5 Adjustments Baltimore Ravens Must Make in Week 2 Matchup with Bengals
It's doubtful that the Baltimore Ravens expected to be 0-2 after the first two games of the season. However, after a heartbreaking 37-33 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Baltimore returns home to try and get the season back on track. Problems on both sides of the football have dragged the Ravens to the bottom of the AFC North.
Things will not be any easier this Sunday, as the 2-0 Cincinnati Bengals are coming to town. A loss to the Bengals would create a steep climb to get back to the top of the division. What adjustments do the Ravens need to make to get on the winning track? Read on and find out.
Run the Football
After putting together an impressive 2014 campaign, no one could have predicted the slow start Ravens running back Justin Forsett would have in 2015. Unless you looked at Forsett’s career and wondered if perhaps his one good season was something of an anomaly. Regardless, Forsett is the man, and as of now, he and the offense aren't getting the job done.
All of this doesn’t fall on his shoulders, as the offensive line has been less than spectacular as well. Forsett isn’t the type of runner that can make his own yards, and if the offensive line cannot create some creases, don’t look for him to have much success.
However, it appears that offensive coordinator Marc Trestman seems to not be on the same page with the offensive personnel. Current Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak ran the offense in 2014 and really seemed to understand where this team excelled. Now, there is a lack of commitment to the run game, and against the Bengals, sustaining drives with the run is going to be a key to victory.
Last season, Cincinnati held Forsett to 70 or fewer yards in both games, so Baltimore needs to get him on track right away.
Get That Home Cooking
Baltimore returns home on Sunday after an extended vacation on the West Coast. It’s impossible to say for certain that the choice to stay on the West Coast prior to the Raiders game rather than return to Baltimore was a contributing factor, but it was clear the team was out of sorts on both sides of the ball.
Hopefully, a week at home will help get the mental parts of the game in order and hopefully minimize some of the silly mistakes that plagued this team against Oakland. It will be interesting to see if sleeping in their own beds will help.
Additionally, this is the first home game of the season for the Ravens, and they can certainly take all the help they can get in terms of home-field advantage. The Ravens were 5-3 at home in 2014, including a 4-1 start. The Ravens were swept by the Bengals in 2014, so they will be looking for payback.
Smarter in the Red Zone
This area applies specifically to the offense. Even though the Ravens were able to score 30 points, when they got into the red zone, play-calling seemed to head straight to the Twilight Zone. I will never understand why any team radically changes an offensive game plan when they find themselves inside the 20-yard line, but for Baltimore, it is particularly problematic.
There are few things more frustrating than watching a team move down the field using the middle of the field, crossing patterns and timely rushing, only to throw that all away in favor of fades and jump balls in the end zone.
To illustrate this point, the Ravens had seven scoring drives during the Oakland game. All seven of those drives got into the red zone. The final result? Baltimore came away with three touchdowns and four short field goals.
With massive targets like tight ends Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore and their physical advantage, Baltimore should use power running and play-action passing to turn those field goals into touchdowns. The Ravens cannot trade field goals for touchdowns with the Bengals.
Shuffle the Secondary
What in the world happened to the Ravens secondary on Sunday? In particular, the play of cornerback Lardarius Webb and Kendrick Lewis were truly disappointing. Two of the three guys this team counts on most in the secondary fell flat on Sunday. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr torched the Ravens secondary for 351 yards and had two 100-yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
If the Ravens had a viable option at cornerback, it’s feasible that Webb’s effort would earn him a demotion. He looked lost in coverage and struggled to recover when plays were made on his watch. For Lewis, an extension of a mediocre preseason has carried over into the regular season. Don’t be at all shocked if the Ravens try and work safety Terrence Brooks into the defensive back rotation to spark the secondary.
For as good as the Raiders wide receivers are, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will carve this unit up like a Christmas goose if play doesn’t improve.
Find a Second Receiving Option
On Sunday, wide receiver Steve Smith caught 10 passes for 150 yards. This is good news, but there’s a troubling aspect to that. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw the ball 45 times. Sixteen of those attempts went in Smith’s direction. When 35 percent of targets go to a single player, even one as great as Smith, it limits the offense.
If Baltimore wants to keep up with the Bengals, they have to find multiple ways to beat a defense that held Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper to five receptions for 47 yards in a drubbing of Oakland, 33-13. The easy answer? It’s tight end Crockett Gillmore. He’s a physical marvel and a matchup nightmare. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have double-digit targets in every game going forward.