By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have a prime-time fight with the Indianapolis Colts tonight. Let’s take a look at what the defense needs to do in this Monday Night Football appearance. Here are four keys for the Ravens defensively:
1. Up, up… and Oweh:
Odafe Oweh is off to a fantastic start to his rookie season. The Ravens have 10 sacks this season and Oweh has accounted for a pair of them. Oweh made two of the most important plays of the season against the Chiefs that allowed the Ravens to take the ball away from Kansas City for their miraculous win. Four games in and Oweh has ten tackles, six QB hits, and a forced fumble. The Ravens need to see if Oweh can have a sack in back-to-back games.
One way or another the Ravens need to get pressure on the quarterback. The outside linebackers need to keep up the momentum that they picked up last week against the Denver Broncos. Tyus Bowser came to the party with a couple of sacks. Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh both got into the quarterback take-down party. In a week where the Broncos were short on help for the inside of their offensive line, the Ravens dominated the offensive tackles. Against the Colts, Don Martindale needs to see if this can continue.
This is a big picture thing as much as a takedown the Colts thing. The growing hype about Oweh is a real area of hope. The Ravens needed a star pass rusher for a while. The outside linebackers as a whole have been exciting. If this position group keeps a positive trajectory, this defense has a bit more muscle to count on this year.
2. Justin Madubuike… We see you
Justin Madubuike got a sack in Denver as well and is having a strong season. According to Pro Football Focus, Madubuike has had 56 snaps as a pass rusher and 26 run defense stops. The PFF grade for Madubuike in pass-rushing is a very strong 73.8. While he hasn’t quite been the run stopper that Brandon Williams has always been, Madubuike offers more penetration and pocket pushing than Williams ever has. In fact, Madubuike has more talent than Justin Ellis, Michael Pierce, and Timmy Jernigan combined. Things are only going up for him.
Let’s talk about how Madubuike can be a key for this battle against the Colts. If the Ravens keep Wentz in the pocket, Madubuike’s mid-line pressure could give him nowhere to step up in the pocket. Madubuike could offer a lot of problems for the Colts’ offensive line. If the outside linebackers keep up their forceful play and Madubuike does his thing, the Ravens will win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Madubuike plus Oweh and Houston going off equals the whole thing coming together.
3. Ravens corners controlling the action:
Michael Pittman Jr. is a player that needs to be neutralized. He’s a Colts receiver that has had a great start to the season. With his slick route running, his combination of size and body control, and, most of all his toughness, Pittman Jr. can overpower some of his opponents. Mr. Pittman Jr. have you met Marlon Humphrey? Humphrey is a key player in this contest. He can take the Colts’ biggest weapon out of the entire affair.
The Colts’ passing game goes through Pittman Jr. who has eight more receptions than any other player on the team. Eight grabs behind him is Zach Pascal. Pascal does have three touchdown receptions and is a solid number two. Anthony Averett has to limit him. If the Ravens corners can clamp down on the two Colts’ receivers, Martindale can go all-in on the pressure looks he dials up.
This is one week where the tight end position isn’t a huge threat. Jack Doyle has 10 receptions this season, but he isn’t a Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, or a T.J. Hockenson. The passing game comes down to controlling the availability of the top two receivers. This is a game where the Ravens can actually do what they want to do on defense. This is a game where the matchup favors Don Martindale’s comfort zone. Steer into that Wink!
4. For goodness sake just tackle:
The Baltimore Ravens have had an iffy relationship with tackling this season. The Ravens can’t let bad tackling keep the Colts churning out plays that have no business happening. Jonathan Taylor is a heavy running back, especially in the open field. The defense has to make full use of their shoulder pads and not just throw arms at Taylor (I’m looking at you, Queen).
The Ravens almost have to look at Taylor as if they’re going against Derrick Henry. It’s the same concept. They need to hit low and run through. If the Colts’ run game flourishes or bounces big plays down the field on plays that could be bottled up, this game could be more frustrating than it has to be.
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There you have it. That’s what the Baltimore Ravens need to do for this game to be a compelling victory.