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Offensive & Defensive Strategies: Saints vs. Ravens

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OFFENSIVE STRATEGIES:

Continued Focus On the Run

The Baltimore Ravens have a big challenge tomorrow as they take on the New Orleans Saints.  The Saints have a good defense that ranks 5th against the pass and 16th against the run.  Unfortunately, Ravens fans are trying to figure out what’s wrong with Baltimore’s offense; the unit can’t seem to put together a complete game even after 14 weeks of the season.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron did what he could by trying to get the run game going against the Houston Texans last week. As noted by Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun, “The Ravens made their first major change on the offensive line this regular season, moving Marshal Yanda back to right guard and starting Oniel Cousins at right tackle,” and so OT Chris Chester was used as a blocking tight end. As expected, this new formation had mixed results since it’s hard to change schemes late in the season.

But for now, it looks like the offense will stick with this configuration for a bit longer. Yanda is great at run blocking, but he’s been playing the tackle position for most of the year— so we’ll have to see how this pans out. Not to mention, Cousins will be the most challenged in pass protection. For the most part, you can expect this formation to be used primarily on run plays.

Shotgun

At this point of the season, the Ravens have obviously been struggling with both pass protection and run blocking. In addition to having an unbalanced line to jump start the run game, we will probably need to see more of QB Joe Flacco in the shotgun. On Monday night, Flacco completed nine of 13 throws for 102 yards and both touchdown passes to Derrick Mason [in the shotgun].

Beating the Safety Blitz

The Ravens haven’t found a way to stop the safety blitz, as evident in the past 2 games. The Saints have excellent safeties in Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper. In fact, the Saints used many safety blitzes against their opponent (St. Louis Rams) last week with good results. New Orleans finished with with three sacks (one by Harper and another by linebacker Jon Vilma), eight quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Plain and simple: Flacco must audible to a quick pass or hot read.  The offensive lineman have to know their assignments and the running backs must execute their blocks. Again, the Ravens need plays that develop faster, such as the quick slant or the swing pass to Rice. The faster Flacco can get the ball to his play-makers, the better.

DEFENSIVE STRATEGIES:

Attack

With a 21-point lead against Houston, the Ravens did something that was drastically wrong this past Monday night: they played it safe. Instead of sticking with their original game plan— which was working— to pressure the quarterback and mix up coverages, the team decided to rush 3 and drop eight back into coverage. As described by Hensley, “Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens played defense differently in the second half with a 21-point lead.”

Ravens D vs. Drew Brees

A 3-man pass rush against QB Drew Brees would obviously be a continuation of Monday night’s pass-and-catch session. What made matters worse was that the coaches didn’t recognize how the 3-man rush strategy wasn’t working and didn’t revert back to their original game plan— except for the final defensive play of the game where CB Josh Wilson had the game-winning interception.The Ravens defense seems more consistent with a base 3-4 defense while mixing up the looks and blitzes at the line of scrimmage

It is better to blitz and get burned, then to sit back and let Brees carve up the secondary, much like the way Matt Schaub did on Monday Night.