When the Baltimore Ravens released their first weekly injury report, one name was listed on their that kind of shocked everyone. Timmy Jernigan, who was sidelined with a knee injury for the past three weeks, began to practice on Wednesday and was said to be a “close call” or “game-time decision” was listed as doubtful on the injury report.
The national media made sure to not understate in every season preview how big of a loss Haloti Ngata was to the Ravens defensive front. However, the local media, as well as the Ravens fan base, saw how talented Jernigan was in Ngata’s four game suspension last season. Even when Ngata did come back, Jernigan looked very impressive and continued to make big plays in the postseason as well.
We know the way to beat Peyton Manning is to get pressure with four guys, and specifically pressure from the A and B gaps along the interior of the offensive line. The Ravens still have a fantastically underrated nose tackle in Brandon Williams, but without Jernigan the Ravens need other guys to step to fill the void. One player that comes to mind is rookie and third-round selection Carl Davis who looked very impressive during preseason.
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On third down in passing situations last season, Dean Pees liked to have one defensive tackle, and three outside linebackers going after the quarterback to increase pass rush productivity. Early in the season, Pees used Ngata in those situations, but at the end of the season he used Jernigan just as much. Williams is a fantastic run stuffer, but is only average as a pass rusher.
It will be interesting to see who Pees will use in those situations on Sunday. My best educated guess will be that Pees will use a combination of Kapron Lewis-Moore and Davis as the one defensive lineman in those situations to keep Brandon Williams as fresh as possible. It will also be interesting to see how Pees adapts to the loss of Pernell McPhee. I think fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith will fill that role, but it will be tough for him to match McPhee’s success early on in the season.
The good news for the Ravens is that the Broncos only have one returning starter on the offensive line from this past season. However, they were able to snag Evan Mathis in free agency to solidify a very solid guard tandem along with Louis Vasquez. However, they are starting rookie second-round draft pick Ty Sambrailo out of Colorado State, who I had ranked as the ninth best tackle in the draft with a mid third-round grade. At center they are starting 2014 sixth-round selection Matt Paradis, who spent all of last season on the practice squad. I believe Gary Kubiak will be using Paradis along with Vasquez or Mathis to double team Williams, because Williams would win a one-on-one matchup with Paradis nine times out of ten.
All of that being said, the Broncos run game towards the end of the season was the key to their success. I like the Ravens to win the battle against the Broncos rushing attack. Williams along with Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs should hold their own in the run game, especially against an offensive line that is still gaining chemistry. A guy to watch especially in the run game is Lawrence Guy. Guy is listed as Chris Canty‘s backup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets just as much playing time as Canty. Listed at 6-foot-4, 318 pounds, Guy is a huge individual who is great on running situations because he can use his brute strength to bully tackles when he is lined up outside as a defensive end.
In summary, I think the Ravens will miss Jernigan on Sunday, but they are not without capable replacements who can weaken the blow against a offensive line that has four new members. The Ravens, even without Ngata, still have one of the best and deepest front seven’s in the NFL.
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