Since there's no more minor league baseball to go scout I figured I'd satisfy my craving for writing by previewing Eagles games and shit. It's not going to be beautifully written and I'm not going to try be a fortune teller week to week, I just want to present some matter-of-fact stuff (mostly via Football Outsiders) that you would wanna know while you watch the game. Let's talk about the Ravens.
General Offensive stuff:
Baltimore's offensive formula isn't hard to decipher. Hand the ball to Ray Rice, throw bombs and dump the ball off to Ray Rice when the deep routes aren't open. That's mostly it. It makes sense when you realize that Ray Rice is one of the league's most valuable players, Joe Flacco has the howitzer to chuck it down field and Torrey Smith is one of the NFL's fastest wideouts. The problems with this offense are that it often lacks rhythm and Flacco is statuesque so he needs the O-line to block well to give deep routes time to develop since he's not creating time for himself. The Ravens generally suck against standard nickel pakages and thrive against vanilla 3-3-5 nickel looks. The Eagles don't have the true nose guard to play a 3-3-5 so don't sweat that.
The Ravens are one of the few NFL teams to still use a true fullback, Vonta Leach, and he plays a lot. Last year the Ravens ranked last in the NFL single back looks. It follows then that they ranked 30th in 3-wide receiver sets. You're gonna see a lot of 2RB 1TE 2 WR looks today.
Individual Offensive stuff:
Joe Flacco: Joe throw ball far. Flacco threw 78 passes last year that traveled 20+ yards (third in NFL) and drew 5 more pass interference penalties to go with it.
Ray Rice: Rice rushed 290 times last year, about 240 of those coming with a fullback in front of him. of the 90 passes Rice caught in 2011, 60 of them were as checkdowns. He is the Ravens' bellcow. He's had 200+ carries and 60+ catches for 3 straight years. The only other gys to do that? Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, Roger Craig and Marcus Allen. He's a very special player.
Anquan Boldin: Awesome career is starting to wind down.
Torrey Smith: Look for Smith to be targeted off of play action. 22% of his targets last year were off play action, as were 3 of his 7 TDs.
Offensive Line: Left tackle Michael Oher is freakishly talented but doesn't pick up blitzes well. No more Ben Grubbs at guard is a big loss for Baltimore.
General Defensive Stuff:
This was the best defense in the league last year. They've lost Terrell Suggs who, despite the presence of Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed, is the best player on the squad. Suggs had 14 sacks and 2 INTs last season but also pressured the opposing QB 39 other times last year. Those pressures led to 3 INTs, 2 fumbles, an intentional grounding penalty and several holding penalties. He's a monster but he's not playing. The Ravens rush five guys almost 30% of the time, fifth most in football last year.
Baltimore only got pressure on Andy Dalton 8 times last week. If they can get to Vick (after his 35 yard completion last week, Vick was 0-18 on passes under pressure) this game is going to be a disaster. Last week the Eagles had trouble with defensive backs blitzing and struggled to communicate on stunts. Danny Watkins sucks. No more Jason Peters. Evan Mathis is just okay. It could be a problem.
Okay that seems pretty good. Go football.