Ravens coach John Harbaugh is trying to be coy about which quarterback, veteran Joe Flacco (hip injury) or rookie Lamar Jackson, will be his starter Sunday, but Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis probably doesn’t care.
He has he is own problems to be worried about.
The Bengals have owned Flacco throughout the years and even if Jackson, a first-round pick out of Louisville, starts, it’s not like the Ravens will have a total overhaul of their offense.
They would probably put in more short passing plays off bootlegs, waggles and sprint-outs and use run-pass-option plays for Jackson. The basic concepts, though, won’t change. It’s easier for one player to adjust than trying to make wholesale changes for 10.
As for the Bengals, the basic way they play the Ravens won’t change regardless of who starts. They’ll concentrate more in keeping Jackson inside the pocket if he plays but they usually play a lot of Cover 2 against Flacco, denying him the long ball. They force him to be accurate and patient to conduct long touchdown drives.
This will work, too, against Jackson, who isn’t nearly as accurate as Flacco.
A lot of the Bengals’ problems are self-inflicted, which is why Lewis will concentrate more on his team than on the Ravens. The Bengals might have the worst tackling defense in the NFL, especially in the open field.
It appears that the secondary lacks communication and during the past four games, Cincinnati has gone 1-3, allowing 2,117 yards and 158 points. They were so embarrassed in a 51-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday that Lewis had to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
Actually, I never understood why Lewis hired Austin to start this season. His defenses weren’t that impressive during his three years as the coordinator with the Detroit Lions, and I didn’t get the impression he was a great leader when he was secondary coach with the Ravens from 2011 through 2013.
Lewis is now calling the defenses for the Bengals, and I am interested to see how he directs them. He also hired former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson, as his special assistant, on Tuesday. Lewis said in a statement, “I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense, including analyzing our opponents and helping me on game days with the players and defensive coaches.”
Lewis also has that Blitzburg blood in him from his days as an assistant in Pittsburgh. He brought that style with him to Baltimore, and it’s still the basic approach the Ravens use today. Lewis knows the psyche and weaknesses of Flacco and probably spent more time with Lamar Jackson before the draft than any other NFL head coach.
That’s why he isn’t concerned with either quarterback. His focus is on fixing the Bengals, who are No. 32 and ranked last in yards (454.6 per game), passing yards (313.3) and next to last in points (32 per game) and rushing yards (141.2).