On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns will play their final home as they take on the Baltimore Ravens. To help preview a few topics from the Ravens’ perspective, we reached out to Kyle Barber of Baltimore Beatdown and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Ravens are currently the 7th seed, right on the cusp of a wildcard spot. They finish off the season against Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. If you had to wager $1,000 on either the Ravens making the playoffs or missing the playoffs, which would it be?”
Kyle: “I'm certainly not a betting man, but if I was forced to make the bet I'd be confident with the Ravens winning out and making the post-season. I trust the Ravens to close out the last three games against some struggling teams.”
Chris: “Alex Collins seems to have really come on strong in his second year -- is he fully entrenched as the team's starter now? And, how has Danny Woodhead's utilization been since returning from IR?”
Kyle: “While Alex Collins continues to dominate on the ground, the Ravens have yet to make him the 'bellcow'. He receives more carries every week, but they constantly rotate him, Javorius 'Buck' Allen and Danny Woodhead into the tailback position. The team does this for multiple reasons:
1. If Alex Collins is always in on run plays, but Woodhead goes out on pass-catching downs only, it tips the defense into what the Ravens will be playing. They certainly notice this occur, and had Woodhead run some draws and even power runs to counter-attack the defenses shift. They also utilize Collins heavily in play-action. Same goes for only Buck Allen in on pass-protection plays due to skills against the blitz. The Ravens can't allow themselves to give away their hand.
2. Collins is a stud, but he's fumbled a few times this season and it creates worry for the team. While Harbaugh isn't quite Belichick on the fumbling, he is not scared to throw a player in the doghouse. That has kept Buck in the fold, receiving carries every week.
Danny tremendously helps in the passing game. His route-running, coupled with his speed and agility, really put the hurt on linebackers and safeties. He's utilized more in the passing game, whether it is receiving or blitz-pick-up, but he's also had some carries go for first downs.”
Chris: “Baltimore has pitched three shutouts this season and had a few other solid defensive performances, but then they allowed 545 yards of offense against the Steelers last week. Was that just one of those ‘hey, it happens sometimes’ type of things, or is there a deeper-rooted weakness that has come to the surface?”
Kyle: “Column A & Column B.
The Steelers tend to put up yards against all teams, but yes, 545 yards is rather egregious. This was the first game after losing star cornerback Jimmy Smith, who consistently plays well against Antonio Brown. The Steelers have too many options against the Ravens, and it was a rough outing. I think the Steelers offense is too dynamic, and when Le'Veon Bell has his way with the safeties of the opposition, you're in deep water. It forced the Ravens to stack the box against Ben & Brown, and opened up everything.
As for 'deeper-rooted weaknesses', I'm worried the linebackers can't figure it out. C.J. Mosley was embarrassed on Sunday against the Pittsburgh tight ends and tailbacks. Patrick Onwausor was nowhere to be found, and the safeties also couldn't cover a tight end. The middle is open too often for such a stout defense on paper.”
Chris: “What position would you consider the biggest hole on the team (or second-biggest hole, if you've already discussed the first one in the previous question)?”
Kyle: “Like I mentioned above, the linebackers and the safeties in coverage are worrisome. But second biggest issue is the receiving unit. Jeremy Maclin has struggled, and Breshad Perriman has been a healthy scratch in multiple games. It's up to Mike Wallace and Chris Moore as of now, and that's not a winning combination.”
Chris: “Are there any key injuries we should know about for Baltimore?”
Kyle: “While Mike Wallace didn't practice for two days, he said he will be playing and wasn't listed on the official game status released by the Ravens. In fact, no player on the Ravens was listed OUT for this game. Rather unusual, to be honest.”
Thanks again to Kyle for taking the time to answer my questions.