Ready For The Ravens?

Posted: September 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 26 Comments »

The Eagles get a big test this week.  Taking on a team like the Ravens means getting a W will be really tough.  That’s okay with me.  I’m just as interested in seeing how the Eagles play.  That may sound odd, but good teams are going to find a way to win 10 or 11 games.

I’ll be more comfortable with the Eagles when I see how they respond this week.  I’ll either know that my expectations were too high and we’re going to have another year of highly inconsistent play or I’ll see us look like a playoff team.  I’m hoping for a good game, but trying to be realistic as well.  The Cleveland game was way too sloppy.

So what am I looking for?  3 general things.

First, I need the offense to eliminate the mistakes.  Shady didn’t trust his blocking on the run where he fumbled.  Maclin didn’t block well on multiple plays and cost us a lot of yards.  The O-line made too many mental mistakes.  And of course Michael Vick must play worlds better than he did.

Next, I need the defense to repeat what they did.  There were a few blown plays, but the times when we left guys open, the rush got to the QB.  The plays where the rush was slow, the coverage was tight.  On the few missed tackles, there was someone there to clean up the play. Good team defense.

STs I’m pretty good with, but Alex Henery needs to quit with the misses.  His 3-game miss streak must end this week (barring a 60-yarder or some fluke kick like that).

We don’t lack talent.  We need guys to play better football.  This is something the players and coaches can work on.  That’s what gives me confidence that the issues can be fixed.

As for the Ravens…I was really impressed on Monday.  I thought they might be a tad overrated this summer.  I had my doubts about Joe Flacco and the offense.  I had concerns about the OL.  I had questions about who was going to replace Terrell Suggs.  I’m also not a huge believer in their CBs.

On Monday, the Ravens looked like a dominant team.  To me, Baltimore, SF, and Houston looked like the 3 juggernauts so far.  Playing the Ravens in Week 2 is tough.  Or is it?  The Ravens won the last 2 season openers, only to fall in Week 2.  Both losses came on the road.  That doesn’t mean the 2012 Ravens will have the same outcome, but it is a trend.

Can the Eagles win this game?  Absolutely.

The Ravens are good, but they aren’t unbeatable.  There was a moment in the opener when the Bengals looked to have seized control of the game.  That didn’t last because the Bengals weren’t good enough to play at that level for a sustained period.  The Ravens then took control of the game and buried them.

If Vick comes out and throws the ball up for grabs, Sunday will be The Longest Day.  If Vick got that out of his system and is now ready to play good football, we’re going to be in for a good game.  The health of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin is critical.  We need them to stretch the defense and provide some big plays.  You can’t sustain long drives on the Ravens getting 4 and 5 yards a pop.  You need some 20 and 30-yard gains mixed in.  Reuben Frank wrote yesterday that Andy Reid is optimistic about them playing.

Will the offense be more balanced?  I don’t know.  The Ravens have a big defense.  Conventional thinking is that you’re best to spread them out and make them run around in pass coverage.  At the same time, Reid knows he must help the OL and Vick by running the ball more than just 7 times in the 1st half.

Cincy had a lot of success with WR screens and quick throws.  They also ran the ball effectively.  Benjarvis Green-Ellis had 18 carries for 91 yards.  He ran up the middle quite a bit.  Quick hitters with Shady or even Bryce Brown might be effective.

It occurred to me yesterday that the offensive gameplan vs Cleveland might have been a bit bland by design.  Save the good wrinkles for the Ravens.  We did a few interesting things last week (loved the end around with Harbor as the lead blocker), but there weren’t any plays that jumped out as brilliant or overly-creative.  We’ll have to see what Marty and Andy have in store for Sunday.

The Ravens can be vulnerable to the pass.  Look back to 2011:

TEN 26, BAL 13 … 432 total yards, 358 passing

BAL 23, PIT 20 … 392 total yards, 322 passing

BAL 31, CIN 24 … 483 total yards, 364 passing

SD 34, BAL 14 … 415 total yards , 270 passing

The teams that the Ravens just dominated were running teams like SF, JAX, and NYJ.  When  you let them load the box and attack, you’ve got little chance of winning.

In order for us to be successful, the line must block well and not miss assignments, the receivers must get open and must catch the ball, and Vick must find the open guy and get him the ball in a timely fashion.

I feel pretty confident in the defense.  Am I alone in that?  The Ravens were impressive in the opener and it looked like legit success.  Flacco threw some balls into coverage, but he’s got the arm to get away with that.  Also, when you’re forcing the ball to a guy like Anquan Boldin, he’s still good enough to make crazy-tough catches.  Don’t be dismissive of these guys.

The reason I’m confident is that I liked what I saw from our guys so much.  I think the defense will improve as they get used to each other and the way the scheme is being play this year.  We played more press coverage in the opener than we did in a 3-week span last year.

I think we’ve got the players to match-up with the Ravens.  We have a good DL.  We have fast, physical LBs.  We have big CBs who can run.  We have solid Safeties.  The Ravens did use the end around as a weapon in the opener.  Our guys will need to be disciplined.

The Bengals had their most success on defense when blitzed.  I wasn’t overly impressed with their base pass rush.  Geno Atkins had success up the middle a couple of times, but Flacco had a good pocket way too much.

I like our DL a lot more than the Bengals, but it will be interesting to see if Juan Castillo does try to mix in more blitzes to confuse Flacco or just get him out of his comfort zone.  I think the fact he’s such a big guy and takes such deep drops will help our rush.  The DEs will have a clear aiming point to attack.  I’ll be highly disappointed if they don’t get him down a couple of times off the edge.  As Jimmy Bama pointed out the other night, Jason Babin will be going against a rookie OT for the second week in a row.

