Ravens vs. Eagles: 5 Keys to the Game for Baltimore
The Eagles barely beat the lowly Browns, 17-16, showing they have a lot of work to do. Michael Vick was 29-of-56 and threw four interceptions. Although the Browns finished last season ranked 10th in overall defense, that stat line is simply not good.
Baltimore and Philadelphia have a similar level of talent, offensively and defensively. The difference is that in Week 1 and for the past four years, the Ravens' talent is more mature and more developed than is Philadelphia's.
At the same time, Baltimore is traveling during a short week. The Eagles seem too good to have another poor performance like their Week 1 game in Cleveland.
As I see it, there are five keys to the game for the Ravens.
1. Offensive line must identify pressures
Although the Ravens offensive line allowed three sacks on Monday night, Ray Rice ran 10 times for 68 yards. The Ravens also started third-year lineman Ramon Harewood at left guard and rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle (both of whom were playing in their first ever NFL game).
When studying the Ravens offensive line, it's still unknown how they will perform over time. Joe Flacco showed his incredible talent in Week 1. If the line keeps Flacco upright, or at least gives him time to read his progressions, the Ravens should be in good shape.
2. Screens all day
The best way to neutralize the persistent pressure the Eagles will bring with their relentless bookend pass-rushers (Trent Cole and Jason Babin) is to throw screen passes. Allowing the rush up-field enables Rice, Torrey Smith and others to make an easy catch with multiple blockers and a lot of open field in front of them.
Who is the biggest threat to the Ravens?
3. Stop LeSean McCoy
Forget trying to contain LeSean McCoy. Try to stop him completely.
McCoy is truly an elite NFL running back. He has speed, quickness, hands and underrated durability. While it may be very difficult to stop McCoy, the Ravens shouldn't (and won't) concede that he will have a great game against them.
McCoy will test the fundamentals of Ravens defenders as he will require them to maintain proper technique when defending him. Although Baltimore does have a strong defensive unit, they did allow the Bengals to rush for 129 yards on Monday night.
4. Keep Vick in the pocket
Vick completed only 51.8 percent of his passes against the Browns. He throws well on the move, and is probably the best running quarterback this game has ever seen.
If the Ravens defensive ends contain Vick and keep him in the pocket, they will force Vick to beat them by reading the defense, which isn't his strength. Again, against athletes like McCoy and Vick, staying disciplined on defense is of the utmost importance.
If Vick is allowed outside the pocket, it could be a long day for Ravens defenders.
5. Jam receivers to neutralize speed
It's pretty simple: the Eagles receivers are small and the Ravens corners are big. Both are fast and athletic.
DeSean Jackson (four receptions, 77 yards) and Jeremy Maclin (seven receptions, 96 yards, one touchdown) are good enough on their own. But the Ravens can't allow them to get a free release off the line of scrimmage and accumulate speed.
If Baltimore were to use their strength and length at the line of scrimmage to jam the Eagles' receivers, it would go a long way in dictating what the Eagles can (or cannot) do on offense.
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