The Buffalo Bills beat the Ravens 23 to 20 last week, the first time the Bills have beat the defending Super Bowl champions since the Troy Aikman-era Cowboys. Ouch. They have to put that behind them as they take on Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins this week. Here’s what to look for:
Eugene Monroe Vs. Olivier Vernon And Dion Jordan
The Ravens made headlines trading a fourth and fifth round selection in the 2014 draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Tackle Eugene Monroe, marking the first time in franchise history that they have made a trade in the middle of the season. The move shows how the Ravens feel about their offensive line; poorly, if you couldn’t guess. With this being Monroe’s first game in purple and black, needless to say there will be a lot of eyes on him looking at how well he performs. Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan, the Dolphins’ first round pick, is who he’ll be going up against. Vernon and Jordan have a combined three and a half sacks, not exactly impressive to say the least, but I haven’t been watching them this season, so it’s had hard for me to say they haven’t been getting pressure. I think Monroe’s first game will be rocky, having to learn a new offensive scheme on a shortened practice week will be tough, but I expect great things from him for the rest of the season. There’s also a chance Monroe doesn’t even play Sunday because he hasn’t learned the new offense. I think there’s a good chance he starts because of what Tackle Michael Oher said, “You’ve got power plays, inside zone, outside zone, pass. It’s all football for a lineman. It shouldn’t take him (Monroe) too long to get acclimated and get going.”
Rice and Pierce Vs. The ‘Phins Front Seven
Needless to say the Ravens’ run game has been utter garbage so far this season, 256 yards in 97 attempts, the fifth worst in the league. It will be going against the tenth best rush defense in the league in the Dolphins defense, which has only given up 427 rushing yards and only one touchdown. Not exactly the best thing for an ailing running game. Most of the blame on the poor running game so far this season lies on the offensive line, the new zone blocking scheme that the new ‘Run Game Coordinator’, Juan Castillo, has implemented. The Ravens implemented a similar zone scheme last year during the playoffs and it worked just fine, so why isn’t it working now? Hard to say, but the Ravens need to fix whatever is ailing it, fast.
Joe Flacco Vs. The Dolphins’ Secondary
Quarterback Joe Flacco had a career high 5 interceptions against the Buffalo Bills, add on to that fact that the Bills’ secondary had most of its starters out or playing hurt. While I’d say most of the interceptions were on the receivers’ poor catching and bad route running, it’s still atrocious Quarterback play by Flacco. Against the Dolphins, Flacco has the perfect chance to rebound against the eighth worst pass defense in the league, which has given up 1,187 passing yards and 8 touchdowns. Even though Head Coach John Harbaugh stated that they need to incorporate Running Back Ray Rice more, expect an even mixture of running and passing, so as not to become one dimensional like they did against the Bills.
Jimmy Smith Vs. Brian Hartline
Corey Graham looked like the undisputed number 2 corner coming out of training camp; he has since given his job to Jimmy Smith after giving up the second most touchdowns in league (4). Brian Hartline is Quarterback Rayn Tannehill’s security blanket, so to speak. Hartline has outperformed all other Dolphin receivers with 272 yards and two touchdowns. If Hartline is shut down by Smith, Tannehill’s options are limited to Mike Wallace, who will be covered by Lardarius Webb, Charles Clay, and Brandon Gibson. While Clay and Gibson both have put up similar numbers to Hartline, it reduces Tannehill’s options in the passing game, which severely benefits the Ravens.