Sunday's Wild Card Game to Watch: Titans vs Ravens, Ravens Inside, Outside Run Game Success
The Titans Defense Is in Disarray Last season, the now-retired Dean Pees put together a defensive gameplan to stop arguably the most dynamic NFL history player and the NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. After the season's conclusion, Pees retired, and Mike Vrabel did not name a new coordinator and instead chose to coach the defense by committee. The Titans defense is now one of the worst in the NFL, ranked 28th overall, giving up 398.2 yards per game. In the Titans, last three contests, the Titans defense surrenders 445 yds per game and 28th in the NFL during that stretch.
The Titans pass defense ranks 28th in 2020, giving up 277 yds per game; in the last three games, they are surrendering 294. It's not just their pass defense giving up a ton of yardage, but their run defense is also not good. They are 18th overall, allowing 120 yds per game, the last three games, they are giving up 151 yards per and now face a Ravens offense that has found themselves on the ground; if you want to call a season average of 190 yards per game finding yourself when you lead the NFL, that's okay. But in the last three games, the Ravens have averaged 270 yards rushing per game. So what are the Titans able to salvage from what they did a season ago when defending Lamar Jackson in their upset win over the Ravens in the playoffs?
Stopping Lamar, No Easy Task
For starters, the Ravens offense has a young RB (JK Dobbins) who has been matched with Gus Edwards as a one-two punch for the Ravens backfield to go with Lamar. The emergence of J.K. Dobbins late in the season has propelled the run game success back to incredible heights and is why the Ravens win streak and eventual playoff push. A season ago, the Titans found a way to stop Lamar. The Titans didn't use many different coverages to do it and added a spy in the box to mirror Lamar in the run game and as an additional underneath pass defender. It sounds simple, and other teams have used the same concept to defend Jackson during the 2020 season with success, but as we already covered, the emergence of J.K. Dobbins combined with Gus Edwards has made a difference.
J.K. Dobbins Outside, Lamar Inside, sprinkle in Gus Edwards and Vice Versa (Rock, Paper, Scissors)
While at Ohio State, Dobbins excelled running outside zone and bash concepts: the bash concept. With the Ravens, you get a similar mix of both zone and gap principles, and one of the concepts the Ravens have used to great success in 2020 is the bash concept. The bash concept can be executed using a counter or dart approach. Today we are taking a look at the Bash concept and quickly applying this concept's success backed by the inside rushing yds of Lamar Jackson and outside rushing of J.K. Dobbins.
The Counter Bash
For the sake of time, I had to draw this on paper today. The counter bash's basic principle is that the QB will read the backside edge defender; if he squeezes down, Lamar will give to the RB. If the Edge defender takes the RB, Lamar will keep it. The concept also changes the dynamic of how to defend Lamar. You now have a concept that gets Lamar north and south and not just on the edge of the defense. Statistically, 64% of J.K. Dobbins rush yds have been outside of the tackles, while Gus Edwards has seen the most success between the tackles. The X factor is Lamar Jackson, who has excelled on both inside and outside runs, and the majority of the inside run success has been to the side of D.J. Fluker.
The RPO Game is The Third Element of Rock, Paper Scissors
Regardless of what the Titans try to do, it's a game of rock, paper, scissors. The Ravens can run RPO off the counter bash action placing the Titan's LB in a bind. The Ravens lead the NFL in RPO usage and an average of 7.9 yards per RPO attempt. The run game is the key to all of this, and if the Ravens get it going early, they will have success against the Titans defense in the passing game.
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