1. Generate turnovers.
Heading into today's game against the Detroit Lions (1-2) at Ford Field, the Baltimore Ravens (1-2) have only one forced fumble and no interceptions for the second-fewest takeaways in the league. This is a strange development compared to last year when Baltimore had 34 turnovers, an average in excess of two per contest. It's partly a conscious reaction from offenses to reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed. Quarterbacks and offensive coordinators scheme to avoid Reed, who intercepted nine passes last year. That's why the Ravens should force the issue with increased blitzing from the All-Pro safety. For his career, Reed has registered 21 interceptions, three forced fumbles and scored six touchdowns along with 49 pass deflections. He has exactly one pass deflection this year and has been effectively negated as a major factor. The Ravens need to dictate terms, particularly against Lions quarterback Joey Harrington. He uncorked five interceptions in a loss to the Chicago Bears. Harrington has 55 interceptions in 49 career games. He's very inaccurate and ranks 31st out of 32 quarterbacks in passer rating. This is the kind of quarterback Reed loves to play against. Will Steve Mariucci roll the dice and challenge Reed downfield? It's doubtful, but you never know when a coach will shed his uptight label.
2. Score early.
One of the reasons why the Ravens have a four-game road losing streak dating back to last year is their lack of production offensively. They have averaged only 7.5 points in those losses. The Ravens need to establish a rhythm and balance offensively between Jamal Lewis' runs and Anthony Wright's passes. It's critical that the Ravens change this losing equation and generate some explosive plays. It's not enough for Wright merely to be accurate and for Lewis to get back to the line of scrimmage safely. Where are the big plays? The lack of scoring and accompanying conservative approach only decreases the margin for error. The 30 point-total is the lowest output to start the season in the seven-year Brian Billick era.
3. Pick on Lions cornerback Andre' Goodman.
The Ravens should avoid Pro Bowl cornerback Dre' Bly and pick on Goodman, who's only starting his second game in place of injured Fernando Bryant. Isolating Goodman against Derrick Mason is the goal, but Todd Heap split out wide or Mark Clayton are nice matchups, too.
4. Run the football selectively.
The Ravens shouldn't abandon the run just because they only gained 115 yards on 45 carries last week. They need to avoid running into the mouth of the Lions' defense: 340-pound defensive tackles Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson and Shaun "Big Baby" Rogers. Try the sweep to the left, or the off-tackle zone play to the right. Lewis is a capable runner even when he's less than 100 percent in terms of speed and timing.
5. Match up with Roy Williams and Mike Williams.
Cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister are athletic enough to man up against these two oversized wideouts. It's important to get a good jam on them to disrupt their pattern without getting too caught up in the wrestling match with receivers in the 220 to 230-pound range. Rolle and McAlister need to use their feet more than their brawn to cut off patterns.
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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