Defending the Ravens? Fun Times


How about last week’s game in Cleveland?

Washington led 20-17, before being outscored 17-0 in the final quarter.

They gave up three sacks, three interceptions and two fumbles.

While others write about the offensive woes, I’ll turn my attention to the defense preparing for the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.

Watching the Week 2 loss to the Cardinals (30-15), I found myself thinking, “If they are having this much trouble with Kyler Murray, how in the world will Washington defend Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense?”

To complicate matters, Washington has since lost defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis for the season with a torn bicep last week vs Cleveland.

In addition, it would not surprise me if defensive end Chase Young has his groin pull rested this week, in hopes he heals completely, so they can have him healthy in coming weeks.

To put it as broadly as possible when defending the Ravens’ option attack, the defense is going to be flooded constantly with inside zone reads, mid-line reads, and outside zone reads.

Here the offensive line angles to the their right side, getting a helmet on each defender.

The half back, if given the ball by Murray, will follow them to the right.

By design they intentionally leave defensive end Ryan Kerrigan unblocked and Murray is eyeing Kerrigan reading him.

Kerrigan over aggressively is chasing down the line after the running back, while leaving a huge lane for Murray to attack the vacated back side of the defense.

How about this QB draw by Murray?

Notice how the back by design goes directly to the second level, blocking to spring Murray deeper down field.

Can’t imagine Ravens did not notice the success of this play.

This is what some call a mid-line read.

Notice the Ravens permit the defender to go unblocked and the defensive tackle grabs the dive back who does not get the ball.

Thus, QB Jackson keeps the ball to his right; however the right tackle completely whiffs on his block leaving the outside linebacker to crush Jackson.

Nevertheless, Jackson’s extraordinary athletic ability causes the outside linebacker to miss him, as Jackson collects substantial yards down field.

You see, the exceptionally gifted QB's like Murray and Jackson can (and often do) make plays when defenders actually are in a good position.

A significant advantage the Ravens have is that where some quarterbacks can run a read option and keeping the ball, pick up a first down, Jackson when keeping the ball can literally go the distance from anywhere on the field.

The Ravens rushing attack after three games (Browns, Texans, Chiefs) is 5th in the NFL averaging 166.3 yards per game.

Keep in mind, being behind the Chiefs for most of the game, the Ravens ran the ball only 21 times.

Yet the Ravens gained 158 yards  on the ground (7.5/attempt).

By contrast, in their easy wins over Cleveland and Houston, the Ravens sustained ball control, rushing 30 and 37 times.

When running, the Ravens often lead with a big mobile tight end  or fullback.

Watching film, I noticed they often motion toward the defensive end side they are reading, and if Jackson pulls out the ball from the dive back, he then literally is being led by the motion tight end and fullback  as blockers.

Sometimes the Ravens place two in the backfield and both lead Jackson to the defensive end if he does not initially hand to the back.

Mark Ingram is averaging 4.4 yards on his 26 rushes.

Even more impressively, Gus Edwards is averaging 7.2 yards on his 18 carries.

Rookie J.K. Dobbins has only been given ten rushing opportunities and yet is averaging 7.6 an effort.

So, Washington will have to originally respect and stop the dive and sweeping runs of the running backs.

Jackson is not one of the best passers in the league.

Yet, let’s not jump to extremes and say he is one of the worst, either.

He is 12th in completion percentage (68.8) and 15th in QBR (70.1). Before Week 3 and Monday Night Football, he was rocking and rolling from where he needs to be.  

Notice the poise of Jackson in the pocket.

Take a moment and simply watch his feet in the pocket.

His head remains up, reading the downfield situation, while feeling the rush, he continues moving, not looking to run, but to pass.

In conclusion, it promises to be a defensive challenge.

Keep an eye on the point of attack watching to see if the DTs can be able to be strong, clogging gaps.

Will the play-side safety crash with gap integrity slowing the ball carriers looking to get outside, helping pursuing defenders be able to make the play?

And will backside backers close fast enough to prevent runners the dangerous cut back?

Ivan's Latest: Realism for the Washington Football Team Offense

Ivan Lambert is a lifelong die-hard Washington Football fan, raised in Berryville, Virginia. He is married and the father of two fine young men. He is currently a sports correspondent for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida and can be found on Twitter @IvanLambert18

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