secret ID 'dev21'.

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