Scouting the Opponent: Baltimore Ravens' Offense
I know I’m not the only Arizona Cardinals fan that went to sleep on Sunday night feeling like the tie game with the Lions was a win. That same night however, Ravens fans went to sleep with an actual win. And a big one. 59-10 against Josh Rosen and the Dolphins. But before Cardinals fans are reminded of the first three quarters of the game versus the Lions and begin to get worried about playing last year’s top defensive team – let’s remember that the lashing the Ravens handed out was against - the Dolphins. Not only have they traded away some of their best players to secure future trade picks, but current players are concerned that coaching staff are trying to lose – although Coach Brian Flores has denied that. Also, it seems that the social media teams for the Ravens and Cardinals were reading from the same book this off-season. Both teams touted how their new offense was going to transform the NFL. As with all week 1 opponents, you don’t know what to expect. The Dolphins just underestimated and didn’t have the personnel to accommodate. I’m just saying that perspective helps in this situation, and we all know many sports fans can quickly lose it. However, the Ravens offense has been dialed up since last season. So, if I know Coach Kliff (I don’t, I’m just making a point here) I know he’s watching a ton of film in his Tempe office right now.
Perhaps the biggest threat for the Cardinals is QB Lamar Jackson. He is good at dipping his shoulders and executing a play action fake. His most vocal critics have said that he can’t take the big hits and stay healthy but his biggest problem has always been with his accuracy with his passes. Against the Dolphins he was on fire, hitting multiple deep throws on point. Jackson did take a big hit on one of his runs and landed a little funny on that left leg when he was jumping over the defender. He had a slight limp after the hit and we'll have to monitor the injury. Harbaugh might try protecting his QB by keeping him in the pocket a bit more this week. Which is probably good for the Cardinals. I mean, do the Cardinals want the 2016 Heisman trophy winner to flip the switch and turn on his legs to utilize that ‘running back’ athleticism? Say it with me birdgang, the answer is no.
If Jackson stays in the pocket and Harbaugh chooses the play action as frequently as he did in week 1, the Cardinals linebacker team should be able to find a rhythm. Which will help out the cornerbacks, who I think will ultimately have the biggest test against the Ravens. This test will be made a bit more difficult thanks to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. You won’t find stats for his 40-yard time since he had an injury and missed the combine. But suffice it to say, he’s fast. So, providing the wings defend well, they’ll protect against the long pass that Jackson is capable of delivering. Down field is where he is most comfortable throwing to, and where he presents the biggest threat. All Jackson’s TD’s on Sunday were passing TD’s. My bet is that the Cardinals can keep Lamar contained by keeping him within the secondary.
One anecdotal factor that I’m going to be looking out for; this will be Terrell Suggs first game against his previous team. Will “T-Sizzle” have anything to prove going back into M & T Bank Stadium? Since so much of a players game is their mental make-up, it will be interesting to see how this defensive mastermind may change Jackson’s game.