We previewed the trenches between the Browns and the Ravens, both offensives lines versus the opposing front sevens. Today we complete our game match-up preview by looking at the offensive weapons versus those called to defend them. Each of the weapons are impacted by the quarterback throwing the ball. Instead of matching Joe Flacco up against Brandon Weeden we will compare them against each other and then note how the QB could impact the offensive weapon.
Joe Flacco versus Brandon Weeden
Flacco is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and champion. While he signed a large contract this off-season he still has work to do to enter the elite class. Flacco is cool under pressure, has a cannon for an arm and takes advantage of the skill players around him. He has struggled in the past with decision making and turnovers. This year he has much less in way of offensive weapons to work with. The offense is now his, and dependent on him. In the first game of the year, against a Broncos team missing their top 2 pass rushers, Flacco threw for 362 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also threw 2 INTs, took 4 sacks and had a Total QBR of 34.4.
Weeden was worse in Week 1. He has a big arm and a history of success in shotgun offenses but none of that showed up last year or in Week 1 consistently. Weeden is missing his top WR in Josh Gordon and has a core that suffers drops, 2 of which led to INTs in Week 1 (2 out of his 3 INTs). Weeden threw for 289 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs to rack up a Total QBR of 16.2. His offensive line was not able to protect him or provide running lanes which caused him issues threw out the game.
Advantage: Baltimore – An easy call. Flacco may not be elite but Weeden may not be starting caliber QB in the NFL.
Trent Richardson versus Linebackers
Richardson was expected to be a workhorse this year, yet in Week 1 he was not used. He had 13 carries and 2 receptions for a total of 77 yards. Richardson seemed tentative in hitting what little holes he had, missed some holes the line opened up and was just not utilized throughout the game as he should be. With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervill rushing the passer, or dropping in coverage, Richardson will often be matched up against the new inside linebackers Josh Bynes and Daryl Smith. Last year with Darnell Ellerbe and Ray Lewis this was an easy advantage. Last week the Ravens shut down the limited run game of the Broncos. With a talent like Richardson expect a better game, but with the same offensive line Richardson may not break out this week.
Advantage: Baltimore – With the defensive line in front of them, the limited offensive line in front of Richardson and the talent and veteran savvy of Suggs and Dumervill, the Baltimore linebackers have a slight advantage in this matchup.
Ray Rice versus Linebackers
Rice is the star RB in the AFC North, and a top 5 in the league. Rice uses his diminutive size to hide behind the large offensive line. That line has some limitations and injries to deal with this week. Rice will be used on screens and draws to make an impact in the game. The
Browns linebacking core has been upgraded with the addition of Paul Kruger and first round pick Barkevious Mingo is back for this game. ILB D’Qwell Jackson is a solid pro and OLB Jabaal Sheard has made a good transition from the DE position. ILB Craig Robertson is considered a “star in the making” according to DC Ray Horton. The Browns’ line should be able to keep blockers off the LBs and Kruger, Robertson and Jackson have all shown the ability to succeed in pass coverage.
Advantage: Baltimore – While the Browns shut down the Dolphins’ run game in Week 1, Ray Rice is a different type of back, and supremely more talented, then Lamar Miller. Rice may not break out with run yardage but he will make an impact in multiple ways.
Wide Receivers versus Defensive Backs
Greg Little, Devone Bess and Travis Benjamin versus Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham and Jimmy Smith
The Browns will greatly miss the big play, and big size, of Josh Gordon in this game. Little is a strong solid WR who had shown signs of improved hands until Week 1’s drops. Bess is a great route runner and can make alot of plays in the middle of the field. Weeden showed alot of trust in Bess in Week 1. Benjamin is a slight receiver but is more of a straight line outside receiver.
Webb is a above average starter who also is the punt returner for the team. Because of this Webb could get injured or tired out as the game goes on. Graham and Smith have a history of up and down games and seasons. In Week 1 the Ravens’ gave up 7 passing touchdowns. The Browns don’t have anyone comparable to the Broncos’ top 3 receivers, or Peyton Manning, but still could take advantage of this secondary.
Advantage: Cleveland – Expect a big game out of Little after last week. Bess is solid and should keep the chains moving. Until the Ravens’ show they can stop the pass they will be at a disadvantage. Also, which we will see with the next comparison, I expect a lot of throwing.
Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokely versus Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden
Smith is a top flight deep threat who should be shadowed by Haden all night. With Jones injured and Stokely still old the Ravens don’t have a lot of threats. Flacco trusted Anquan Boldin last year, especially on 3rd downs. He nows has to learn to trust new receivers, or resigned ones like Tadon Doss. However they are going up against the Browns’ secondary.
Haden is a All Pro type corner who should keep Smith from having a big game. Skrine and McFadden, along with Chris Owens, struggled all Week 1 against the Dolphins. None of them seemed capable of covering receivers on even the most basic routes. There is hope they can learn as they have some physical talent but seem to lack football IQ to produce.
Advantage: Baltimore – Haden will do his job but beyond that is unknown. Unless the blitz gets pressure consistently expect Flacco to use his limited weapons to put up points.
Tight Ends versus Safety
Jordan Cameron versus Michael Huff
Cameron had a breakout Week 1 for the Browns and Norv Turner’s offense. He showed the ability to run routes, out run and jump defenders and catch the ball. Cameron will be more of a focus from the Ravens after Week 1. Still expect Cameron to make an impact again, with a probable touchdown.
The Ravens, after losing Ed Reed, the Ravens signed Huff and drafted Matt Elam. In Week 1 Huff seemed out of place and Elam didn’t see the field much. Its possible the Ravens look to have Elam on the field his short stature might create the same mismatches with Cameron as they will with Huff.
Advantage: Cleveland – Cameron is now more known then he was but still have the physical giftings to impact the game. Weeden’s trust in him also makes it likely he will see alot of targets. Maybe Huff, or Elam, rebound quickly from last week but Cameron’s size and leaping ability should make him a match-up nightmare.
Ed Dickson/Dallas Clark versus TJ Ward
Dickson continues to tease the Ravens that he will put together his physical skills and talent shown at Oregon in the NFL. With Dennis Pitta out for the year Dickson was to carry the load. Week 1 was not a great start, 1 catch for 13 yards. The aged wonder Dallas Clark on the other hand had 7 receptions for 87 yards as the #2 receiver for Flacco. Playing against his old QB in Manning gave Clark some motivation. He is a veteran and has the guile to make this a tough match-up for the Browns.
Ward continues to improve both in run and pass defense. In Week 1 he was used more against the run or rushing the passer. Expect him to spend more time in pass protection after last week. This week Ward’s physicality should push Clark off his routes and intimidate Dickson.
Advantage: Cleveland – Ward’s talent and athletic abilities beats out Clark’s veteran savvy. While closer then expected Ward has the advantage over these two tight ends.
Totals: Today the Ravens have advantages in 4 areas with the Browns having 3 advantages. In our previous match-up preview of the Offensive Lines and Front 7s the teams split the advantages. Based on those advantages the Ravens “win” this preview 5 to 4. We will have our prediction for this game later this evening.