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Stopping the Ravens' Offense

It'll be very interesting to see how the Redskins line up against Baltimore's passing game. It's hardly their forte, with few weapons, yet Baltimore is putting up strong point totals and rookie Joe Flacco is thriving in the system developed by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Flacco has been as good as almost any quarterback over the past seven weeks, with Cameron continuing to emphasize the run to a degree well beyond any other NFL club. That keeps Flacco pretty well insulated, and when the kid has to make plays - particularly to wide receiver Derek Mason on third downs - he is shining. (Mason has 21 catches on third down, fourth-best in the NFL).

Flacco's start was pretty rough, a little rougher than most since he was trying to make the jump to the NFL from the University of Delaware. He had thrown just one touchdown and seven interceptions in his first five starts, but Cameron eventually implemented more gadget plays like the Wildcat - including a 43-yard pass to Flacco - double-reverses, and wide-receiver options (more on that throughout the week). And the running game has continued to churn the clock better than any other NFL team (33:50 per game).

As a result, Flacco has attempted more than 30 passes only three times this season (all losses to three of the NFL's elite - Pittsburgh, Indy and the Giants) and the Ravens are 7-1 when he passes 29 times or less.

That's their formula and it has proven difficult to derail. It's particularly tough when Flacco puts up numbers like these over his last seven games: 112 for 187 for 1,535 yards with 11 TDs and 2 INTs, for a 101.1 passer rating. That's outstanding for a veteran QB, much less a rookie, and a complete departure from the first weeks, when Flacco was at the bottom of the NFL quarterback stats.

If you sell out to stop the run, as Skins defensive coordinator Greg Blache did last week against the Giants, Flacco can hurt you. Again, he's been very big on third down (eighth-best rating in the NFL). If he sees a steady diet of eight-man boxes, it could result in a few big plays. I would expect Blache to blitz him in the way he attacked Seattle a few weeks back, and trust that his corners can handle Mason.

Tight end Todd Heap has had to do a lot more blocking this season and has been largely a nonfactor downfield. (His size and strength make him an impossible matchup if the Skins even think about putting strong-side linebacker H.B. Blades on him, and I imagine Cameron would like to make him the primary if Rock McIntosh tries to man up on him as well). Wide receiver Mark Clayton was considered a draft bust before breaking out with some big games the last few weeks. Still, I'm thinking the Skins' coaches will figure they can get by with a single high safety, shaded on Mason.

To me, this is a week where you vary your coverages in the secondary - something we didn't see enough of against the Giants - play more Cover-2 to give the corners a chance to read Flacco and try to jump on some routes. I wouldn't worry so much about manning up on a particular receiver and matching up, even on Mason, though I would not be surprised if the Skins stuck with that tactic.

It seems like Carlos Rogers thrives when he is given a particular assignment and gets to focus on one individual. He studies, learns that receiver's nuances and routes, rather than playing a side and getting a look at various receivers and matchups. So if they go that route I get it, but regardless they need to throw more zone and zone blitzing in there.

The key will be whether they can contain the run while playing some Cover-2. For while the Ravens are productive in the run game, they are anything but explosive. They average 3.8 per carry - below the NFL average - and rely on pure brawn and commitment to the run rather than any individual ("feature" back Willis McGahee has been oft-injured and ineffective). They love to pound tailback/fullback Laron McClain in the fourth quarter and grind opponents and while rookie running back Ray Rice excels on draws and is very fleet, they do not have the kind of burst you really fear.

Better balance between defending the run and the pass is in order. Against Seattle, it was all about blitzing and coverage, and against the Giants it was all about stopping the run. Finding a happy medium might be the best way to bottle up a Ravens team that has scored 27 points or more in six of the last seven games, and scored 34 points or more in four of the past five games.

By Jason La Canfora  |  December 2, 2008; 8:09 AM ET
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Next: It's Jason Campbell's Team


The Source Meter owns.

Posted by: jmicrodoc | December 2, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

In weighing whether the Giants should jettison Plaxico (Dead-Eye) Burress, sportwwriter David Aldridge writes in _The League_, “The Giants have been incredible at plugging in replacements for their stars the last two seasons. Kevin Boss moved in seamlessly when Jeremy Shockey wore out his welcome; Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiawanuka have assumed the pass-rush dominance of both the retired Michael Strahan and the injured Osi Umenyiora. Does anyone even remember that New York was supposed to have a major problem at left tackle after it released Luke Petitgout in 2007? Oh, that's right; David Diehl moved over from left guard and has stoned D-ends ever since. When you do it that many times, that's not a coincidence. That's people who know personnel.”
What happens when the Redskins lose key personnel? Are the ‘Skins able to plug holes as easily as the Giants have? Can we extrapolate Aldridge’s remarks and conclude the Redskins lack “people who know personnel”? Are you reading this, Vinny? Or are you too busy preparing for your next media appearance?

