Ravens vs. Browns: 5 Things I Want To See
Coming off a season opening win in Cincinnati; the Baltimore Ravens have the opportunity to start the year 2-0 if they can beat the Cleveland Browns at home this weekend.
In a city where the LeBron James led Cavaliers have reached three consecutive NBA Finals, and the Indians have won 21 consecutive games as they look to return to the World Series; the Browns are likely a bit of an afterthought in their own City.
They certainly are outside of Cleveland.
Speaking for myself, when I think of the AFC North, my mind immediately goes to the rivalry with the Steelers. Then I think about the Bengals reaching the playoffs five consecutive seasons prior to their issues last year.
Then I get to the Browns.
Since reentering the league in 1999, Cleveland has managed to have just two winning seasons. TWO.
They’ve had fourteen years where they’ve lost at-least ten games.
Based on their futility, it’s easy to dismiss them. You hear that all the time. I’ve heard it plenty this week. “Who are we playing next? Cleveland? That’s a W.”
I’m not saying I disagree. I completely agree that the Baltimore Ravens should beat the Cleveland Browns and their rookie QB at home.
I will say, that I think the days of casually overlooking Cleveland will be coming to an end. I believe in the trio of leadership the Browns have obtained with Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Hue Jackson.
I think what Cleveland has done building their organization since that group came on in January 2016 is exceptional.
The Browns aren’t ready to finish .500, let alone compete; but you can see the young talent is improving. More importantly, you can see that they are stocking up. In the 2018 NFL Draft, Cleveland has five picks in the first two rounds! FIVE! Overall, they currently hold 13 picks.
This is a team that over 2018 and 2019, is well positioned to take a leap.
That’s a potential problem for future Ravens teams though. The issue at hand for the 2017 Ravens is making sure the Browns head back to Cleveland sporting an 0-2 record.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
THINGS I WANT TO SEE:
#1: Bring The Confusion
DeShone Kizer will be starting his second game as an NFL QB. The words ‘Rookie QB’ have historically made defenses salivate, and I’m sure that is the case with the Ravens Defense this week. It seems to me though that Rookie QBs entering the league are better prepared than they once were. Less intimidated. A road game in Baltimore is different than a home game in Cleveland, but I wouldn’t count on Kizer being completely overwhelmed. The lights might be brighter in the League, but he played in plenty of large stadiums, and under National TV lights at Notre Dame.
Pittsburgh dropped him seven times last week. A lot of that was apparently Kizer holding the ball too long. I imagine the Ravens will win plenty of 1×1 battles this week, and could easily get put up another five sack day like they did in Cincinnati last week.
I would never discount the value of getting pressure – particularly up the middle and in the face of a QB; but I don’t think blitzing is necessarily the key. The key to me is creating confusion, and varying the looks. Make him think he is seeing one type of coverage, and see if that can bait him into errors.
#2: Again Commit To The Run
After Week 1, Baltimore is tied with Buffalo for the lead in rushing attempts at 42. There was nothing I saw against Cincinnati I was more pleased by, then seeing the Ravens pound the rock.
I know it goes against the conventional wisdom of how you have to build a team in 2017, but I think it makes all the sense in the world with the personnel which exists.
Run the ball. Control the clock. With that commitment (especially against smaller, lighter defenses); you will suck defenders into the box and set-up play action.
West and Allen combined for 40 carries last week. Do it again.
The other thing it will do is help establish an identity for the Offensive Line.
#3: Create Turnovers
Turnover creation is sometimes listed as a bit of a fluke. Solely gifts from the opposition. I think some teams have a better knack for it then others.
Perhaps it’s roster composition? Meaning not just the ball-hawking DB, but having the requisite pressure being generated up-front?
It just seems like certain players are able to find the ball. It also feels like it become contagious. An example last week being someone like Brandon Carr, who doesn’t traditionally generate a lot of turnovers coming up with a pick.
#4: Get The TE’s Involved
Nick Boyle had one catch for 14 yards. Maxx Williams had one catch for 5 yards. Ben Watson was targeted, but did not get on the board.
I’ve already advocated for a continued commitment to the running game, so it’s not like I’m suggesting to additionally throw it all around the field.
However, when Flacco does go to the air, I’m hoping to see these guys involved, with one becoming Joe’s safety blanket.
#5: Step-up Young Blood
The future of this season, and going forward are tied to the young legs on this team.
I’m not talking about Brandon Williams who’ve you invested in (though I do hope to see more of the added bull rush he’s talked about). I’m not talking about the now veteran CJ Mosley.
I’m talking about guys like Perriman, Stanley, Judon, Pierce, Urban, Bowser, Williams (if he’s active in-place of Z.Smith), Kaufusi (if he’s active), Wormley, and Onwuasor.
In a lot of ways, this team is going to be as good as good as they guys can be.
They all have the ability to flash. It’s about reaching that next level, and consistency.