The Ravens currently have one of the best offenses in the NFL, and Joe Flacco obviously has a lot to do with that success. What adjustments has he made in his second season to improve upon that impressive rookie campaign?
Joe: The one obvious difference you can see in Flacco is his poise in the pocket, meaning he gained more confidence in his offensive line and his receivers since last season. He stands tall in the pocket, and doesn’t jump around as much as he did last year. With that said, the main reason he is playing so well is because of the stellar blocking the offensive line has provided him with the first two games of the season.
Matt: To me, it’s more about the adjustments Cam Cameron has made. Flacco was a rookie last year AND he was thrown into the starting role due to illness and injury of the other QBs. Now that Flacco has a season under his belt and, more importantly, an off season, Cameron has opened the play book and allowed Joe to flourish. As for Flacco, he has stepped up and taken hold of the role. No one doubts that he is the leader of that offense.
It seems that Willis McGahee is back and healthy for now, so what exactly is the Ravens’ game plan on the ground against the Browns? How can we expect to see both McGahee and Ray Rice utilized?
Joe: You will probably see the running backs used in the same way again tomorrow, with Ray Rice getting the bulk of the carries, many of which will be up the middle, or off tackle, and McGahee getting a high amount of touches in the passing game, and taking the ball outside a bit more. Don’t forget about bruising fullback LeRon McClain, who will be used in goal line situations.
Matt: I’m still waiting for Cameron to fall back into his run-first approach. This seems like a good week to do so. But as for both backs, they will continue to be used in tandem. Throw in fullback Le’Ron McClain and you have 3 capable runners with enough style and variance for effective offensive production. I see Ray Rice continuing to pickup good yardage with his elusiveness. I see McGahee using his power to get some yards and McClain will keep the defense on their toes.
Ray Lewis has been playing football since the dawn of time. What can you see in him this season that makes you think he’s still “got it?”
Joe: It seems like Ray Lewis will never be just an average linebacker. No matter how old he’s getting, he’s still one of the best in the league. This season, he has been getting pumped up every play, he’s been running hard and he’s been hitting just as hard as ever. The complete package is still there, and it doesn’t look like it will let up anytime soon.
Matt: Last week showed me he still has “got it”. Yes, the play to end the game was amazing. Yes, he still is the most vocal player on the field. Yes, he still is the heart and soul. But what proved to me that he still has it, is the 12 tackles last week. We know his instincts are still there and last week he showed that physically he can still compete.
With the Browns offense struggling as much as it has, what can Brady Quinn and company expect from the Ravens defense on Sunday? Who are some names to remember for the Ravens on Sunday?
Joe: Quinn & Co. Inc. can expect many, many blitz packages, ball hawking safeties and a high-speed game. Haloti Ngata will abuse the offensive line, opening up holes for blitzing linebackers to crash through. Look out for Dawan Landry, Ed Reed’s counterpart at safety. He has been great so far this season.
Matt: The defense will most likely shut down the run. The Ravens defensive strength is its D-line led by Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg. The Ravens will blitz Quinn all game. All-Pro Terrell Suggs is due for a big game, but the big play linebacker is Jarrett Johnson who may be slowed down by some injuries. The DB’s are the team’s weakest unit and that is with Superman Ed Reed. Reed needs a breakout performance this season and the Browns seem ripe for the picking.
If the Browns are going to pull an upset in Baltimore, what exactly is the team going to have to do (besides execute the fundamentals which, for the Browns, seems hard enough at times)?
Joe: The only possible way the Browns will win is if they pressure Joe Flacco so much that he spends 3 quarters of the game on the ground. That has been the main reason the offense has been clicking so well. It also helps if Brady Quinn were to throw for about 600 yards, because James Davis isn’t even going to come close to being the first 100-yard rusher in over a season against the Ravens defense.
Matt: This game reminds me of opening week against KC. KC was able to stay in the game with a blocked punt and huge interception return. Last week, the Chargers exposed the ravens secondary. I think the Browns are going to have to get big plays on special teams from Josh Cribbs. They NEED good starting field position. They will also need Quinn to get off 2 or 3 good passes to Edwards. If they can get those 2 things, then they have to hope that the Ravens O sputters. As daunting as all of that sounds, I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened. Surprised and disappointed, but not shocked.