Denver Broncos v. Baltimore Ravens: Key Matchup - Pass Rush v. Offensive Line

Larry French

The Ravens pass rush bodes to be formidable on Thursday. How can the Broncos offense combat and slow it down?

The Rushers

For right now let's take a look only at what projects to be their top 4 rushing threats.

In nickel situations, the Ravens will will look quite a bit like our Broncos did last year. They have great bookend rushers on the end in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. What they have inside can also push the pocket from up the middle. Haloti Ngata will play predominantly from the 1 technique on the right side of the Broncos line (think C/RG). Free agent sign-ee Chris Canty will likely play 3-technique against Zane Beadles on the left. His production dropped off last year (6 sacks from 27 combined the previous two years) but he is still a one on one threat even when kicked inside.

Do not worry about Courtney Upshaw. His play reminds me quite a bit of Robert Ayers in that he's more of a threat in the run game. Looking back last year, he had absolutely no impact when he was asked to rush the passer in the Divisional Playoff Game. Backup OL/DE Pernell McPhee would just be a sub for Suggs or Doom if he were to play (which he likely won't).

My thoughts are the Broncos will run their starting offense out in 11 personnel and play that most of the game. To counter the Ravens should match up with the nickel defense in order to get a CB on Wes Welker. It is a complete mismatch in our favor if the Ravens were to go with their base 3-4 look as you will undoubtedly have a LB on Welker with a possible S bracket over the top. Not only can Welker beat that coverage, but DT and Decker can also beat their one on one matchups on the outside that would result from such a strategy.

Ravens Nickel, what it looks like

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For the most part, we should see Suggs matched up against Ryan Clady. Baltimore will move their bookend rushers around to both sides so you will see combinations of Doom v. Clady and Suggs v. Franklin as well. Suggs has speed but I see more of a power player than say Elvis Dumervil who creates great speed off the edge then transfers that into leverage and torque with his unusually long arms.

Lets take a look at some of Suggs and Clady's battles from last year.

Play 1

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Of note here, at the top Kruger gets a good first step off the snap and gives Franklin a bit of trouble. Franklin though recovers and gains just enough leverage to redirect Kruger to the outside enough to keep Peyton Mannings pocket intact.

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Suggs is never an issue here.

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Ngata was a non issue as well, but that's a fluke. He played hurt all season. Ngata is a very good pass rusher from the interior.

Play 2

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Same thing like last time. Suggs tries more of a bull rush, which isn't an issue for Clady and Franklin gets beat by speed but directs his man far enough outside that he becomes a non issue.

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Play 3

Like Chess, Suggs set this play up beautifully. All game bull rush. This time, he starts off that way and manages to get Clady off balance with a violent punch move underneath his chest. From there he pulls off a fantastic rip move back to the inside and sacks Peyton Manning in the process.

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There's the rip move

Matchups

Haloti Ngata v. Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez

Double team Ngata in the middle all day. I think Louis would be ok in a one on one matchup, I do not think Manny Ramirez would be ok. Manny will need help so expect a lot of double teams here.

Chris Canty v. Zane Beadles

Zane Beadles is a rising star at Guard and is very capable of winning this matchup. He will not get much help if any so he'll have to hold his own.

Terrell Suggs v. Ryan Clady

This is a wash. Clady can handle Suggs, no doubt. But it will be a battle the entire game and it will be interesting to see what the pass rushing vet does as the game progresses.

Elvis Dumervil v. Ryan Clady

Powerwise, this is a no-contest. Speed is where Dumervil has the advantage.

Terrell Suggs v. Orlando Franklin

Franklin can be a bit clumsy with his leverage at times. Strength wise, he will hold up well, but it's all about his leverage and footwork with Suggs.

Elvis Dumervil v. Orlando Franklin

If I'm the Broncos, I put Julius Thomas off Orlando Franklin's right shoulder and have him chip Dumervil all game to slow down his speed advantage. Doom on Franklin one on one is a disaster waiting to happen.

Keys to slowing down the pass rush

- Keep 3rd downs manageable. We cannot face a lot of third and longs to be successful in this game.

- Use the Screen Game. Not only with our RB but with Wes Welker and our WR's as well. I still expect the Ravens' corners to play a lot of off man coverage on the outside, a lot of Cover 2 with their safeties. So it will provide ample opportunity with some quick screens outside.

- Use the short passing game. I am looking for Wes Welker and Julius Thomas to get a lot of targets tomorrow. Both of them can win their matchups and both will keep the chains moving.

- HURRY HURRY! Run the no huddle and gas that defense until their pass rush is too tired to push up field any longer.

- Get the running game going. For that matter run that outside stretch from the pistol right at Elvis Dumervil.

I'll be back tomorrow MHR to wrap up my film study and analysis for this weeks game.

GO BRONCOS!!!

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