The run defense was sensational in the opener.  Shutting down Ray Rice will be much harder.  I want to see how good the D is.  Can they control the LOS against a big, powerful OL and limit Rice as a runner?  Can’t wait to tune in and see this.  Should be a lot of fun.

I’ll add more thoughts on the game over the weekend.

* * * * *

Derek put up an amazing post at Iggles Blog using the All-22 to show a variety of things.  This is truly must-read material.  Great work.


  • http://twitter.com/theguyotc the guy

    “The Ravens did use the end around as a weapon in the opener. Our guys will need to be disciplined.”

    I was very happy with the D in the Browns game. There are plenty of “yeah but’s” of course, but it’s hard not to be happy with their play.

    Having said that, one thing I would *not* call them is disciplined.

    • TommyLawlor

      I don’t know about that. They got taken on the one end around, but I didn’t think players were too out of control. Aggressive, sure. Within reason, though.

    • Mac

      I would have to say that Ryans and Kendricks have already caused an upgrade in disciplined play over last year. I’m not going to argue that the team is truly disciplined, but I don’t think I would call them reckless either.

  • http://twitter.com/benjabad Ben Hert

    One of the things I’m worried about is Flacco moving to the no-huddle. I have a feeling this is going to have an adverse effect on the DL with how Washburn likes to rotate his linemen.

    • TommyLawlor

      That is a potential problem. I was going to touch on that tomorrow. Didn’t want to use all the talking points in one post. :)

    • austinfan

      Only if you’re talking a 10 play drive.

      Otherwise, Washburn would just start a different group on the next drive, unlike a lot of teams that start four and only rotate two (where you can really wear them down with a no huddle), Washburn will substitute whole groups.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=848935182 Ryan Jacob
    • TommyLawlor

      Is the reason Reid closed practice so that he can be secretly working on getting Nick Foles ready to play?

      Highly doubtful.

      Mike Vick would not take that well. He’d talk to the media at some point. Word would get out about something like that from him or some other upset player.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=848935182 Ryan Jacob

        I agree…just hopeful that there’s something to it. Of course, Vick could go on to play lights out…I just don’t think that it’s very likely.

    • A_T_G

      The comment followingthe article speculating that Andy wants to exploit something he saw in the Ravens without tipping his hand seems much more plausible.

  • austinfan

    Bengals secondary is a mess right now, they benched Travis Mays who started at SS, they had Hall (coming off an achilles suffered mid-season 2011, probably won’t be 100% until November or December), Clements (great career, but a bit long in the tooth, turns 33 in December), and Newman (who was finished last year). Flacco had a lot of easy throws to open receivers.

    • TommyLawlor

      Some of those guys weren’t open. The DBs were on them, but Flacco and his targets got the job done anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/tst69 Thomas

    Speaking of trends..the last 5 Super Bowl champions have played against the Eagles during the first 5 weeks of their winning season. I think Baltimore might be #6.

    • Yuri

      Last 3 (Saints, Packers, Giants) beat us in our home opener.

      • TommyLawlor

        Also highly interesting.

      • A_T_G

        So does that mean the Browns will lose the Super Bowl this year?

    • TommyLawlor

      Good info. Wasn’t aware of that.

  • aub32

    Hey Tommy I figure you may already be planning on writing about this, but if not could you mention a little bit about how we stand to fair in the screen game? With our DEs going all out I believe they will have a lot of success against standard passing plays but will not be in the best position to help on screens. My hope is that Kendricks has the speed to get out there and blow up most of the screens. Also, maybe I am alone, but the no huddle offense doesn’t scare me as much this year. I noticed in training camp that the Eagles’ D practiced a no huddle look quite often in which everyone stood in their respective positions and looked to the sideline for the play. Add Ryans to the mix, we should be able to handle getting lined up and on the same page. I look forward to reading what you may say on both points.

  • http://twitter.com/corry_k Corry Henry

    Week one is way too early to panic and make a QB switch, but how short of leash is Mike Vick on? We can’t have another 4 INT day if we truly do have Super Bowl aspirations.

    • TommyLawlor

      You only move from Vick if he is detrimental to the team and there appears to be no coming out of that. Would take 3 or 4 awful games. I think. If the coaches do love Foles, maybe they’d pull the trigger faster, but don’t count on it.

      • A_T_G

        Andy might need a few weeks. Ray Lewis could make the decision much quicker.

        • http://twitter.com/sjampendk Patrick

          I fear Ed Reed more. Reed makes interceptions when the QB throws the ball away from his zone, how many can he get if Vick throws the ball right at him.
          Im not even that worried that Ray will injure Vick. Ray is a fantastic player and he is tough, but never dirty and he respects Mike Vick, he wont hit him out of bounds or during a “frontslide”.

  • Anders

    I just read this article about Castillo
    http://www.phillymag.com/eagles/2012/09/14/a-look-at-castillo-in-year-two/

    Its extreme so much a few changes can do for a guy (no Samuel there refuse to play man, Ryans to man the middle and Bowles to handle the CBs). I like the defensive minds we have collected and I like Castillo is letting em earn their money and prove why they was hired.

    • austinfan

      Mostly, it’s having a year to develop, teach and implement your schemes. Howie got him some talent (Cox, Kendricks, Ryans, Boykin) that was a better fit, but he also lost Patterson, Dixon, Parker and Samuel, so it’s less the quantity of talent than the chemistry.

      • Anders

        Of that bunch (minus Parker because we cut him last year), only Pat is a lose and we still have him inside the building

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=848935182 Ryan Jacob

    The loss of Suggs is going to have a huge impact on this game. It really hurts the Ravens’ pass rush. With Suggs, I think that the Eagles would have a tough time blocking them. Without him, I think that they can reasonably be expected to give Vick some time. It kind of evens out the loss of Jason Peters.