By Chris Schisler
I’m going to put my coaching hat on here and give Baltimore Ravens fans a sense of what I would do if my name was Don Martindale and I was the defensive coordinator against the Bengals. This game is exciting because the Bengals really do possess a lot of players you could consider a threat.
It starts at the wide receiver position for the Bengals. They have Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. Chase is their big-play threat. He averages over 20 yards per reception and has found the end zone five times. The game plan for the Ravens starts with shutting Chase down. This is a game where the Ravens cornerbacks have to come out fighting and they have to be ready. Marlon Humphrey will shadow Chase all day. The Ravens have to put their best cornerback on their best target it’s that simple.
Baltimore Ravens must start by taking away their strength
Because I have so much trust in the secondary of this team, I’m going to be aggressive. De’Shon Elliott and Chuck Clark have been great this season. Anthony Averett has really only had one bad game and he’s shown he can handle his business overall. The defense has turned things around after a rough first two weeks of the season against Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes. Trusting my players is essential.
So I’m being physical with the receivers. I’m rerouting the receivers and making it hard for Joe Burrow to go to his first read. It’s exactly what the Ravens did against the Chargers only this time it comes with more pressure. You have to pressure Burrow and you have to test the merit of his arm talent. If he burns me once or twice, I’ll live with it. He’s not having all day to throw that football. He’s going to have to beat me with perfect throws all day long and against pressure.
No “Mixon” it up
The number one thing I’d tell my outside linebackers in this game outside contain is paramount. I just told you I’m being aggressive. If Odafe Oweh or Justin Houston don’t rack up sacks in this game it’s fine. I’ll send pressure. We have to play gap sound defense. We can’t let Joe Mixon get around the edge. The second the Bengals are a one-dimensional team, with no run game to speak of, the second I can really get to work.
I’m going to have a player always spying on Joe Mixon. He’s not going to make an impact on this game if I can help it. I know the biggest liability here is my inside linebackers in pass coverage. I’ll use some well-timed fire zones at them. It may be Oweh dropping into a shallow zone, or maybe even Calais Campbell, but we’re going to make the passing lanes tough places for Mixon to get the ball underneath.
Wrap Burrow in the fire:
This is a great game for stunts, especially in passing situations. Let’s see Justin Madubuike playing a shade of the center, wrapping around Calais Campbell who comes across the A gap on his side. Let’s see Oweh do a super stick all the way into the A gap with the nose guard slanting the other way into the guard and a blitzing Patrick Queen flying up the other A gap. What I want to do is to get defenders getting the Bengals’ wires crossed upfront.
I’m going to send a lot of different looks at the Bengals. I’m going to stretch out every morsel I can out of the “positionless” defense we have in Baltimore. One play I’ll send Chuck Clark. The next it will be Tavon Young. Heck, let’s get De’Shon Elliott a sack too. This whole game is about making Burrow constantly deal with somebody in his face. It’s all about making him reckless and giving him no time to think.
With a scarcity mindset and off-balance launch points, Burrow will make bad throws. It may be a deep ball that lags behind his receiver and into a defensive back’s hands. Maybe it will be a ball forced into a tight window, a ball without the requisite juice to thread that needle.
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It’s a thin line between being aggressive and being reckless. This is a game where I trust Marlon Humphrey on an island, I use extra defensive backs to play around with coverage and blitzes. I can have my cake and eat it too. The hypothesis is that if you put Joe Burrow in hell, no angel is going to save the football from harm’s way. Turn up the heat. Adjust accordingly, but never let them feel comfortable, especially the quarterback.