Battle Plans against Carolina

Offensive and Defensive Keys to the Victory: Offense: The Ravens will have to strike early and lean on the running game to control the time of possession battle. To do this, the Ravens have to initially be aggressive in the passing game.

In the playoff game against Miami last year, the Ravens picked on cornerback Terry Cousin. Cousin is now the Panthers' top cornerback, and Travis Taylor should be given the opportunity to utilize his leaping ability and size against Cousin on a couple of fade routes.


If the Ravens can score early enough, Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor should be able to run on the Panthers' rushing defense, which was the worst rated unit in the NFL last year.


To offset the Panthers' poor rush defense from last year, new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will ask defensive tackles Sean Gilbert and Kris Jenkins to tie up blockers, allowing inside linebacker Dan Morgan to flow to the ball freely. To control Morgan, fullbacks Alan Ricard and Sam Gash will have to stay disciplined in their blocking assignments, and be able to get to the inside linebacker before he gets to Lewis.


Another key for the Ravens will be their ability to run off the edges. Jonathan Ogden and Edwin Mulitalo are plus run blockers, who have a decided size advantage against the defensive ends they are facing. Look for the Ravens to run the ball on either tackle's side as much as possible.


Defense: In a shocking move, Pete was named the Panther's starting signal caller this week because he knows offensive coordinator Dan Henning's offense better than Chris Weinke does. Being aggressive could be a good idea against Rodney Peete, the Panthers' incumbent starting quarterback. While Peete has more savvy and instincts than Weinke, he doesn't have the mobility or arm strength he once had.


One of the bigger keys for the Ravens' young, belligerent defense will be to force Peete to scramble to his left side. This should be an area of strength for the Ravens, considering that Peter Boulware and Adalius Thomas will match up against right tackle Chris Terry.


Lamar Smith, the Panthers' starting tailback, is a decent player who runs hard in between the tackles. If the Ravens' tackles, Kelly Gregg and Ma'ake Kemoeatu can force him to run sideways, the Ravens' defensive speed should be too much for Smith to handle.


For this to happen, both tackles and the rest of the line will have to control the interior line, which should be a tough task.  


Two battles you have to watch:


Jon Ogden versus Mike Rucker: Rucker had a breakout season last year as a pass rushing force, and his straight line speed could give Ogden fits. While Ogden is as good as any at shadowing speed rushers, he does get beat from time to time. This is a game that Ogden will need to control from the get go, because Rucker's motor may not sustain itself for four quarters.


Edwin Mulitalo versus Julius Peppers: This is your case of the prodigy against the project. The project is of course Edwin Mulitalo, a converted left guard. While still only a rookie, the prodigy named Julius Peppers, has all of the attributes you look for in the modern day defensive end. He has an explosive first step which Mulitalo will need to get under right away. If Mulitalo can control Peppers' edge rush, he could have a successful day. Peppers has yet to develop any dangerous inside pass rushing moves and could lose patience if he isn't playing well.

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