Saturday Walkthrough - Baltimore Ravens
Studying X’s & O’s for a scouting report on the upcoming Broncos game
The Denver Broncos are set up to take on the Baltimore Ravens in a Week 4 matchup, I studied the Ravens to see what we could expect to see Sunday.
Wink Martindale is without a doubt the most aggressive play caller in the NFL. Nobody brings more pressure than him, and he calls Cover 0 more than 3 times the league average. What sets him apart from other likeminded defensive coordinators is within that aggressiveness, he isn’t reckless. His madness has methods, and his defense is disciplined. Martindale is a nightmare for coaches spending a week game planning for him. He is unpredictable as his pressure schemes and coverage shells vary depending on the opponent (as any good game plan should).
His base coverage scheme is a one-high tight Cover 1 or Cover 3 coverage. On passing downs, he unleashes some of the most intricate pressure packages this sport has ever seen.
3rd down here, and the Ravens have three players lined up over the center. Chuck Clark loops around the right side of the offensive line drawing the RB, Calais Campbell crashes hard inside to open up a lane for Tyus Bowser looping around the left side. Bowser causes pressure and Goff misses the throw.
Another 3rd down, Chuck Clark comes on the delay blitz, and DeShon Elliot draws the RB to open the lane for Clark who gets the sack. Martindale often draws up his pressure schemes aiming to manipulate the RB’s blocking rules.
Ravens overload the right side of the offensive line pre snap, Chuck Clark drops and sprints back to a quarter zone, Patrick Queen ROBOT’s to take #3, and DeShon Elliot drops to a curl flat. They draw the slide protection to the right and bring the nickel clean off of the left side for a sack.
Watch here as Calais Campbell does a great job of working laterally down the line and bulldozing a lineman to bring Justin Ellis clean on the stunt. Goff feels the pressure and has to roll to his left ultimately throwing the ball away.
Teddy Bridgewater and the offensive line are going to have to be damn near perfect with their protection calls to avoid disastrous plays, and Pat Shurmur is going to have to give his quarterback answers for the blitz pre snap. Against Detroit, on earlier downs the Ravens were attacked to the outside of their defense on running plays and the Lions found success that way. Baltimore’s linebackers were aggressive in reaction to backfield action and found themselves on the wrong end of boots and end arounds. Look for a number of those kinds of plays from the Denver offense to stay ahead of the sticks and avoid obvious passing downs.
Now of course when talking about Baltimore’s offense the first point will always be the rushing attack lead by Lamar Jackson. He is undeniably the most electric quarterback the league has ever seen and defending him is an extremely difficult ask for any defense.
When defending the zone read, linebackers must show discipline and corners are asked to spill the run inside if the run is towards them. To counter it, defenses have come up with scrape or gap exchanging. The linebacker (usually the WILL) over the read key must fill the gap due to the threat of the quarterback run.
This technique spread like wildfire in this copycat league and teams stopped losing sleep over the thought of defending the zone read. That is until Greg Roman came up with a counter to the defenses counter during his time with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. Roman started to use a tight end on his zone reads, asking them to come across the formation and block the scrape exchanger.
This particular play is called 13 Slap. The F tight end’s job is to slide and block the alley player, the scrape exchanger.
Another play that Roman uses in his QB running game is bash counter, or 16/17 Pop. The blocking works away from the running back, with pullers in space for the quarterback.
The rushing attack is the main focus for defensive coordinators that face the Ravens, but Lamar Jackson has been one of the more dangerous quarterbacks in the league from the pocket. If you load the box recklessly, he will make you pay with his arm. The Broncos are schematically structured to handle the Ravens’ rushing attack, and will employ the same game plan that the Titans did to upset Lamar and the Ravens years ago with a quarters shell to bring safeties into run fits, and odd fronts to eat up blocks and allow linebackers to flow aggressively against the run.
The Ravens passing offense is controversial, it is not a great one due to personnel and Greg Roman. When they got upset by the Titans, the Titans were not at all threatened vertically and their safeties were allowed to creep up and poach the crossing routes. Roman did not use many vertical routes to occupy the quarters defenders and the intermediate part of the field was crowded with Tennessee DB’s. Regardless of if that changes or not, Baltimore will not have many opportunities for shot plays due to Vic Fangio’s defensive philosophy.
Keys To The Game
Stay Ahead Of The Sticks
Offenses can not afford to find themselves in unfavorable situations against a Wink Martindale coached defense. Take the easy completions to keep yourself in manageable downs.
The defensive front 7 has to stay disciplined against the Baltimore offense and consistently fill the alley vs. the zone read and DB’s must spill the run inside to where their help is.
Stay Moving Pre-Snap
Baltimore’s front 7 is easily influenced by backfield action. This caused them to open holes against zone runs and find themselves out of position on end arounds and boot actions.