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Offensive Strategies: Baltimore vs. Houston

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Offensive Production:

Since the Baltimore Ravens offense has been under fire for the last few weeks because of their lack of production, there may be an emphasis put on the run game starting next Monday against the Houston Texans. Head Coach John Harbaugh stated, “We have to find a running game… “We’ve actually run the ball more this year than we did this time last year. What we haven’t done is run the ball very well.” Noting the team’s average gain of 3.6 yards per rush, Harbaugh said, “That is completely unacceptable for the type of team we want to be.”

Why it has taken the 13th weeks of the season to realize this is understandable since the Ravens have such a dynamic receiving corps. Still, it starts with the run and the Ravens need to establish the run early and often. RB Ray Rice is a dynamic back and he needs to be a major part of this offense. As the run improves, so does the short yardage situations, where the offense has been stymied many times in 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1. In addition, with an effective run game, you wear down defenses. As Le’Ron McClain so well stated,“Throughout the course of the game, you got to pound on a team, man, three, five yards… In the third quarter, some of them turn into 15 or 20 (yard runs)…

Play-action Pass/Attack the Middle:

With the establishment of the run, the passing game improves. QB Joe Flacco works well with the play-action, but for the most part, we haven’t really seen the play-action used a lot this year.

Some of my colleagues have pointed out that the team never attacks the middle of the field with the passing game. That’s a great point. When the offense does throw down the middle, it is usually a deep post, not an intermediate pass. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron has capable receivers that can get separation, so we need to see Joe Flacco attack defenses in the middle of their secondary.

Versus Houston:

Here’s where a dilemma comes in for Cam Cameron. Coach Harbaugh wants better execution and a more physical style to the run game. However, the Houston Texans are ranked 32nd in defending the pass, allowing 287.4 yards a game— their run defense is ranked 10th.

So, what should Cameron do?  He should do both: establish the run and attack Houston’s secondary. It’s that simple, and a strategy that should have been employed much earlier in the season. Keep in mind that TE Todd Heap will most likely be out (hamstring) this Monday, leaving rookie TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta to fill in. Dickson has good speed and provides favorable match-ups against linebackers.

A match-up to keep an eye on is WR Anquan Boldin or WR Derrick Mason vs. rookie CB Kareem Jackson. Jackson has two interceptions this season, but going against a veteran receiver like Boldin or Mason should give the Ravens the advantage.