While hunkering down in San Jose, the Baltimore Ravens are preparing for the Oakland Raiders. Both teams are coming off of losses, the Ravens in a close one to the Broncos, while the Raiders got blown out by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens suffered a devastating loss on the defensive side of the ball, losing OLB Terrell Suggs for the year and LT Eugene Monroe for the game. The Raiders had some significant losses as well. Starting QB Derek Carr sustained a severe bruise to his throwing hand, while trying to stiff arm Bengals DB Adam Jones on a run near the sideline. His availability is up in the air at this time, as his backup Matt McGloin finished the game for him. The Bengals have talked to Christian Ponder this week, but have not signed him.
In other Oakland injury news, the Raiders fear safety Nate Allen has torn his ACL, and he will undergo more testing this week. The Raiders’ other starting safety – Charles Woodson – is scheduled for an MRI after injuring his shoulder in Sunday’s game as well. The Raiders have signed much traveled veteran safety Taylor Mays, who has bounced around the league and has never lived up to his draft position and college hype. The backup safeties are Larry Asante and rookie Keenan Lambert – not exactly household names. The Bengals had great success attacking the Raiders’ safeties with their TEs, particularly Tyler Eifert who had 10 receptions for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns.
That’s a matchup the Ravens should be able to exploit with their 3 young TEs, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman needs to focus and build his game plan around attacking the Raiders’ safeties. Joe Flacco needs to be more careful with the ball, and make sure that his receivers have some separation before airing it out.
The Raiders defensive line is stout, and Ravens RT Rick Wagner is going to have his hands full with former NY Giant Justin Tuck lined up across from him. Tuck played at a very high level in the opener, and gave Bengals’ RT Andre Smith more than he could handle. NT Dan Williams also graded out very high last week, and could give Ravens C Jeremy Zuttah problems up the middle. Rush end/OLB Khalil Mack finished his rookie campaign in a strong fashion, and has picked up right where he left from. If Eugene Monroe does not pass the NFL’s concussion protocol, the Ravens should consider moving LG Kelechi Osemele to RT, and inserting second year pro John Urschel in the LG spot.
I think a line – from left to right – of Osemele, Urschel, Zuttah, Yanda and Wagner would be superior to Hurst, Osemele, Zuttah, Yanda and Wagner. I don’t think the drop off is as severe from Osemele to Urschel, in contrast from Monroe to Hurst. Urschel can get help from Zuttah if need be, while your left tackle most of the time is on an island.
The Raiders defensive backs are Travis Carrie and DJ Hayden. They are not that good and if Flacco gets time, he should be able to complete some passes on them downfield. They also lack quality depth at the position. Raiders special teams are in good shape with Sebastian Janikowski handling the kicking duties, and the dangerous Taiwan Jones in the return game. Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg needs to game plan to contain Jones.
On the offensive side of the ball, LT Donald Penn is a journeyman who started for Tampa Bay last year. It’s too bad for the Ravens that Suggs is out for the year, as Penn is not that good and would have been an easy matchup. Courtney Upshaw and Za’Darius Smith should be able to get their hands on the Raiders’ QB. RT Austin Howard isn’t much better, and Elvis Dumervil should have a field day. RG J’Marcus Webb is equally unimpressive, where the tandem of Brandon Williams and Carl Davis can do some damage. The Raiders’ strength along their o-line is in their LG and C, where Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson man those positions.
Latavius Murray starts at RB for the Raiders, and he is a big downhill tackle to tackle type of a back, that they will try to run behind Jackson and Hudson. Marcel Reece starts at fullback, where he’s been an average blocker throughout his career, and not much of a threat when carrying the ball. The primary receivers are former 49er Michael Crabtree and mercurial rookie Amari Cooper. Cooper has been game ready since he was drafted out of the University of Alabama, and Ravens DB Jimmy Smith needs to lock up on him from the opening whistle.
This is a must win game for the Ravens, as teams that start their season 0-2 rarely make it into the playoffs. Although they’re on the road for the second consecutive week, there is no better opponent, no better opportunity to get a road victory against than these Raiders. Although they have a few pieces to build around, these are still the “same old Raiders” that we’ve been seeing for the better part of the last decade. Once you get past their defensive line and Khalil Mack there’s not much there, so the Ravens offense should be able to move the ball a lot better against them than they did against the Broncos. On the flip side of the ball, if the Ravens defense repeats their performance from a week ago, they will shut down the Raiders’ offense, particularly if Carr can’t go and McGloin is the QB.