By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have a big showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals this week. Sunday’s battle is big for the Ravens who hope to maintain dominance not only in their division but the entire AFC. Here are eight keys for the Ravens’ offense against the Cincinnati Bengals.
1. Take what is given – don’t force things
The Baltimore Ravens are their best when they beat their opponent the smart way. If the Bengals sell their souls to stop the run, Lamar Jackson should surgically cut through the defense as a passer. If the Bengals take away the big plays down the field, the Ravens need a solid run game and a passing offense that stretches the width of the field. It sounds ultra simplistic, but that’s the main key in just about every game the Ravens play.
When the Ravens had J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards they could stay in their comfort zone whether or not the box was overloaded. With less talent at running back and more problems upfront, the Ravens lost the capacity to stick to one way of beating their opponent. Luckily this change coincided with Lamar Jackson’s beautiful maturation as an elite passer. Now the Ravens can beat you multiple ways and recognizing the smart way rather than the hard way is imperative.
2. Take care of the football and dominate the time of possession
The Ravens are the favorites. The Ravens are the home team. Baltimore is expected to beat an opponent they’ve beaten five times in a row. Every extra chance the Ravens give the Bengals keeps the oxygen flowing to their hopes of an upset. Turnovers in this game could be nightmare fuel. The Bengals defense has struggled to generate turnovers so unforced errors are unacceptable in this battle.
As special as Jackson has played this season, you can’t overlook the turnover problem he’s had this year. Last week, Jackson had an interception right over the middle of the field, right to a Chargers defender. Costly fumbles have hurt the Ravens this year. Jackson has to continue to tighten the screws on this issue.
If you think of the hope the Bengals have in this game as a fire the Ravens need to put out, it puts this game in perspective. Don’t spark the flame with mistakes. Nothing squashes Cincinatti’s hope more than long drives that tire out the Bengals’ defense and deprive Joe Burrow of opportunities.
3. Spread the ball around
The Baltimore Ravens have to spread the football to all their receivers. This is no longer an offense that needs to overly lean on Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. Devin Duvernay and James Proche have been playing well. Rashod Bateman has only had one game but the positive signs are there for him. Heck, the Ravens can even get Josh Oliver involved in the passing game. Spreading the ball around feeds into the idea of beating the defense more than one way. It makes the Ravens less predictable if it’s more than just the stars who get passes their ways.
4. Account for Trey Hendrickson in their pass protection
Trey Hendrickson has 5.5 sacks this season. Considering there have only been six games, that’s fairly impressive. The Ravens need to account for the Bengals top pass rusher in their pass protection. It needs to be something Greg Roman thinks about when calling plays. Baltimore is deploying a Plan B offensive line. This is a matchup that could tilt Cincinnati’s way. The game plan has to be made with that being a known thing from the word go.
5. The middle of the offensive line must step up
This is a game where the middle of the offensive line has to step up, it isn’t all about the tackles. Larry Ogunjobi and B.J. Hill can push the pocket with an interior pass rush. Hill in particular is having a strong season. He has three sacks and has been a force that has bounced running backs away at the line of scrimmage. Hill has a Pro Football Focus score of 79.2. His run defense score is 81.5. The Ravens have some tough bodies to move in the run game. The guards have to step up. Bradley Bozeman has to be ready as well at the center position.
6. Use Jackson’s legs to keep the Bengals nervous
The Ravens have to use Lamar Jackson’s legs in this game. The Bengals have been burned by Jackson’s running ability before. They’re going to react strongly every time they think Jackson is going to run the rock. Baltimore has to sprinkle in just enough Jackson carries to keep the Bengals diligent against it. The Ravens can play off of that and keep Cincinnati in constant fear of Jackson taking off.
There you go. This is what the Ravens need to accomplish when the offense has the ball against the Bengals.