Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

GAME PLAN: The Ravens will officially unveil their revamped passing game. Quarterback Joe Flacco took more shots downfield this preseason than any other time in his career. Baltimore added John Brown, Willie Snead IV and Michael Crabtree via free agency and the trio should help boost a passing attack that was ranked 29th in the league last season. They will test the Bills early and often.

New defensive coordinator in Don Martindale likes to attack, so the Ravens will be aggressive on defense. The linebackers will put constant pressure on Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman and the secondary will look to have multiple turnovers. Baltimore led the league with nine interceptions in the preseason and were second in total defense behind New Orleans. The team hopes that will carry over to the opener against Buffalo.

–Ravens secondary vs. Bills QB Nathan Peterman. Peterman got the nod as the starter over rookie Josh Allen this week. AJ McCarron was traded to the Raiders on Sept. 1. Peterman, a fifth-round pick of the Bills in the 2017 draft, completed 33 of 41 passes this preseason for 431 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the preseason. The Ravens will look to capitalize on his inexperience by pressuring him into making mistakes. Baltimore’s secondary is led by Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr at cornerback and Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle at safety. That unit led the NFL with 22 interceptions last season and is poised to play even better this year. Peterman is 1-1 as a starter and has thrown two touchdowns and five Interceptions for a 38.4 passer rating.

–Ravens WRs Michael Crabtree and John Brown vs. Bills CBs Tre’Davious White and Vontae Davis/Phillip Gaines. The Ravens signed Crabtree and Brown, along with Willie Snead IV, to boost the beleaguered passing attack. Crabtree developed an almost instant rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco and Brown created matchup problems throughout the preseason. Both will get plenty of opportunities in the opener. White had four interceptions last season. Davis rotated with Gaines in the preseason, but should get the nod as the starter. Still, Gaines, who suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 17 last year with Chiefs, could see plenty of action if Davis struggles. Davis finished 2017 with 21 combined tackles (16 solo) and two pass deflections in five games and five starts for the Colts, who released him after the season.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter — Joe Flacco. Backups — Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III.

Flacco, 32, overcame an early back injury and threw for 3,141 yards with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. There is some speculation this could be his last season in Baltimore because of his hefty contract. The Ravens drafted Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick as a potential future starter. However, Robert Griffin III could be No. 2 on the depth chart. The Ravens are carrying three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter — Alex Collins. Backups — Javorius Allen, Kenneth Dixon, FB Patrick Ricard.

Collins had a breakout season after being promoted from the practice squad, finishing with 973 yards on 212 carries with six touchdowns. He also ranked ninth in the league with 4.6 yards per carry. Allen, a fourth-round pick in 2015, was productive in a backup role and could be a force if he continues to progress. Dixon is back from a knee injury and suspension. He needs to prove he can be a dependable player. Ricard will serve as the fullback.

TIGHT ENDS: Starters — Hayden Hurst. Backups — Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams.

The Ravens selected Hurst with the 25th overall pick from South Carolina. He is expected to earn a starting role immediately with fellow rookie Andrews also pushing for playing time. Boyle is this unit’s best blocker and will also see time. Williams has battled injuries throughout his career and must prove he can stay healthy.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters — Michael Crabtree, John Brown. Backups — Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant.

The Ravens signed Brown, Crabtree and Snead as free agents to help boost a passing attack that finished 29th in the NFL last season. Baltimore also grabbed New Mexico’s Scott in the fourth round of this year’s draft and he will provide Flacco with a big target downfield or in the end zone.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters — LT Ronnie Stanley, LG Alex Lewis, C Matt Skura, RG Marshal Yanda, RT James Hurst. Backups — RT Orlando Brown Jr., RG Jermaine Eluemunor, C Bradley Bozeman.

Yanda and Lewis will be back in the lineup after suffering season-ending injuries in 2017. The Ravens also added Brown in the third round of the draft. He will push Hurst for the starting role at right tackle. Skura is the favorite to take over the starting role for Ryan Jensen, who signed with Tampa Bay via free agency, but Lewis could also move to that spot.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters — NT Michael Pierce, DT Brandon Williams, DE Brent Urban. Backups — NT Chris Wormley, NT Patrick Ricard, DE Willie Henry, DE Zach Sieler.

Williams has established himself as one of the top run stoppers in the league and the team struggled when he missed four games with a foot injury last season. Pierce, Henry and Wormley have continued to evolve as key playmakers. The Ravens finished the season ranked 15th against the run last season and the goal is to be among the top 10 this year. Baltimore is hoping both Urban and Kaufusi can make a bigger impact.

LINEBACKERS: Starters — ILB C.J. Mosley, ILB Patrick Onwuasor, OLB Terrell Suggs, OLB Matt Judon. Backups — ILB Za’Darius Smith, ILB Tim Williams, ILB Chris Board, OLB Tyus Bowser, ILB Kenny Young.

Suggs led the team with 11 sacks last season, but he is 35 years old. Both Bowser and Williams need to play bigger roles in their second season because neither made much of an impact as rookies. Mosley led the team with 132 tackles and made the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in five seasons. He is currently scheduled to become a free agent after the 2018 season and the Ravens will likely try to extend his contact.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — CB Jimmy Smith, CB Marlon Humphrey, SS Tony Jefferson, FS Eric Weddle. Backups — CB Brandon Carr, CB Tavon Young, CB Maurice Canady, CB Anthony Averett, CB Darious Williams, SS Anthony Levine, FS Chuck Clark.

This unit led the NFL with 22 interceptions and should be even better this season with every starter returning. The Ravens are deep at cornerback and Humphrey already showed he can be a key playmaker last season as a rookie. Young is healthy after suffering a season-ending knee injury in training camp last year. Weddle and Jefferson are one of top tandems at safety in the league.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch, LS Morgan Cox, PR Janarion Grant, KS Chris Moore/Janarion Grant.

Tucker is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history and he is signed through the 2019 season. Koch has also established himself as one of the top punters, averaging 44.8 yards per kick. Cox meshes perfectly with this group. Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg continuously produces one of the top units in the NFL.

PRACTICE SQUAD: G Randin Crecelius, CB Robertson Daniel, RB Gus Edwards, FB Christopher Ezeala (international exemption), LB Myles Humphrey, CB Cyrus Jones, DE Christian LaCouture, G Nico Siragusa, RB De’Lance Turner, TE Darren Waller, WR Tim White.