Following a tough first game against Miami the Browns are gearing up for their second game, against AFC North rival the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are coming off their own tough loss, opening the NFL season last Thursday night losing to the Denver Broncos. This season prior to , we will preview match-ups that could decide the game. Today we start with “the big uglies,” offensive lines versus the defensive front 7s. Tomorrow we will follow up with the offensive playmakers and their defenders.
Cleveland Offensive Line versus Baltimore Front 7
Browns Starting Line from Left to Right: Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Oniel Cousings, Mitchell Swartz
Ravens Front 7 (3-4 Defense): DE Chris Canty, NT Haloti Ngata, DE Arthur Jones, OLB Terrell Suggs, ILBs Josh Bynes and Daryl Smith and Elvis Dumervil
The Browns Week 1 was a abject disaster on the offensive line, especially on the right side. The line that many said was a top 5 or 10 line was pushed back on many occasions, had numerous penalties and mental mistakes. Pro Football Focus, who do some great things in NFL grading of individual players scored RG O’Neill Cousins -7.0. The scale is setup as 0 being average. In comparison Tyson Clabo had the worst Dolphins’ grade at -3.8 and Brian Hartline was +2.7. The line must play better in both the run and pass games in order to be more successful in Week 2 against the Ravens.
The Ravens defensive line and linebackers played well, even though the Broncos ran up the score. The Broncos struggled to run against the Ravens but couldn’t make up for limitations in the defensive backfield. PFF gave positive grades in their narrative review of the Ravens and Broncos to Canty, Dummervill, Suggs and Ngata. Because of the defensive backfield the front 7 of the Ravens must dominate on defense. Ngata specifically is probably looking forward to facing Cousins. This may lead to more help towards blocking Ngata either leaving others on an island blocking Suggs and Dummervill or take tight end Jordan Cameron out of pass patterns.
Advantage: Ravens – Based on pre-season expectations this match-up would be a close one. Unfortunately for the Browns the games are played in real life not expectations. Based on Week 1, including injuries to the top 2 RGs, the Ravens have a huge advantage in this area. Expect the Browns to find creative ways to throw the Ravens off their game plan which may lead to risky throws or a check down game. Either way the game may be won by the Ravens front 7 much like the Dolphins front 7 dominated and impacted Week 1.
Baltimore Offensive Line versus Cleveland Front 7
Ravens Starting Line from Left to Right: Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher
Cleveland Front 7 (3-4 Defense): DE Desmond Bryant, NT Phil Taylor, DE Ahtyba Rubin, OLB Paul Kruger, ILBs D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson and OLB Jabaal Sheard
The Ravens had an okay day against the Broncos on the offensive line. According to PFF only Yanda scored positively in Week 1. Oher’s injured ankle is another concern for the Ravens up front who don’t have alot of depth. The girth of McKinnie is an advantage but could be taken advantage of by quick rushers like Sheard, Kruger and first round pick Barkevious Mingo. The same will be true if Oher is limited or his backup starts. With a limitedly mobile QB in Joe Flacco protection is important. The Ravens often use Ray Rice, either on draws or screens, to cover up the limited line skills.
The Browns’ front 7 was almost as dominate as the Dolphins in week 1. Interestingly when the Browns’ sent more then 4 rushers QB Tannehill performed better then when only 4 rushers came. Alot of that is related to the Browns’ defensive backfield. PFF scored a +3.3 with 2 sacks, 2 hits and a hurry on Tannehill. Kruger and Sheard placed good pressure on the QB and contained the run, along with backup Quentin Groves who will now be joined by Barkevious Mingo who was out last week. Rubin also returns from injury this week and should help hold Rice to a lower yardage then expected.
Advantage: Browns – The Browns’ strength in Week 1 was their front 7 and that is expected to be the strong suit for the team throughout the year. The Ravens offensive line is adequate but with the injury to Oher and the pressure that DC Ray Horton puts on offenses expect a defensive struggle in the trenches.
So far the match-up is a tie. Tomorrow we will break down the offensive weapons and their defenders. Those that watched Week 1 probably have an idea of which way those match-ups may go.
Browns fans did I overrate the home team? Ravens fans how did I underrate your team? Let me know!