Through two weeks of the 2010 season the Baltimore Ravens defense has performed above the level that many expected. Entering the season there were huge concerns that the defensive secondary would be a major weakness, the likes of which would be difficult for the Ravens to overcome. So far the secondary has displayed anything but weakness ranked 2nd inthe NFL in passing yards per game at 109.5. Considering that the Ravens defense has been as effective as it has in two road games, against what many consider to be play-off teams, things could get ugly for the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday. The Browns by far have less weapons than either of the Ravens previous opponents and they will be starting a back-up QB in Seneca Wallace who completed less than 52% of his passes in his only start this year. These are the same Browns who managed only 3 points against, what was considered a sub-par Ravens defense last year. Can the Ravens defense duplicate their efforts of a year ago against the Browns? Here is how they can go about it.
Against the Run: The Browns feature two primary ball carriers in Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis. Neither back is a dynamic game changer who wows you with speed, elusiveness or power. They are average backs, running behind a under-performing offensive line, facing a typically stout Ravens run defense. Harrison has struggled this year and is only averaging 3.4 yards per carry, while Hillis is slightly better at 4.5. Whoever the Browns give th ball to will have a tough time on Sunday. Haloti Ngata has been outstanding so far and the Ravens front seven has some very capable running mates to put alongside Ngata to stuff the run. Kelly Greg has played well and so have Lamar Divens, Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney. The Ravens do a good job of occupying blockers, which allows Ray Lewis and Jarrett Johnson clear paths to ball carriers. The Ravens are expected to add more beef to the front line when Terrence Cody makes his 2010 debut after missing 2 games due to knee surgery. The Ravens have been creased for a few big plays agains the run this season, and they will have to keep an eye out for Wallace’s mobility, but I do not see the Browns base rushing game being very effective. If this is the case, the Browns will likely run more “wildcat” sets in the hopes of putting the ball in Josh Cribbs’ hands. Cribbs is a game changing talent, with both speed and size. Cribbs is a threat, but the Ravens have never struggled against other teams gimmick packages.
Against the Pass: If the Ravens can continue to be solid and disciplined in thesecondary, there is not a lot I expect the Browns to be able to do through the air either. Wallace has decent ability, but he has little in the way of threats at the receiver position. Cribbs could be a factor, but he is not a polished receiver. Mohamed Massaquoi is the Browns most talented and complete receiver, but he has not gotten the ball very much. The Ravens will look to continue that trend and if they take away the Browns better receivers, there is not much depth that should scare anyone. The Ravens should be getting better in the secondary now that Lardarius Webb has a game under his belt and Josh Wilson has had more time in the Ravens defensive scheme. The one thing the secondary has not done in the first 2 weeks is come up with turnovers. They got their hands on a couple of passes last week, but could not bring them in. Perhaps this the week when the defense creates some turnovers to set up short field position for the offense. I do not expect that Wallace will have a lot of time to throw the ball, nor will he have a lot of open targets.
The Ravens have not allowed a touchdown yet this season, while facing better offenses, on the road, than the Browns. I would not be surprised if that streak is pushed to 3 games. The Ravens should come out mad about losing last week and the defense should be energized by the city hungry for it’s home opener. My prediction is Ravens 30, Browns 6. How do you expect the Ravens defense to attack the Browns offense?