When The Eagles Have The Ball
The Eagles accumulated 456 yards of total offense in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Only one team, the Washington Redskins, gained more in Week 1 of the season.
The problem is that five turnovers limited the Eagles to just 17 points, although it was enough for the win.
The Ravens are known for their defense. Last season, Baltimore ranked third in the league in both yards and points allowed. They got off to a fast start with just 13 points allowed in their Monday night win over Cincinnati. That doesn't take into account the Ravens scored a touchdown on defense.
Who scored that touchdown? Future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, of course. During Reed's 34-yard interception return for a touchdown, the 34-year-old set the all-time NFL record for interception return yardage. After his four-interception performance against the Browns, Vick will have to make sure to be more careful with the ball because Reed will make him pay.
The heart and soul of the defense remains another future Hall of Fame player in linebacker Ray Lewis. Like Reed, Father Time is catching up to Lewis as the 37-year-old is hoping for one more Super Bowl run. Lewis slimmed down this offseason to be a more rangier player.
The Ravens have plenty of toughness with a stout defensive line that includes Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody, but they lack an elite pass rush talent with NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs sidelined with an Achilles injury.
Behind the 3-4 front, the Ravens have another special talent in the secondary in left cornerback Lardarius Webb, a ballhawk who led the team with five interceptions a year ago.
As good as the Eagles were moving the ball last week, they must execute with more precision in order to beat this vaunted Ravens defense.
|Eagles Projected Starting Lineup|
|QB Michael Vick||LDE Jason Babin|
|RB LeSean McCoy||LDT Cullen Jenkins|
|FB Stanley Havili||RDT Derek Landri|
|WR Jeremy Maclin||RDE Trent Cole|
|LT King Dunlap||WILL LB Akeem Jordan|
|LG Evan Mathis||MIKE LB DeMeco Ryans|
|C Jason Kelce||SAM LB Mychal Kendricks|
|RG Danny Watkins||LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie|
|RT Todd Herremans||RCB Nnamdi Asomugha|
|TE Brent Celek||SS Nate Allen|
|WR DeSean Jackson||FS Kurt Coleman|
When The Ravens Have The Ball
For the last four seasons, Joe Flacco has been the secondary cog in the Ravens' offensive machine. And why wouldn't that be the case when there's a player like Ray Rice to build around? Still, despite his impressive arm, Flacco was rarely gifted with much control of the offense, nor was he blessed with many dynamic wide receivers. Flacco has started every game over the last four seasons, but it appeared he plateaued (consider that he threw for 225.8 yards per game in 2009, 226.3 yards per game in 2010 and 225.6 yards per game in 2011). But now, the Ravens offense has been retooled and will feature Flacco in an up-tempo, sometimes no-huddle, offense. That plan worked to perfection in the Monday night opener against the Bengals, as Flacco threw for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 22-of-29 passing for a 128.4 rating.
The emergence of second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith on the outside is one of the reasons the Ravens have been able to spread it out a bit, though the Eagles have a good deep speed defender of their own in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had two interceptions against the Browns last Sunday. Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta are the receiving threats over the middle for Flacco, who is protected by an above average offensive line. Flacco's blind side though is protected by left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who has lost enough of a step that he recently took a paycut. Pressuring Flacco will be paramount, and luckily the Eagles have perhaps the best pass-rushing defensive line in the league to do so.
As for corralling Rice, expect the running back to get more work than he got against the Bengals. Blessed with a lead throughout, the Ravens only called Rice's number in the run games 10 times (which Rice took for 68 yards), to which Rice added three receptions. His workload should ramp up against the Eagles, who shut down the Browns running game last week. The two players likely to be most responsible for Rice are DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, who both had tremendous Eagles debuts last week. Ryans was a force inside against the run, while Kendricks has the top-level speed requisite for defending a dynamic player like Rice.
|Ravens Projected Starting Lineup|
|QB Joe Flacco||DT Haloti Ngata|
|RB Ray Rice||NT Terrence Cody|
|FB Vonta Leach||DE Arthur Jones|
|WR Torrey Smith||RUSH LB Albert McClellan|
|LT Michael Oher||WILL LB Jameel McClain|
|LG Ramon Harewood||MIKE LB Ray Lewis|
|C Matt Birk||SAM LB Paul Kruger|
|RG Marshal Yanda||LCB Lardarius Webb|
|RT Kelechi Osemele||RCB Cary Williams|
|TE Ed Dickson||SS Bernard Pollard|
|WR Anquan Boldin||FS Ed Reed|
Jason Kelce vs. DT Haloti Ngata
As the player holding down the middle of the Eagles' offensive line, Kelce will be tasked with stopping defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and the Baltimore pass rush. Ngata been voted to the Pro Bowl every year since 2009 and has been named an All-Pro every year since 2008. Against the Bengals on Sunday night, Ngata recorded three tackles and a sack. But as an athletic and aggressive center, Kelce is more than ready for the task. Playing against his hometown Browns last Sunday, Kelce was stout in the run game, helping running back LeSean McCoy rush for 110 yards on 20 carries. The offense will be looking to get in sync in the Eagles home opener, and a good game from Kelce would help open up the offense.
Eagles Cornerbacks vs. Ravens Wide Receivers
The days of the strict ground-and-pound offense in Baltimore are over. Ravens wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are physical receivers with good speed. But they will be opposed Sunday by an Eagles secondary that had an extremely strong game in Cleveland. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie built off his strong summer by picking off Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden twice, while safety Kurt Coleman also had two interceptions, including one to clinch the victory. Rodgers-Cromartie and fellow starter Nnamdi Asomugha are tall, physical players who like to jam receivers and have the speed to keep up down the field. Meanwhile, rookie Brandon Boykin proved that his promotion to nickel corner wasn't too big for him. He was effective in pass coverage, and nearly had a diving interception against Weeden. Flacco could have a difficult time getting the passing game going against a dangerous Philadelphia secondary.
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