Baltimore has always struggled facing the Cincinnati regardless of whether the matchup is at home or on the road. QB Andy Dalton gives them fits and A.J. Green has been a dagger-sized thorn in the Ravens heel for several years.
The good news is Green is still ruled out with an ankle injury and their other starting wide receiver, John Ross III, is ruled out as well. Tyler Boyd is slated to play and put up big numbers against the Arizona Cardinals a week ago (10 catches for 123 yards, 1 touchdown) and has sliced the Ravens defense in the past.
The Bengals have a new head coach in Zach Taylor and have struggled out of the gates, injury-riddled and winless. Their biggest weakness through the first five weeks of the season is their offensive line. Cincinnati is down to their back up left tackle and has struggled to protect Andy Dalton. They have given up a whopping 29 sacks through the first five weeks of the season. The Ravens need to hit Dalton down and stop him from doing what he does best, shred them.
Being 0-5 means nothing when it comes to the Bengals and Ravens rivalry. No matter what, they always compete wire to the wire. The Ravens will have to regain their identity as efficient and disciplined. If they’re able to do so, they will move to 4-2, which would’ve made any Ravens supporter content if they had a crystal ball in August.
Let’s look at some keys that may help the Ravens in their week six matchup.
Disrupting the pocket if Andy Dalton holds the ball:
In previous matchups, Andy Dalton’s quick passing ability has torn through the Ravens secondary with surgical precision. Dalton currently is getting the ball out in 2.47 seconds per snap, the third quickest rate of NFL passers.
The Ravens have struggled to defend underneath route combinations thus far, but without A.J. Green or John Ross, Dalton will be forced to hold be ball longer than desired. In situations when Dalton has to go through multiple reads, the Ravens simply can’t afford to leave ‘The Red Rocket’ a picture perfect pocket to throw from.
Dalton is stronger against the blitz than against four man rushes (100.2 passer rating against blitz, 84 passer rating without blitz) because he loves to get the ball out quickly. He’s adept at reading defenses pre-snap, but struggled when his first read is taken away. Those struggles can’t turn into big plays, and the Ravens must get pressure on the savvy veteran to keep the Bengals offense out of rhythm.
Running from the spread, throwing from heavier personnel:
Baltimore has a difficult task going up against the likes of Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. These two always create huge issues for the offense dating back to the Joe Flacco days, but spreading the defense out with three receiver sets, or splitting tight ends out wide, will create running lanes against the Bengals stout front. Using a bit of tempo and spreading the Bengals defense out will cause more substitutions along their front, where the Bengals depth is putrid.
The tight ends should be split out wide to get matchups against smaller defenders. Nick Boyle is by far one of the best, if not the best, in-line blockers in the NFL. Boyle should be on the field frequently for play action and as an extra blocker in the run and pass game. Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews has Been extremely effective as a blocker this season in all areas, while Hayden Hurst has somewhat struggled as a run blocker. Patrick Ricard should see significant playing time as well, seeming that the Bengals are the second worst team in the NFL against the run. Getting the aforementioned players into the second level will be imperative, as the Bengals linebackers are among the poorest positional groups in the NFL.
The Ravens interior offensive line will have its hands full with Atkins, who has been one of the few players to constantly win against Marshal Yanda. Scheming up successful run game will lead to opening up receivers in the passing game, which leads to the next key.
Get receivers not named Marquise Brown involved:
Miles Boykin had an absolutely stellar training camp and preseason for the Ravens, making waves throughout the organization and fan base. A growing sense of excitement emerged as Boykin shined, as he showed the ability to create separation and flashed contested-catch ability.
Boykin does have two touchdowns on the year despite only eight targets through five games. Those targets have resulted in five receptions for 48 yards and two touchdowns.
Boykin must get more involved with several crucial games in the upcoming schedule (at Seattle, vs. Patriots, etc.). Miles has the rare combination of measurables, athleticism and technique required to become a complete wide receiver in the NFL. However, he can’t do so without true opportunity.
Seth Roberts was a signing that hardly sent ripples throughout the NFL world, but he has created separation and is yet to drop a catchable target. Roberts is known for his downfield blocking and running crafty slant routes. The Ravens would be wise to throw Roberts slants and allow him to work the sticks.
Don’t be shocked if second-year receiver Jaleel Scott gets an opportunity to play on Sunday given Hollywood’s injury status in question.
Scott can contribute on special teams, while also presenting prowess as a towering, physical red zone threat. If Marquise Brown isn’t able to play Sunday, look for someone to step up in his place as a playmaker. Lamar Jackson hasn’t been spreading the ball out as of late, but Sunday might provide an enhanced necessity to connect with other receivers in key situations (other than Mark Andrews and Hollywood.)
The run-pass option has been effective for the Ravens throughout the season because of the threat Lamar Jackson poses with his legs. Not only does the RPO create running lanes for the running backs, but it also gives the receivers and tight ends an opportunity to gain separation from their defenders.
Baltimore’s offense is most successful when the RPO is working and Lamar is able to get the ball out quickly on slants and over routes. The run pass option puts linebackers in conflict, as they must effectively defend two plays simultaneously.
RPO plays to the strength of Jackson, even dating back to his college days at Louisville. This will also give the Ravens receivers a chance to find room to run after the catch. The Ravens should learn from the matchup against the Steelers, using deep passes to open up the run game and underneath concepts such as RPO’s.
If Baltimore is able to keep the Bengals defense on their toes using the RPO, they’ll have no problem moving the ball, keeping the defense rested and scorching each layer of Cincinnati’s defense.
Pushing the ball downfield:
Over the first three games, Lamar Jackson attempted 24 deep passes, which was the third- most in the NFL. He’s only thrown the ball 20 or more air yards only four times over the past two games, which has allowed defenders to jump underneath routes.
If the Ravens don’t threaten deep, life becomes much more difficult. Safeties start to move downhill and take the middle of the field away, which is where Lamar Jackson’s game is predicated upon. Just because defenders play deep doesn’t mean that completely abandoning the deep passing game is the only solution. To get defenders to cut their cushions, the Ravens must ...
Take what the coverage gives them:
The Browns and Steelers have both given tons of cushion to Ravens receivers. Their game plan was to keep Hollywood from flipping the field, while slowly creeping in between the hashes to eliminate Mark Andrews and company.
When defenders give cushion, Lamar Jackson must check into slants, speed outs and screens at the line of scrimmage. If the Ravens connect on quick hitters against soft coverage it will:
- Establish rhythm and timing in the passing game.
- Force the Bengals linebackers to cover sideline to sideline.
- Open running lanes as linebacker worry about quick hitters.
- Require great discipline from bengals defensive backs if their game plan is to stop the deep ball.
If the Ravens can hit Dalton when he holds the ball, take some deep shots, utilize RPO and Jackson spreads the ball around, the Ravens will come out victorious. Against a reeling Bengals squad that is near the bottom of the NFL in most major statistics, the Ravens can’t afford to take a loss. With matchups against Seattle and New England looming, Baltimore must take care of business on their home turf.
Which is most vital to a Ravens win Sunday?
This poll is closed
Disrupting the pocket when Dalton holds the ball
Taking what DBs give them
Pushing the ball downfield
Run from spread throw from heavy