Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has not been sacked all season. The Ravens’ pass rush was missing in action in Week 2 against the Raiders.
That’s a serious problem for the Ravens heading into Sunday’s home opener. If the Ravens don’t pressure Dalton, he’s likely to continue his strong early-season play – five TD passes, no interceptions, 68.3 completion percentage, and a 120.3 quarterback rating.
Why did the Ravens struggle to pressure Raiders quarterback Derek Carr? It was a combination of things. The Ravens didn’t cover the Raiders’ receivers well enough to keep Carr from getting rid of the ball quickly. When the receivers were covered, the Ravens’ pass rushers didn’t win enough battles up front. And when Carr was pressured, his mobility allowed him to extend plays effectively.
The Bengals have seen that Raiders’ tape. And Dalton has talented targets like wide receiver A. J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert who can exploit the Ravens’ issues.
So what does defensive coordinator Dean Pees plan to do? Regardless of his game plan, Pees says the Ravens must cover better, tackle better, and play with more effort and awareness then they did in Oakland. It would also not be surprising to pass-rusher Jason Babin activated on Sunday, to help outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil spearhead the Ravens’ pass rush.
“Oakland was getting the ball out quick, but so did (Peyton) Manning,” said Pees, referring to the Ravens’ Week 1 game against the Broncos. “There isn’t going to be any difference this week, either. If you can’t get him (Dalton) to hold the ball at all, I don’t care what pass rush you have, it’s not going to get there.”
When Ravens corners Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb play press coverage on Sunday, they can’t afford to get beat for plays. Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper burned Smith for a 68-yard TD pass last weekend.
When the Ravens play zone, the secondary must close quickly and make sure tackles.
Pees may call more blitzes Sunday, but he will only do that if he believes they will work.
“You manufacture pressures, now you’re putting the secondary even more on an island, because now they’re out there one-on-one,” Pees said. “I didn’t feel we were playing with energy (last week) - that’s the worst time to pressure, because it means you’re not going to get there.”
The Ravens need to put pressure on Dalton. But at 0-2, the pressure right now is on the Ravens.