The Baltimore Ravens are coming off a phenomenal team win against the New England Patriots this past Sunday night, one in which they were able to control the game and effectively play winning football. The Ravens have showed timidness and weaknesses in every game thus far, though, except for last week. Other than a muffed punt by Cyrus Jones and a fumble from Mark Ingram, the Ravens were nearly flawless.
Baltimore must not get comfortable and content with their play. They must continue to scheme appropriately and prepare to play their next opponent no matter their record. The Ravens always needs players to step up to make a difference but this week could be different then others because of the lack of talent they are facing.
Ryan Finley is a rookie quarterback starting his first game in the NFL. Baltimore’s defense should feast, but they’ve never had any information to study his tendencies as a quarterback. It could be an interesting matchup to say the least, but let’s look at some players to watch.
After a stellar performance against the Patriots, Mark Ingram may have his load lightened against a severely below-average Bengals run defense. Insert Gus Edwards. In their matchup last year against the Bengals, Edwards played significantly well and lead the charge out of the backfield (minus Lamar Jackson). Edwards may see his snaps increased drastically based on the level of competition.
I don’t want to sit here and say that the Ravens should adjust their game plan based on the Bengals being so terrible, but in all honesty, most players should see their roles decreased based on the level of competition. The Bengals are putrid in every aspect of their game and the Ravens should be able to exploit that without forcing players to play every down.
Edwards may be given more of an opportunity to lighten Ingram’s load for the season. I think it would be a smart move considering Ingram’s work load against the Patriots and his recent fumbling issues. Look for Gus Edwards to be given No. 1 duties.
The Raven’s “Thor”-looking tight end has been progressing weekly and gaining momentum and confident from his quarterback. Each week it seems that Lamar Jackson and Hayden Hurst play more in sync with each other’s game. Hurst is extremely underrated and often outshined by Mark Andrews. Again, Hurst may get the majority of reps against the Bengals to give Mark Andrews a chance to breathe. Each week Mark Andrews is relied upon by Lamar to make plays. Let Hurst man the ship with Nick Boyle this week against a defense that can’t stop frankly anyone at this point during their 0-8 season.
Hurst should see the field early and often against the Bengals simply to gain more traction with Lamar Jackson. He is already getting a lot of playing time but this week might be the turning point with meaningful reps.
Against the Patriots, Chuck Clark was shifted mainly into the dime role while Brandon Carr was pushed back to safety. Clark has played extremely well in whatever position he is put in but he played significantly well against the Patriots. Chuck was all over the field, including a tackle for loss when the Patriots were driving. I hate to say it, but since Clark has taken over for Tony Jefferson. Clark operates the mic better and communicates effectively. He knows not only his assignment but exactly where everyone needs to be when the play is called.
This will make things difficult on the Ravens decisions in the offseason. This game against the Bengals will allow Clark to further showcase his ball skills and prove that he’s the best safety moving forward for this franchise. Clark will have opportunities to pad his stats against the rookie Ryan Finley.
Jimmy Smith was able to come back against the Patriots and play like he hasn’t missed a beat. This is a major step in the right direction for the Ravens and the potential of their secondary. A healthy Jimmy Smith will make offenses lives a nightmare with all the other weapons that they have in the secondary. This game against Cincy will give him another opportunity to ease into action without forcing to be played excessively. The Ravens are setting up nicely and have the opportunity to work in multiple players in the secondary because of the Marcus Peters trade. Jimmy Smith isn’t a necessity to win this game, but he’ll still be able to get in better game shape moving forward.
Smith will have his hands full playing against Auden Tate and Tyler Boyd. This will be a tremendous test on his health and how game-ready he’ll be for a crucial game against the Texans in Week 10.
If there was one major weakness in this team the last few weeks, it would be Bradley Bozeman. His physicality is lacking and he’s been getting bullied at the line of scrimmage in both the run and pass game. This week provides Bozeman with the opportunity to gain some confidence moving forward. One of the Bengals strong suits is their defensive line. If Bozeman is able to throw himself around and create running room for the running backs, this will certainly be a confidence booster.
I’ve been saying all along that the left guard position is TBD and I think that time is coming soon. Bozeman is fighting for his job at this point and he needs to prove that it’s his for the season. The offensive line has been a bright spot of this team other than Bozeman.
Look for Bozeman to try and win the coaches over in the coming weeks. Ben Powers is hungry and waiting in the wings for Bozeman to make mistakes and lead to him being active for the first time this season. It wouldn’t surprise me Sunday if Ben Powers was given an opportunity to play against the Bengals.