1.) Isolating the inside linebackers: One of the biggest keys to running the ball successfully against a 3-4 scheme is being able to block or occupy the inside linebackers (Chaun Thompson and Andra Davis). The responsibility of getting the inside backers blocked falls on the guards. If the center (Mike Flynn) is able to win his one-on-one battle against nose tackle Jason Fisk, guards Edwin Mulitalo and Keydrick Vincent will be free to fire up the field to attack the linebackers.
2.) Double move patterns: Against corners Gary Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon, expect the Ravens to use more misdirection and double branched routes to test the corners' ability to recover. If Baxter or McCutcheon take a false step or poor angle when covering Derrick Mason or Mark Clayton, they will have trouble recovering from that mistake in order to stay with either receiver on short or deep routes.
3.) Dusting off Todd Heap: Unless tight-end Todd Heap flips the numbers on his jersey so it reads 68 instead of 86, his days as the Ravens' second right-tackle should end on Sunday against the Browns. The Ravens must get Heap out of blocking situations and use him in the passing game, especially on third-down, when his presence has been lacking.
The Ravens have been abysmal in third-down conversion situations, so why is a player who can go over the middle to make tough catches and gain yards after the catch blocking ends and linebackers instead of running pass routes? There is no excuse for Heap not being featured in the Ravens' passing game. He is a dominant pass-catching tight-end who should be used all over the field to attract coverage away from the other wideouts. He is also the only receiver the Ravens have who can catch the ball even when he is double-teamed. Get Heap the ball.
1.) Checks and Balances: Trent Dilfer has compiled a 91.5 quarterback rating, thrown 6 TD passes and completed nearly 67% of his pass attempts. That said, Dilfer can still be baited into throwing interceptions because he will force the ball into tight coverage.
Dilfer is wily veteran, so if the Ravens use a lot of games with their coverage and blitz schemes at the line-of-scrimmage, those tricks may not full the former Ravens' quarterback. The Ravens best bet is to give Dilfer a vanilla pre-snap read, and then switch to a different attack after he snaps the ball. In addition, the Ravens' should blitz less because the Browns may use extra blockers to pick up blitzers on first and second-down.
If the Ravens' coverage is tight, Dilfer may feel pressed to make a play when it isn't there and ultimately make a critical mistake or two.
2.) Forcing Dilfer to throw the ball down the field: With the loss of receiver Braylon Edwards, the Browns lack an explosive deep-threat to stretch the offense against the Ravens' secondary. While Antonio Bryant and Dennis Northcutt are serviceable vertical threats, they lack the physical tools necessary to get behind corners Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, unless Rolle and McAlister have lapses in coverage.
The Ravens should look to take away Cleveland's intermediate, control passing game by playing more man-to-man coverage on the outside, moving the safeties in different spots to help cover the deep intermediate routes, and having the linebackers drop deep enough into zone pockets to crowd the inside lanes, so if Dilfer does throw the ball in the middle of the field, he has to make precise throws to keep plays alive.
3.) Stay focused: Realistically, the Ravens' defense should win their match-up against an ailing Cleveland offense that has struggled to score points this season. The defense has played well in-between the lines all season long, but inconsistencies and lapses in concentration have stunted the potential of this defense to be a better unit than it is. The starters on defense should check their emotions, stop committing so many mental errors and stay true to their assignments on Sunday against the Browns, and through the rest of the season.
One-on-one Match-up to Watch: Derrick Mason versus Gary Baxter
Dev's Battle Plans: Browns at Ravens