1. Grind out yards.
The Baltimore Ravens have the worst running game in the NFL, according to statistics that don't usually lie. Yes, it's true. The Ravens have been getting stuffed in the backfield in epic proportions, gaining only 45.5 yards per contest and averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. Jamal Lewis is no longer the master of the breakaway run or the bruising carry. He's been reduced to struggling just to get back to the line of scrimmage. If the Ravens can't run, they certainly won't be able to establish a semblance of a passing game. If they can't run and can't pass, they can't win. They've been able to run extraordinarily well in the past. Especially Lewis who had a 2,066-yard season only two years ago. The offensive line, whether it's old and washed-up or not, needs to muster its pride and block someone. They're the chief reason why Lewis is struggling. It won't be an easy task against a speedy, stingy Jets defense that appears to play with more zeal since Donnie Henderson started coaching them. Jonathan Vilma and John Abraham are legitimate athletes who will make Lewis' job tough. It's up to the Ravens to use their size advantage with an offensive line that averages 336 pounds and lean on the Jets' smallish front seven. Otherwise, this could be a very long season as the prospect of an 0-3 start looms.
2. Don't forget about Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Mark Clayton while trying to protect the quarterback.
The Ravens can't become so run-centric that they ignore solid downfield alternatives. Mason, Heap and Clayton are capable of making big plays if the offensive line provides Anthony Wright enough time to find them. Wright can throw the deep ball, but must concentrate on not staring down his primary read and play more consistently. One key factor is Jets cornerback Ty Law, who effectively cuts off half the field. That means Wright needs to look off the safeties and rely on other people besides Mason, the team's leading receiver. If the offensive line allows six sacks again, this could be another ugly afternoon. Abraham has three sacks in three games.
3. Contain Curtis Martin.
Martin won the NFL rushing crown last season, and remains a versatile, slashing runner. He gained 119 yards and scored two touchdowns against Baltimore a year ago. They have to stack the line of scrimmage and nose guard Maake Kemoeatu needs to achieve stalemates with six-time Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae to free up middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
4. Rattle Brooks Bollinger.
The 25-year-old who has thrown only nine career passes was coined The Demolition Man by teammates for how he was wrecked in the preseason behind the scrubs. Will the Ravens, who have generated one coverage sack, be able to pressure the mobile former Wisconsin standout? Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan promises to send some Riddell helmets in Bollinger's direction.
5. Avoid turnovers and force at least one.
The Ravens are minus-5 in turnover margin, tied for 28th in the NFL. It's not a complicated game. Hold on to the football, avoid penalties. Baltimore has already been penalized 18 times. The Ravens have forced only one turnover. Where are the big plays from athletic safety Ed Reed? The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year has been very quiet because quarterbacks have avoided him. Look for him on the blitz.
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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