BGA Preview: Jets at Ravens

During the season, Bent’s Game Analysis charts games for some of the Jets’ upcoming opponents, enabling a break down of what to watch out for on gameday…

The Super Bowl champions are only 4-6, but still have a ton of talent and it’s a tricky matchup for the Jets on the road.

After the jump, I break down the positional groupings (BGA-style!) to try and highlight what the Jets need to look out for.

Quarterbacks

With a Super Bowl MVP award and a $120.6m contract in his pocket, Joe Flacco is entering his prime and has responded with the worst season of his career from a statistical standpoint. He has 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions (already a career high) and the lowest yards-per-attempt average and QB rating of his career.

Flacco ranks dead last in the NFL for accuracy percentage and deep passing accuracy according to PFF and has a QB rating of just 51.0 when under pressure. He’s played against a Rex Ryan defense twice in his career and completed just 30 of 69 passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions, so Ryan will be hoping to confound him again.

Flacco had three touchdown passes in the AFC divisional round, the AFC title game and the Super Bowl last year, but doesn’t have a three touchdown game yet in the regular season.

Dual threat Tyrod Taylor backs up Flacco.

Offensive Line

On paper, the Ravens offensive line has had its struggles this year, but they may be rounding into form at the perfect time to face the tough Jets front seven. Their running game had been awful all season, but they exploded for 174 yards out of the blue against the Bears on Sunday.

Flacco has been sacked 32 times, but their pass protection has been better since they got rid of Bryant McKinnie after getting former Jags left tackle Eugene Monroe for a bargain price of two mid-round picks. Monroe is a great player but did get beaten twice for sacks against the Bears.

The other tackle, Michael Oher – best known for being the subject of Oscar-winning movie “The Blind Side” – is okay in pass protection, but too inconsistent as a run blocker.

At right guard, Marshall Yanda is their best interior lineman and probably their most dominant run blocker. At the other guard spot, AQ Shipley has been starting over the last three weeks after Kelechi Osemele landed on injured reserve with a back injury. He’s struggled (other than in the Bears game), but hasn’t given up a sack. Gino Gradkowski, a fourth round pick last year, has started every game at center but he’s unreliable in pass protection.

5th round pick Ricky Wagner backs up at both guard and tackle and occasionally gets reps as an extra tight end.

Running Backs

With the offensive line struggling, Ray Rice entered last week averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. He exploded for 131 yards on 25 carries, but is still averaging just 3.0 yards per carry on the season. He has caught 36 passes, but is averaging less than five yards per reception too, almost three yards per catch below the lowest total of his career.

Bernard Pierce, who did a great job last year as a change of pace back, is struggling to produce too. He’s averaging just 2.7 per carry.

Vonta Leach returned as the blocking back, having flirted with a move to Miami in the offseason, but he’s been a major disappointment coming off a terrific 2012 campaign.

Receivers

Torrey Smith has been the Ravens’ best receiver, with 46 catches and an average of over 17 per reception. However, he’s not had quite the same impact on deep throws as he did last year. In 2012 he had 19 catches on balls thrown more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, but he has just eight so far this year. The Jets have been susceptible to the deep ball this year, but they have Ed Reed now, which might be a deterrent.

Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss are also capable of getting deep, although they haven’t done much of that this year. The Super Bowl hero Jones is actually averaging less than 10 yards per catch.

Undrafted rookie Marlon Brown has been getting more playing time than either of them and leads the team with five touchdown catches. He’s more of a possession receiver.

At tight end, there was some talk that Dennis Pitta would be activated from the injured reserve list for this game, but that’s not happening. Ed Dickson hasn’t quite stepped up as hoped, but veteran Dallas Clark – while clearly past his prime – still has some gas in the tank. Neither have been good run blockers this year though.

Defensive Line

Haloti Ngata is listed as questionable after he missed the Bears game and was limited in practice this week with a knee injury. If he plays, he’s certain to be a major handful at both nose tackle and defensive end. The 340-pounder is one of the most disruptive forces in the game.

If Ngata can’t go, Terrence Cody will fill in. He’s a great athlete for his size, but a step down from Ngata. Arthur Jones and Chris Canty are also likely to start and have been playing well, presumably benefiting from Ngata being double-teamed much of the time.

Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson haven’t played much, but have been effective when called upon. They should be used more over the remainder of the season, as the Ravens released Marcus Spears a few weeks ago.

Linebackers

The Ravens defense has some tremendous playmaking talent off the edge with Terrelle Suggs and Elvis Dumervil having combined for 17.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits so far this season. Suggs is back to his best after coming back from a torn achilles tendon late last season, while Dumervil, who ended up being a Raven after a fax machine snafu in Denver, has settled in nicely in Baltimore. The Ravens have also been working in last year’s second rounder, Courtney Upshaw, but he’s not on their level. He has strung together a couple of nice games over the last few weeks, though.

With Ray Lewis gone, Daryl Smith has started every game at inside linebacker. The versatile Smith is one of the best coverage linebackers in the game. Alongside him, Jameel McClain is back from a career threatening neck injury, but Josh Bynes held down the fort well while he was unavailable over the first six weeks. Smith is questionable, so Bynes might be needed again.

One of the backups is Pernell McPhee who was exclusively a defensive lineman last year, but made the switch during the offseason. He still does get some reps on the line though.

Defensive Backs

The Ravens have a solid pair of corners, with former first round pick Jimmy Smith at last starting to live up to his potential and paired with the smaller Ladarius Webb. Webb is questionable, so if he can’t go, Corey Graham – who started from week 10 all the way through to the Super Bowl last year – will step in.

Chykie Brown may get some reps in dime packages, maybe even in the nickel if Webb is out/limited.

Rookie Matt Elam has progressed well, so much so that they were able to release veteran Michael Huff, the opening day starter. A familiar face starts at free safety – ex-Jet James Ihedigbo. He got a lot of bad press for a horrific blunder on a last second Hail Mary pass against the Bengals, but the Ravens still won that game as he had nine tackles and two interceptions.

Special Teams

Justin Tucker has made 20 of 22 field goals this year, including some clutch kicks. However, Sam Koch’s punting numbers are not good, because he’s surrendered 307 return yards – the 5th most in the NFL. Backup linebacker Albert McLellan leads them in special teams tackles.

The Ravens’ return men are dangerous. Doss had an 82-yard punt return for a score earlier in the season and Jones – while he hasn’t done much this year – had a kickoff return for a score in the Super Bowl.

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I’ll be back tomorrow to recap the game.

Stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.