Well, the 2013 home opener is in the books, and it’s another win over Cleveland, the 11th straight for Flacco and Harbaugh over the Browns. Your author was lucky enough to be at the game, even if it was a little slow as far as offense goes. Now, while I nurse my scalding sunburn, it’s time to go to the tape and review some of the important plays from the first victory of the season.
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Ravens Pass Rush
The Ravens put together a much better defensive effort this week than they did in Denver (of course, playing against Weeden and Manning are two different things). Regardless, there were many positives to take away from this game, especially the pass rush. What had been a weakness for the past few years appears to be one of the defense’s greatest strength in ’13. Below is one of the five sacks Baltimore recorded against Cleveland.
This is a six-man blitz on 3rd and 4. The Ravens overload the left side of the offensive line by stunting Suggs inside and letting Daryl Smith run through the space this creates. The LDE crashes down on the A gap and Ngata bulls straight ahead, putting a ton of pressure on that side of the offensive line. Both Daryl Smith and Art Brown (standing upright on the defensive left) are credited with the sack here, though at least three people get home.
If Daryl Smith and Art Brown can continue to be productive pass rushers, there is no realistic limit to the pressure this defense can bring. Everybody knew about Suggs, Dumervil, and Canty for their pass rushing prowess. Meanwhile Daryl Smith was thought of as mostly a coverage linebacker, and Art Brown was expected to be productive primarily as a run-stopping weakside linebacker. But it appears that the Ravens have a bevy of dangerous pass rushers both along the defensive line and at linebacker.
Flacco sacked by Barkevious Mingo
A lot of people were excited for Bryant McKinnie’s return to the Ravens this season after he languished in free agency and our LT situation was temporarily unsettled. Unfortunately, McKinnie has struggled in his first two games this season, including in the play below where rookie LB Barkevious Mingo absolutely schools him.
If the line can’t give Flacco good protection against a four man rush, it will be nearly impossible for the Ravens to be successful in the passing game.
The Ravens ran this 21 personnel all day and, as Dan said to me, “pretty much set offense back 50 years.” Here, the Browns put their rookie first-round draft pick, Barkevious Mingo, heads up over McKinnie. Meanwhile, CB Joe Haden and FS Tashaun Gipson are going to bracket Torrey Smith, essentially leaving Flacco one option – WR Marlon Brown. Mingo uses a speed rush to turn the corner (McKinnie never had a chance) and sacks Flacco almost immediately after the snap.
It’s worth noting that the Browns schemed to take away Torrey Smith for much of the game. They kept him from getting behind the defense and forced Flacco to look elsewhere for big gains.
Jordan Cameron Reception #1
The Browns first play from scrimmage was a 53-yard completion to TE Jordan Cameron. The Ravens are in a single high safety look while the Browns are in their 21 personnel with Cameron lined up on the right side of the offensive line.
Cameron runs up the seam and then breaks his route toward the sideline. It’s hard to tell what the playcall here is (especially without the All-22 film), but there’s a good chance this is an option route. Cameron runs straight through the linebacker’s middle zone and sees nothing but space on the right side of the field. After making the catch, he uses his athleticism to force a missed tackle from the deep safety, and then it’s off to the races. Of course, we know Cameron was tackled just shy of the endzone and the Ravens were able to keep Cleveland from getting the touchdown.
This play is exactly the sort of thing Ravens fans aren’t used to witnessing. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last time this happens – it’s the result of having safeties who are merely human. Ed Reed was a master at understanding where the play was going, and he could cover a huge amount of ground. Additionally, us fans were spoiled by big, enforcer-type safeties like Pollard who could match up with athletic tight ends. But Huff, Elam, and Ihedigbo are neither Reed nor Pollard, so we will have to accept that our safeties won’t always be perfect.
Jordan Cameron Reception #2
Here, Cameron shows good vision for a young player, finding space in between LB Daryl Smith, who is attempting to cover Cameron, and the safety providing help over the top. This is the kind of play that a fast, athletic TE brings to an offense – a credible threat all over the field, including and especially in the deep middle.
In the first image, you see Cameron just releasing out of his stance. ILB Daryl Smith is tasked with covering him. In image 2, you see Smith with pretty good coverage. He even has inside leverage, though Cameron gives a small shoulder fake to the outside, mimicking the deep corner route that worked earlier in the game. It is enough to slow Smith’s feet down and you can see in image 3 that once Cameron cuts inside, he has a 5-yard cushion on Smith. Finally, in image 4 you can see the gap Cameron finds in coverage between the LB and safety.