Posted by: MrMerkin | December 2, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

1st ?

Posted by: Daggarforracialjustice | December 2, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse


This is the quote from Jasno-- "But he wonders if now might be time to strip the offense back a bit, especially with the young wide receivers getting a little more involved, and still getting up to speed."

It is not a direct quote from Zorn as you noted. Does Jason have background information that leads him to make this statement? One assumes so, but once again, you are right in that there is no direct quote to back up the statement. Other statements that Zorn has made regarding the rookies running the wrong routes and being in the wrong places have been noted.

Posted by: driley | December 2, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Awesome post JC, no argument here. FDAGGARACMJLC !

Posted by: Daggarforracialjustice | December 2, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I am getting a point out there... people need to stop bashing the young wrs... give them time...

I admit it is frustrating for them to come into this year not prepared for the nfl... they were stupid and out of shape and expected things to be handed to them... annoying yes, but Kelly has been hurt for over half the season and hasn't been able to practice... give the kid some time and let him learn how to play on the nfl level and I bet you next year he is productive...
Thomas is actually learning some things... yes he still runs some stupid routes and makes mental mistakes but remember he has only played in 12 games... well not even that... so give the kid a break... he has the potential and is beginning to show signs of learning the system... stop bashing them every chance you get and just wait...

Also the FO situation... now i agree that Cerrato is a moron and that DannyBoy is frustrating... but at least they had the right idea this offseason... take away Jason Taylor and we didn't really do anything stupid... no wasted signings, and even though we tried... no thrown away draft picks...

I know people think this draft class is a bust but remember, analysts dont do draft recaps for 3 YEARS for a reason... it takes time... everyone is soo into this instant gratification that if things don't come right way they're bad and in the nfl are busts... just watch..

Really we only have 4 rookies who have gotten into games, as Horton, Davis, Thomas and Kelly.. Brooks doesn't count cause he is gone (which i think was a mistake he was hurt and nervous... i hope we bring him back next year for try out) Rob Jackson was never supposed to be anything... Kareem Moore again a 6th round pick... Chad Rinehart was showing promise and is inactive each week... Tyron needs time he is small and stupid but he will learn... all im saying is that in my madden franchise he is disgusting and thats always a good sign... look at Carlos he was considered a bust until this year really... (take away yesterday) and now he is becoming a solid player... And then we have Colt... who is our 3rd qb and simply is not expected to do anything yet...

I mean common give this time... i dont understand how people are so quick to bash the draft class when its sooo early in their careers... lets be patient... I know its hard but try it and then in 3 years come back and talk to me... i'll still be here so if I'm wrong i'll admit... but I don't think i'm gonna be wrong...

I honestly think that Davis is going to be awesome... Kelly and Thomas will be solid... Rinehart will be servicable (better than f****** Kendall)... Horton will still be starting... and thats probably it... but if you get 4-5 starters from a single draft class, thats pretty solid... NO team hits on all of their picks stop expecting that

Posted by: peoplearestupid1 | December 2, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

One of the main reasons Baltimore scores so much is defensive TD's or short fields caused by defensive turnovers.

Posted by: Flounder21 | December 2, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

driley here is the link. Click Coach Zorn 12-1 and listen to Zorn yourself. Then come back and post if you hear anywhere in his response to a reporters question about taking a step back becuase of the rookies. A matter of fact the question was ask if he needs to stip it down because of JC. Zorn response was no but due to the play of the whole offense learing a new system he may need to take a step back. Go with facts.


Posted by: icetotalpackage | December 2, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

In the NFL you win with the best players, period.

Posted by: lsskinsfan | December 2, 2008 8:10 AM

I'm glad you're wrong on this...otherwise I'm not so sure the Skins would have 3 Lombardis right now...

This is a coach's league. It's about who's the most prepared and whose personnel is put in the best position to make plays. If your assertion was right the Cowboys would be working on their 2nd straight title right now.

Posted by: brownwood26 | December 2, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

"all im saying is that in my madden franchise he is disgusting and thats always a good sign"


Anyway, regarding the Ravens, I think that the Redskins could have some passing success on them....don't they have some injuries to their CB's...

Posted by: BeantownGreg | December 2, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

"all im saying is that in my madden franchise he is disgusting and thats always a good sign"


it was a joke... congrats on being intelligent

Posted by: peoplearestupid1 | December 2, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Also... we don't have passing success on any teams because Jon Jansen can't block renaldo wynn... Pete Kendall whiffs like a 2nd grade girl playing tball... Chris Samuels knee is pretty much non existent... Randy Thomas is fine.. and Casey Rabach is actually pretty terrible...

