Friday, September 13, 2013
Ravens' bad trend in defending tight ends
By Jamison Hensley
A week after being unable to contain the Denver Broncos' Julius Thomas, the Baltimore Ravens face a similar tight end in the Cleveland Browns' Jordan Cameron. Like Thomas, Cameron is 25 years old, 6 feet 5 and a former college basketball player who is in his first year of starting in the NFL.
So, take a wild guess on who will be the top target in the Browns' passing game Sunday.
"I would expect based on how the tight end played against us last week," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, "that’ s going to be something that they think they can attack and use.”
Actually, based on how the Ravens have struggled to shut down that position at the end of last season, Baltimore should expect teams to throw to their tight ends on crossing routes and down the seams.
It's kind of an odd trend for the Ravens. During the 2012 regular season, only three tight ends (the Philadelphia Eagles' Brent Celek, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Heath Miller and the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten) had more than 60 yards receiving against Baltimore. The Ravens gave up a total of two touchdowns to tight ends.
This success changed in the postseason. In the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez caught nine passes for 83 yards. In the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers' Vernon Davis had six catches for 104 yards.
San Francisco used Davis to attack Ray Lewis in coverage. But Lewis wasn't on the field in Thursday's season opener, when Thomas produced 110 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. One of Thomas' big plays was the result of a missed tackle by safety Michael Huff, and another can be blamed on linebacker Daryl Smith, who bit on a run fake and let the tight end run free in the middle of the field.
"On almost every ball that the tight end caught, he was in man coverage," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said of Thomas' big game. "So, that’s not a spot between the zones. That’s somebody playing technique man-to-man on the tight end, and that guy has got to play better technique, or we’ve got to coach better technique.”
Cameron was a non-factor against the Ravens last season. In two games, he was targeted eight times by quarterback Brandon Weeden and caught one pass for 15 yards. But the Ravens figure he's going to be a a bigger part of the game plan Sunday.
“[It’s a] copycat league. Everybody copies whoever they played the week before," Pees said. "So, you better be prepared for any mistake that you made on any formation [or] any particular play the week before. You better have corrected it, because they’ll find out if you have.”