The Baltimore Ravens are going to have another tough test against a familiar foe this Sunday. Since the Cleveland Browns drafted Baker Mayfield first overall in the 2018 NFL draft, they have gone 1-1 against the Ravens. In these games, Mayfield has produced solid but not overwhelming stats, going 48/85 (58.4) for 718 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions - resulting in a 80.4 quarterback rating. Baltimore is only five games removed from playing Cleveland to end the 2018 regular season. If you remember correctly, the Browns were putting heavy pressure on the Ravens defense towards the end of the game.
Baltimore will need to find ways to contain Baker after a rather disappointing showing from the defense just one week ago. Lamar Jackson found his way around the defense in the second half, but it was a little to late. This is a big game for the Ravens, regardless of the Browns 1-3 record. Let’s look at some keys to a Ravens victory on Sunday.
1) Get after Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield has been extremely inaccurate when he’s forced out of the tackle box so far this season. After working through his first read, Mayfield becomes nervous and tends to make mistakes. The Ravens have the most quarterback hits in the NFL thus far but they have failed to convert those over to sacks. Baltimore has recorded just seven sacks this year. Both John Harbaugh and Don Martindale have both called out Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams about them “joining the party” when it comes to sacking the quarterback.
“Wink” must develop some type of pass-rush through his usual scheme but they need to catch the quarterback off guard. Baker will make mistakes and try to fit balls into windows he shouldn’t, but the Raven’s defense could have a field day if they are able to attack him before he can even get to his first read.
Cleveland’s offensive line is already beat up and inefficient through the first three weeks of the season. Baltimore must capitalize on that. Come one o’clock Sunday, it’ll be time to hunt for the Ravens defense in front of their home crowd.
2) Make Odell Beckham Jr. beat Marlon Humphrey
The Ravens secondary is currently ranked 27th in the NFL after facing the Kansas City Chiefs. News flash, nobody is going to stop the Chiefs from moving the ball. This secondary is not bad by any means, but injuries have seemed to make it difficult for communication purposes and busted coverages. If Marlon Humphrey can get OBJ off his game this Sunday by getting into his head and forcing pressure on himself, the Ravens will be much more successful against the air raid.
Beckham plays with a lot of emotion and if the Ravens get physical with him and force him to play their style of game, it will make the cornerbacks day a lot easier. The last time the Ravens played Odell Beckham Jr., he caught eight balls for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Humphrey should shadow beckham throughout the game and follow him wherever he goes, which will force him to prove his worth.
The Ravens won’t have Jimmy Smith again on Sunday which won’t help their cause, but if Beckham does what he did in 2016, the Ravens will be 2-2 after Sunday. Marlon Humphrey can’t allow this to happen.
3) Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown reunite
The Jackson-to-Brown connection wasn’t working last week, as Brown was targeted nine different times and only came away with two catches for 49 yards. There is a clear chemistry that has been shown and it needs to pickup where it left off prior to the loss at Arrowhead Stadium. Marquise Brown is as fast as they come and the Browns defense is beaten up and vulnerable. Brown needs to find ways to separate himself from Cleveland’s cornerbacks so Lamar can deliver the football with ease.
When Jackson has been given the opportunity to make throws that aren’t contested, he’s performed above average. It is the tight window throws that have challenged him at times. Greg Roman will do everything he can to get Brown the ball for a big play. Look for Lamar and Hollywood to hook up several times against a Browns secondary that has been hit badly with the injury bug this season.
4) Control the clock (RUN THE FOOTBALL)
Last Sunday, the Ravens threw the ball 19 times before the first half was over. This is an extremely high number considering Lamar had only thrown the ball 57 times the first two games. When Baltimore ran the football with Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, they were extremely effective - averaging nearly six yards per rushing attempt. Baltimore is not a team that is going to get into a shootout with an opponent. There will come a time when Lamar and his offense will be ready for this, but not in Kansas City during Week 3 of the regular season. The best way to control an opponent’s score is to keep the football away from their offense. Baker Mayfield can’t throw for 400 yards when he’s sitting on the sidelines.
I certainly agree that the Ravens should be aggressive, but they also should be balanced to keep the defense on their toes. Running the football will open up the passing game for Jackson and company.
5) Get back to playing Ravens football
Last week the Ravens tried to be someone that they aren’t. Poor defensive play, throwing over 40 times and being overly-aggressive. There is nothing wrong with taking risks, but not there’s no need to make rash decisions just to prove aggressiveness. Baltimore should get back to what they know against a Browns team that is sucking for air. It’s time for Baltimore to not only play physical smash-mouth football, but for them to suffocate another opponent as they did the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. After a tough, mentally-tiring game against the Chiefs, the Ravens need this. They are looking to get revenge against someone, and the Browns happen to be that next opponent.
This is a great week for the secondary to figure out what the is going on in the backend of the defense. This is a great week for Lamar and Hollywood to “call god.” This is a great week for Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams to “join the party.” If Baltimore, “Plays like a Raven,” they’ll hand Cleveland their third loss and take a stranglehold on the division.