Scouting the Enemy: Baltimore Ravens

USA TODAY Sports

Hello folks, took the time last night to watch most of the Ravens/Panthers game--you know the final tune up for the starters before the start of the regular season? Here are my initial impressions of the team our Broncos will face Sept. 5th.

Offense

This team still will remain a team that runs it's offense mainly out of 12 and 21/22 personnel. Very good thing because outside of Stokley and a rookie from Georgia (Marlon Brown?), their WR corps looks very suspect. Torrey Smith as a true #1 on the outside without Anquan Boldin was a ghost all game. The Ravens chose to rotate their young WR in and out to mixed results. Tandon Doss completely misread a corner blitz, failed to cut to a hot route, and left Flacco hanging on a pick six by.....Drayton Florence--yeah, the same guy that Broncos CB Tony Carter beat out last year.

Ray Rice looked good and I hope for Baltimore's sake, they still use him as the focal point of the offense, 120 million for Flacco be damned. Jim Caldwell has installed more bunch sets into the offense with motion that sets up the inside zone play. On their first drive, Jacoby Jones motioned from trips and the threat of the end around was enough to stall the backside pursuit which opened up a huge cutback lane for Rice.

Flacco elite?

Not at the moment--still inconsistent and I think it will take a while for him to jell-o with his current stable of receivers. At times I watch him play and am impressed at his poise against the rush and quick release to his outlet receivers. At other times, I'm dumbfounded by his lack of pocket awareness, like when he stepped up in the pocket right into the arms of DT Star Lotulelei. Joe was picked off 2 times officially (another was a tipped pass called back on a personal foul penalty). One of them like I said earlier was just his young receiver running a bad route. The 2nd however he keyed on his outlet over the middle and MLB Luke Kuechly read his eyes, jumped the pass and made a beautiful play.

Stokley looks good

3 catches, 3 first downs, or something like that. The Ravens went to the 11 personnel on 3rd down almost exclusively. Stokley can still play and it was good to hear the Ravens fans cheer him after his first catch. Stokes was always nothing but class in his time here and if we hadn't signed Welker he would still be a Bronco. As it stands, it will be a fun matchup watching him and Chris Harris do battle.

Dallas Clark not so much

Clark made my notes once for all the wrong reasons. Dropped a wide open ball over the middle for what would have been a first down. It will take time I think for him and Flacco to get on the same page.

Defense

Cam Newton is garbage. I'll just start from there. Outside of a few athletic plays to avoid the rush, this isn't a good measuring stick to see where the defense is at this point. They did look stout against the run. On two straight short yardage situation, the middle of that DL got serious penetration and disrupted the play. I really hope John Fox and Co. aren't deluded enough to try and Ronnie Hillman OR Montee Ball into the middle of that mess...which brings me to my next point.

What about Doom?

They are paying Doom a lot of money to do nothing but rush the passer. That's it. He never played a run down the entire game. Doom got a couple of pressures and rushed primarily against the RT. He was moved around several times, and was even put on the same side with Suggs on one occasion. If I were Pees, I'd rush him against Orlando Franklin all day (Franklin struggles against a speed rush).

*Side note: There is only one #58 Doom, and his ass will be on the sidelines serving a suspension Sept. 5th;)

Cat and Mouse

So given that Doom will likely only play in rush situations, do the Ravens match their nickel personnel with him in their against the Broncos if the Broncos come out in 11 personnel? If they do, the Broncos should line up the lone TE to that side and be prepared to chip off the edge. I would also exploit his presence there and run right into his pass rush.

Broncos can also choose to play 12 personnel quite a bit and keep Doom off the field and the Ravens in their base defense. Running the ball will be difficult, but a package with DT, Decker, Dreessen, and Tamme/Thomas gives you four-large and capable receiving targets to go along with a possible outlet.

I'm really going to love watching the two teams go back and forth with their chess match as the game progresses.

The not so Special-Teams

A terrible night in January....the worst they ever played. Well, they had another bad one against the Panthers allowing Ted Ginn Jr. to score on a 64-yard punt return. Yum Yum Trindon Holliday, they are still ripe for the picking!

The Interior Raven OL vulnerable?

Star Lotulelei absolutely abused the LG (Kelechi Osemele I believe) all game. Consistent penetration on rushing downs, consistent pressure on passing downs. Seemed like when the Panthers blitzed, they had the most success attacking the "A" and "B" gaps. Gino Gradkowski (a 2nd year player out of Delaware) replaces Matt Birk as well so there is a bit of inexperience on the middle/left of that line.

NFL....Still ruining the game

There were a couple of personal foul penalties called that were absolutely atrocious calls. One was a hit on Cam Newton, the other a 'sort of' hit on the Carolina receiver. That one was a beauty. The Ravens defender saw the guy was defenseless, pulled up, but his momentum still grazed (and I mean barely touched the guy) helmet to helmet. Not sure if the receiver even moved all that much. 15 yards. The NFL is going to call some BS penalties this year, expect some good old fashioned clean hits continue to be demonized by the NFL, all the while guys like Dustin Keller are getting their knees blown out because defenders are afraid of hitting high. Both those penalties caused quite a stir on twitter and former Broncos great Shannon Sharpe even chimed in on the issue:

I'm all for player safety, but this is quickly becoming ridiculous.

Wrap-Up

Once the Panthers settled down after the first TD drive, they really caused issues for Flacco and co. Some of that was helped by the inconsistent play and turnovers. The Ravens moved the ball but all too often failed to capitalize on their movement. After watching them play, this team is ripe for mistakes and turnovers especially on the offensive side of the ball. Opportunities will be there, our defense just has to capitalize on them.

Joe still looks iffy to me. He looks brilliant one drive and average on another. Until he shakes off that inconsistent play, he will not be the 120 million dollar man the Ravens paid him to be. One of his redeeming qualities however is that he is able to shake off mistakes and get back to the grind. I appreciate the fact that he's not weak mentally--nothing worse than a mentally weak signal caller.

As I see it now, the Broncos hold the edge with more consistency on the offensive side of the ball, the Ravens hold the edge in the pass rush and run defense, and both will be fielding radically different defensive lineups on the backside which is essentially a tossup there. It might end up a shootout, but I do expect the game to go back and forth until one team starts to piece things together better than the opposition.

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