The Ravens are at 3-2 along with a ton of other AFC teams. They look to separate themselves from the pack today while making a statement against a resilient Bucs team. The Ravens are seeing injuries all along the entire roster, and will want to get healthy coming into the second half of the season. Today, we sat down with Bucs Nation and got the inside scoop on the Ravens week six opponent.
Q1: The Bucs started the season with Josh McCown at the helm, but injury and not very good play forced Mike Glennon into the spot. Glennon has played incredibly well so far this season and his stats say he played decently last season as well. What does he bring this team that makes him a weapon?
A: Mike Glennon has simply looked like a quality pocket quarterback this season. He hasn’t done anything stupid. He’s pulled the trigger on throws he needs to pull the trigger on. He’s generally been accurate. He’s managed the offense. He hasn’t done anything particularly special or spectacular, but he’s been fairly consistent from play to play and has simply distributed the ball to his receivers, and that’s a lot more than we can say for Josh McCown.
Q2: The bucs only rushed 21 times against the Saints and didn't seem to have a ton of success, even with Doug Martin back. Why the sudden shift away from the run when it has been their strength for so long?
A: Mostly because it hasn’t been their strength, at all. The Bucs had a handful of games where they could run the ball last year, and they’ve had exactly one this year. They would like to base their offense around the run, but their offensive line has struggled -- and when it hasn’t struggled, the running backs haven’t done much, either. Doug Martin really doesn’t look like the back he was back in his rookie season, and while Bobby Rainey has had a few good games, he’s far from a special back. And this line needs a special back to produce a consistent running -- someone who can make them look better, rather than the other way around.
Q3: A lot of Ravens fans wanted them to pick Mike Evans in the 2014 draft. Even though he is out for this game, how has he looked so far this season?
A: Mike Evans has been basically what you’d expect: big, physical, fast and an explosive threat -- but he’s also a bit raw, and not a very polished route runner. Part of the problem was that Josh McCown just wasn’t pulling the trigger on downfield throws, and now that Mike Glennon’s the starter and making those throws, Evans is injured. He looked much better against the Steelers, and was on track to have an explosive, breakout game before having to leave with that groin injury that’s still bothering him. Overall, it looks like he’ll be a very good player once he gets a little more experience and refines his game. Incidentally, I wouldn’t be entirely sure that he’s out for this game. He probably won’t play, but it’s not completely impossible.
Q4: The Bucs currently have the 30th ranked defense in the NFL and have been pretty awful against the pass while being only middling against the run, all while letting up an average of 31.2 points per game. Yet, that group has 12 takeaways on the season so far. Why the major difference in play?
A: Injuries are part of that. The Bucs haven’t had a completely healthy defense at any point this season, and that really hurts. The missing players have been key players, too. Another part of it is that the Bucs have struggled to adapt to their new scheme more than everyone expected. There have been numerous plays where they simply didn’t execute the called plays correctly, and they’ve frequently looked confused as to what they were supposed to be doing. It’s no coincidence that almost all of those takeaways have come the past two games: that’s when the Bucs have played their best football, as players returned to health and the team has become more comfortable in the scheme.
Q5: What/who should the Ravens offense attack in this game?
A: I’d go after cornerback Johnthan Banks, or if he’s not healthy, his replacement Crezdon Butler. Banks has been a bit of a disappointment this season, after a promising rookie year. He simply hasn’t looked comfortable, has given receivers massive cushions, and has made some crucial mistakes. He’s arguably the weakest link on the team, and I’d target him heavily if I were Joe Flacco. .
Q6: What are the keys to a Bucs victory on Sunday?
A: On defense, the Bucs have to rush the passer. They’ve improved in that area over the past two games, but without that element, their entire defense falls apart. If they can get to Flacco with some consistency, they should be able to keep that offense contained. Of course, then the offense has to take advantage -- which means they either need to find a way to run the ball (probably won’t happen), or Mike Glennon needs to be the competent game manager he’s been throughout this season. If Glennon can find a way to get the ball to his downfield receivers, especially Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Bucs should have the necessary elements for a victory.
Q7: What are the keys to a Ravens victory on Sunday?
A: Stop the run. If you stop the run, which should not be a problem, you’ll get the Bucs in third-and-long situations. And once that happens the Ravens can tee off. The Bucs’ line has real problems with picking up stunts and movement, as they haven’t played together very often, so I would look for that to be a real weapon on defense. On offense, the Ravens just need to be methodical and consistent. As long as you’re moving the ball, the Bucs defense will break down on some plays. If you can take advantage of those breakdowns with some explosive plays, the Ravens offense should be productive.