1.) Strong-I and Weak-I: Part of the reason for the Ravens' inability to generate a consistent rushing attacks stems from the way the Ravens have been lining up. The Ravens have been very predictable with their sets, using the base two-wide, one-tight, I-Formation look to pound the ball. In addition, the blocking schemes have been different than they were a year ago, although the coaches are likely to go back to last year's schemes against the Jets.
With the return of Alan Ricard at fullback, the coaches can be more creative when using their formations. For instance, because Ricard has the ability to run the ball, lining him either to the left or right side towards either the weak or strong-side of the formation could throw defenses off on where Lewis is likely to lead with the ball in his hand. If Ricard is lined up toward the strong-side, the Ravens could use Ricard as a blocking decoy to that side while Lewis would run off the weak side. If Ricard lines up on the weak-side, the Ravens could use the counter play along with Ricard's blocking action toward that side to free Lewis off the strong-side.
Using these misdirection runs could not only free up space for Lewis to work with, but force the linebackers to hesitate before making their break to the football. If they follow Ricard to get to Lewis, they may go the wrong route.
2.) Throw the ball to Clayton: Rookie wideout Mark Clayton is going to receive more playing time against the Jets, and the timing of this move is no coincidence. The coaching staff understands that Clayton deserves more playing time at this point than Clarence Moore, who dropped three passes against the Colts, and did not record a single reception against the Titans two weeks ago. Moore can still serve as a deep threat on the outside, but Clayton needs to play more out of the slot.
Clayton should prove to be very tough to cover working in the middle of the field, because he is very quick coming out of his stance after the ball is snapped. Plus, Clayton is a tough, physical blocker who may be able to help pave the way for Lewis to gain yards in the open field when Lewis carries the ball out of the spread formation.
Another key to getting Clayton involved in the passing game is exploiting his potential match-up against fellow rookie Justin Miller. Derrick Mason and Clarence Moore will have tougher match-ups to deal with on the outside, going up against Ty Law and David Barrett.
3.) Vilmaaaaa: Second-year starting middle-linebacker Jonathan Vilma spearheads New York's defense against the run and the pass. Vilma has the speed and instincts to knife through gaps to disrupt a rushing attack and in the passing game, he has the quickness and timing to stay true in zone coverage.
Blocking or chipping Vilma in the running game is essential if the Ravens wish to re-establish a dominant ground attack. Moving Vilma out of his zone by baiting him on play-action fakes is essential if the Ravens wish to slice through the pockets of the Jets' underneath zone pass-coverage.
4.) Staying patient: Pretty football will not be played on Sunday. The Jets will try to man up against the Ravens' rushing attack, and make Anthony Wright make plays against their secondary. The coaches will simply need to stay the course and go with their game-plan of pounding the football and chipping away at the Jets' zone coverage by using three and five-step drop passes.
Getting outside of this game-plan too quickly will likely result in a loss for the Ravens, because the Jets have a balanced defense capable of shutting down both the run and the pass. To echo the old adage, the offensive coaches need to take whatever the Jets' defense gives them and try to move the ball consistently in order to win the field-position battle and set-up scoring opportunities in the red zone.
1.) Eight in the box: If the Ravens defense has done one thing properly so far this season, they have shut-down the run. The Ravens rank fifth against the run, only giving up 3.3 yards per carry. They have to yield a 100 yards on the ground.
The key to the Ravens' run defense is nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu. Kemoeatu is a 335-pound fire hydrant whole can tie up two blockers if he plays with proper technique consistently. When Kemoeatu is not able to keep his position low, he struggles to maintain leverage and can be blocked off the ball. Kemoeatu will face a very tough challenge going up against Kevin Mawae, who is arguably the best center in the game.
The Jets have struggled to run the ball because defenders have been able to gain penetration against the Jets' offensive line. Like Jamal Lewis, Curtis Martin has had a tough time gaining more than three-yards and a cloud of dust.
Clearly, with Brooks Bollinger starting at quarterback for the Jets, the Ravens must control the Jets' rushing attack headed by Martin and Derrick Blaylock. This is the type of game where the Ravens may need to use a safety to hug the line of scrimmage on first and second-down to help stuff the run. The Ravens goal should be to give up no more than 2.0 yards per carry whenever the Jets attempt to run the ball on first and second-down in order to force Bollinger to pass the ball to convert third-and-long attempts.
2.) Defending the screen: The Ravens have gotten better against the screen-passing game through the first two games of the season, but will be tested once again when they face the Jets. The Jets will look to get their backs involved in the passing game to slow down the Ravens' pass-rush. Fullback Jerald Sowell and Martin are adept receivers who can gain yards in chunks in the open field.
To successfully defend the passes in the flat or screens, the Raven linebackers need to play under control. They need to read-and-react to what they see instead of rushing up the field with abandon in order to stop plays behind the line of scrimmage.
3.) Forcing Bollinger to throw the deep ball: Part of the reason for the Jets' woeful offensive performance in their first three games is that they have not generated many big plays in the passing game which is surprising considering that offensive coordinator Mike Hemirdinger was brought from Tennessee in order to resuscitate New York's vertical game. Hemirdinger emphasis more long-step drops for the quarterback, and the outside receivers run deeper routes. In three games, the Jets have had trouble getting the timing of the deep passing game going.
The Ravens need to force the Bollinger to throw the deep ball by compressing their pass coverage. The corners should play man coverage, the safeties should be moved around to either blitz or to help on shorter routes and the linebackers should blitz less. If the Ravens do blitz, they should bring pressure in a variety of ways and not allow Bollinger to make the proper pre-snap read.
If the Ravens are able to force Bollinger to hold the ball longer instead of releasing it, the Jet offensive line will have trouble containing the Ravens' pass-rush.
4.) Third-down defense: Opposing offenses have converted 34.5% of their third-down conversions against Baltimore. This percentage is not terrible by any stretch, but needs to improve if the defense wants to end drives with better authority.
Lack of a steady pass-rush has been one of the reasons that the Colts and Titans were able to convert plays against the Ravens on third-down. When the Ravens must stop the Jets on third-down, they need to blitz more often. In addition, the linebackers and lineman need to be cognizant of the fact that New York may use delay and draw runs in obvious passing situations in order to protect Bollinger and sustain the field position battle.
One-on-one match-up to watch: Maake Kemoeatu versus Kevin Mawae
Dev's Battle Plans: Jets at Ravens