Posted by: peoplearestupid1 | December 2, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"all im saying is that in my madden franchise he is disgusting and thats always a good sign"

Thats classic. I got all 11 offensive starters into the Pro-Bowl one year and would settle for even 1 in real life...

Posted by: brownwood26 | December 2, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Day 371 of Weekend at Bernies. Still can find no reason to continue living. RIP#21. Woe is us in Redskin Nation...

Now to the game. We're halfway beat already since our offense and special teams are doing the job of the Ravens defense for them. So we have five opponents on the field this week: the Ravens offense, defense, special teams and our offense and our special teams. That makes it five to one against our defense. It's a surprise we've even been in striking distance of the games we've lost. And it's no surprise our wins have been razor-thin. Looking at it from that perspective, the D has done a heckuva job against such overwhelming odds. Think of all the dropped int's that could have changed those losses into wins, and it doesn't take a genius to see we have a pretty special defense. It would be Steeler-like if the other phases of our team would decide to show up and perform...

Posted by: 70Chip | December 2, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse


clearly i have nothing else to do as this is like my 5th post this morning.... haha and I agree with that... its amazing how long our defense has been on the field during our losses this season... imagine if they could get like a 10 minute rest here or there... but it is hurting us that we honestly drop 2 picks a game... we have to start coming up with those and its great to see Hall making some of those plays... That would be huge if he can keep doing that

Posted by: peoplearestupid1 | December 2, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

True that....

Posted by: 70Chip | December 2, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I think JReid made an excellent point in yesterday's (12/1) "Unrestricted" that hasn't been emphasized enough.

All those who say we have to give the rookie WRs time to develop and grow before we call them busts are right. Just because other rookies are contributing to other teams this year doesn't mean Kelly and Thomas won't eventually turn out to be solid and even better than some of those guys (Royal, Jackson).

BUT - it is the FO which chose to address this problem solely through the draft. If reasonable people agree that rookies can sometimes take time to develop - where is the foresight and ANY sort of other plan on behalf of the FO?

The "committment to the draft" business just strikes me as the same kind of junk the FO has been selling since Day 1, just repackaged to make us feel like things are different. What I mean is, they have ZERO balance, they just overdo everything. They either sign every FA in sight (doesn't work) or take the other extreme and draft 10 guys they know won't possibly be able to solve even half their problems.

I know it's a broken record. I've been a fan since I was born and that won't change, but I have to say I don't see things improving without a reasonable, intelligent FO stepping in - and Dan Snyder is the point man on all of that.

Posted by: abtassler | December 2, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse


The FO was hot after Chad Johnson. They also inquired about Boldin. I think if they could've pulled the trigger for Johnson they would have. I don't believe in that the FO will build solely through the draft. In fact, I think this offseason they will be in the FA market looking for marquee impact players to address some of the teams issues.

Posted by: TWISI | December 2, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

We have not been sucessfull with free agents so the draft is the way, look at the Ravens Ozzie Newsome he has done a fantastic job with the draft year in and year out and the Ravens with the exception of one year have been very competitive,its our scouting department that has to do the job being able to find the players who fit our scheme,stop going after free agents who are only looking to pad their retirement accounts.Draft and Develop your own and then pay them what they're worth,then you have a rare comoditity, a loyal employee.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 2, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Yea we tried hard to get Chad from the bengals... remember 2 1st round picks? well in the end I am not upset with this.... you build a team through the draft... and when you find a FA that fits your team both in need and in scheme you go after them... this offseason there were not any players that fit us... nothing we needed that would actually upgrade our team and so we didn't sign anyone...

I think we have done a good job during the year in bringing in talent... simply because of D Hall who seems to be playing some decent football...

But in the end, I don't think we can critize Cerrato or Dannyboy for this offseason yet... yes the team has holes but really we were supposed to be building for the future... NO ONE can honestly say they thought we'd have a chance to go 10-6... and if we do that I'd be pretty happy... even 9-7 would be fine... not great but I would at least have a positive outlook...

We really aren't that far away... if we can draft a solid olineman this year... if Heyer continues to develop and Rinehart does too.. we will have a fine oline next year... We need to find a stud de who can get pressure cause Taylor and Carter can't do it... but other than that we have a pretty solid nucleus

Posted by: peoplearestupid1 | December 2, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

The Ravens are brutally tough.......and that stadium is going to be a hornets nest--the Raven faithful--right or wrong--hate, HATE the 'skins and the purple and black will feed off this. Just hope Campbell uses this as a learning opportunity--very tough, play-off bound team w\a vicious angry defense in a loud, EXTREMELY HOSTILE environment--does Zorn know just how hostile it is going to be? I have been to my share of ravens games--better stadium, better fans with more stamina then fed ex regulars I am ashamed to say. good luck 'skins--you'll need it and the best, most focused game of the year to have a snowballs chance in hell........

Posted by: tabtool | December 2, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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