The Baltimore Ravens hold some significant advantages over the New York Jets
On Monday, we went over two of the biggest advantages that the New York Jets have over the Baltimore Ravens going into Sunday’s season-opening matchup.
However, the Ravens are 6.5-point favorites for a reason. Baltimore has a sizable edge over New York in a handful of areas.
Let’s break down three matchups that significantly favor the Ravens. For the Jets to pull out a win, they must find a way to limit the damage in these facets of the game.
Ravens’ gap-blocking run game vs. Jets’ penetrating DL
The Jets defense projects to be mediocre at best when it comes to stopping the run. Meanwhile, the Ravens offense has been one of the NFL’s best at running the football for quite a few years now.
This matchup is ugly enough for New York when put in simple terms. But when you dig deeper into the schematics, the Ravens’ edge grows even mightier.
New York’s aggressive, penetration-minded defensive line is susceptible to gap-blocking concepts in the run game. These concepts are perfectly designed to punish aggressive defensive linemen. They use the defenders’ momentum against them.
Baltimore is one of the most gap-heavy rushing teams in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, the Ravens called a gap-blocking play on 80.3% of their run plays in 2021, which was the highest rate in the NFL by a massive margin. The Patriots ranked second with a 69.8% rate. The league average was 42.0%.
The Jets went 0-8 last season against teams that finished the year with a gap-blocking frequency above the NFL average of 42.0%. They went 4-5 against teams that used gap-blocking concepts less frequently than the league average.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich received criticism for his rigid approach in 2021, as he rarely deviated from his core philosophies. If that carries over into this game, the Ravens are going to steamroll the Jets on the ground. Ulbrich must be malleable and find ways to help the Jets match up better against the Ravens’ run game. Sticking to their normal plan just isn’t going to cut it this week.
Ravens TE Mark Andrews vs. Jets’ linebackers and safeties
Mark Andrews was the best pass-catching tight end in the NFL last season. He led tight ends in receptions (107), receiving yards (1,361), and receiving touchdowns (9).
The Jets could not contain tight ends last year. They gave up the fourth-most receiving yards to tight ends (1,113).
While the Jets made some minor improvements that might be able to help them in this area, it does not seem like things are poised to improve significantly. The safety and linebacker positions are still the Jets’ most questionable units on defense.
Stopping Andrews will be a team effort. He does a colossal amount of damage on crossing routes, which are usually designed to exploit zone coverage. Everyone on the Jets defense needs to be dialed into their responsibilities and aware of Andrews’ location at all times. Communication will be imperative, and the Jets must be fluid at matching Andrews and passing him off as he crosses through different zones.
In 2021, Andrews racked up 477 receiving yards on crossing routes – more than twice as many as any other tight end in the NFL. Kyle Pitts ranked second with 206. Altogether, Andrews was targeted 37 times on crossing routes and caught 26 passes for 477 yards and 5 touchdowns (leading tight ends in every category).
Winning this matchup is not going to be on the shoulders of any single Jets player. It’s going to depend on the cohesiveness of the linebacker and safety units as a whole. We’ll learn a lot about those groups on Sunday.
Ravens’ man-to-man CBs vs. Jets’ WRs
Baltimore is known for running exotic blitz packages with aggressive man-to-man coverage behind them. The Ravens are currently equipped to play this way thanks to their talent at cornerback. Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Kyle Fuller are experienced corners who can win man-to-man and make plays on the football.
The Jets’ wide receiver unit looks promising on paper, but the group still needs to prove it can be effective at separating against man coverage. Against man-heavy teams in 2021, the Jets’ wideouts often struggled to separate, leading to lethargic offensive outings. New York’s catastrophic games against the Patriots and Broncos in Weeks 2-3 were examples of this.
Elijah Moore is poised to thrive in this area after a hot finish to his rookie year. Over his final six games, Moore gained 153 receiving yards against man coverage, ranking seventh-best among all NFL wide receivers over that span.
The question marks lie with everyone outside of Moore.
Corey Davis needs to have a bounce-back year against man coverage after struggling in one-on-one situations last season. Davis ranked 91st out of 105 qualified wide receivers with an average of only 1.0 yard per route run in man-to-man situations. It seems Davis has worked hard to improve this part of his game, as he lost weight in the offseason to increase his quickness and speed.
Garrett Wilson is a talented rookie with limitless upside as a route-runner, but like all rookies, some growing pains are to be expected. Will Wilson instantly be an elite separator? Or will he have trouble beating the Ravens’ veteran corners in his NFL debut? The latter possibility seems more realistic.
The aggressive playstyle of Baltimore’s cornerback unit makes it an excellent measuring stick for the Jets’ receivers. This is a boom-or-bust group. When they win, they win in big ways, recording plenty of takeaways. They will punish your receivers for running poor routes against man coverage. But their gambling nature leaves them vulnerable to allowing big plays the other way if your receivers can run routes effectively.
If the Jets’ receivers are for real, they should be able to pick up some explosive catches against the Ravens’ hit-or-miss corners. But if the unit continues to have the same man-beating struggles it had last year (especially at the beginning of the season), Baltimore has the perfect corners to exploit those struggles in game-breaking fashion.
Next Article: The NY Jets have a clear path to upsetting Ravens
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