By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens defense has to step up against the Denver Broncos. The good news for the Ravens is that they have key players back. Justin Houston, Justin Madubuike, and Brandon Williams all return this week after being out for the Covid-19 close contact protocol against the Lions. What are the keys for Don Martindale and his unit going into their showdown in Denver?
1. Limit the easy completions for Teddy Bridgewater:
Teddy Bridgewater is completing over 70 percent of his passes. To put it frankly, the Broncos have had it too easy in the passing game. The Ravens are a defense that must finally offer them a test. Baltimore can’t get nickeled and dimed in this game. The Ravens have to take the easy completions away. The Broncos’ offense is very much built on timing. Disrupting the timing of the play by being physical with the receivers and getting into Bridgewater’s bubble is very important.
If Anthony Averett doesn’t play (He’s listed as questionable) this will force Martindale’s hand. He’ll have to be less aggressive in his coverage calls. This will require the defensive front to quickly get pressure on Bridgewater. Some fans have grown weary of Martindale blitzing, but if he doesn’t send some heat, the Ravens could die from slow cuts.
The defense has to pressure Bridgewater. The fact that Bridgewater has been so efficient makes me think it’s too good to be true. Bridgewater isn’t bad, but he isn’t this lethal of a quarterback. Martindale is going to have to use stunts and blitzes to make him prove it with pressure coming at him.
2. Bottle up Melvin Gordon:
The Broncos’ passing game is good, but no offense wants to be one-dimensional. Melvin Gordon is averaging 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. That is a healthy average. but it is inflated by one monster game against the New York Giants. Other than that, Gordon has not been on a roll. Bridgewater has had to do the heavy lifting for this offense.
If the Ravens make the Broncos one-dimensional, they make them more predictable. At that point, it becomes a chess match and Martindale should be trusted to call the right kind of game. If the Broncos have balance, it gives credence to the play-action and lets them keep Baltimore on their heels a bit defensively. It all goes back to key number one. The Ravens need to make Bridgewater uncomfortable, in a big way.
3. Don’t give up the big play:
The Broncos are feeling it and confident offensive coordinators like to take shots. The Broncos don’t have Jerry Juedy in this game. They don’t have K.J. Hamler in this game either. Courtland Sutton is not the biggest speed demon but he’s a hulking wide receiver who you don’t want to play around with. Noah Fant is a tight end who could have his biggest game of the season this week.
Baltimore hasn’t been able to defend the tight end. Travis Kelce and Darren Waller went off on this defense. The good news is that T.J. Hockinson was essentially a non-factor last week. If the Ravens have figured it out with tight ends the middle of the field is a little less available for the Broncos’ passing game.
4. Tackle. Tackle. For goodness sake Baltimore Ravens tackle:
The Ravens defense has actually put on a clinic on how not to tackle in the open field. It’s been awful. The Ravens defensively haven’t had a huge lack of effort or anything so it’s really as simple as cleaning up the fundamentals. This could be a really tight game. The difference in this game very well could be tackling in the open field. The defense needs to do a better job rallying to a receiver with the ball in the passing attack. They need to take better angles and for goodness sake, they need to run through and wrap up. Nothing frustrates me more than bad tackling and the Ravens have had it in the first three weeks.
NEXT POST: Ravens vs. Broncos: Key game day bullet points
There you have it. There are your defensive keys for the game. Let’s go Ravens.