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Giants vs. Ravens: When Baltimore has the ball

How will the Giants deal with Lamar Jackson, unique Baltimore offense?

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The 4-1 New York Giants return from London to host the 3-2 Baltimore Ravens this week. The Ravens are led by superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Jackson has completed 63.8 percent of his passes with 1,076 yards on 95 completions (7.2 per attempt) for 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

The 25-year-old is one of the more dangerous duel-threat quarterbacks in the league; he currently has 374 rushing yards with a pair of touchdowns and fumbles. Jackson leads quarterbacks in rushing yards; Jalen Hurts is second with 261 yards, and Daniel Jones is tied for fourth with Josh Allen (225 yards).

Jackson is quite familiar with Giants’ defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator from 2018-2021. Cue the Rocky music and hope for Martindale to capitalize on the revenge game narrative!

The Giants’ defense is relatively disciplined and excellent at rallying to the football. New York held mobile quarterback Justin Fields to 52 yards on the ground. Jackson, however, is a former MVP who is much more advanced as a processor and passer than Fields.

Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman designed this offense for quarterbacks just like Jackson, who currently only has tight end Mark Andrews as his proven receiving threat. Second-year wide receiver Rashod Bateman missed Week 5 with a foot injury, and his health is still in question for Week 6.

Offensive statistics

The Ravens’ offense is centralized around a power-rushing attack. Baltimore ranks 23rd in pass rate, and they just got a healthy J.K. Dobbins back into their lineup in Week 4.

Baltimore ranks fourth in scoring, with an average of 27.6 points per game. The Ravens lost 42-38 in a second-half comeback in their Week 2 matchup at home against Miami. Baltimore’s offense ranks 14th in total yards per game (352.4), seventh in rushing yards per game (144 yards), and 21st in passing yards per game (207.8).

The Ravens average 58.2 plays per game on offense, 27th in the league; the Giants’ offense averages 63 plays per game, 18th.

Jackson isn’t scared to air the ball out. He is currently eighth in total intended air yards and fifth in intended air yards per pass attempt; for reference, Daniel Jones is 32nd in both categories.

As for pressure, Jackson has seen a pressure rate of 19.2 percent, 22nd in the league. Jones leads the league in pressure rate. Jackson does rank third in blitz rate, but the protection, and his ability to use his legs have negated pressures.

Defend the run

The Ravens’ identity is to run the football and use play-action to create explosive plays, while also leveraging Jackson’s ability to make plays with his legs.

Dobbins was ingratiated back into the lineup and has 28 rushing attempts for 108 yards, with a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. Dobbins averages 3.9 yards per carry. Justice Hill averages 6.5 yards per carry with 124 yards, but he missed last week with a hamstring injury.

Veterans Kenyan Drake and Mike Davis mix into the rushing attack, but I expect Dobbins to assume most of the carries with another option in the backfield during passing situations. Baltimore aligned wide receiver Devin Duvernay as a running back a few times in its victory over Cincinnati. That’s something to monitor.

Roman is going to use quarterback power, zone-read, and attempt to use Jackson’s ability as a runner. He designed zone-read plays with backside blockers pulling from the backside to kick out and lead block. That can be difficult to defend, and Jihad Ward will be a factor in contain against his former team.

Passing attack

Duvernay filled in valiantly for Bateman in Week 5; he caught five balls on seven targets for 54 yards while having designed touches at the running back position. Duvernay is 25 years old with 226 receiving yards and three touchdowns on the season. If Bateman is out, Duvernay will be Baltimore’s best wide receiver. Tight end Mark Andrews, though, is the player New York must eliminate.

Andrews has 349 yards and four touchdowns. He is dynamic, physical, a good route runner, and sure-handed. Xavier McKinney and Julian Love will become quite familiar with Andrews, who Martindale knows very well. Martindale will have coverage concepts - double teams over top and underneath, inside and outside - to eliminate Andrews as a threat, but Martindale also must account for Jackson, so containing the quarterback will be paramount.

Giants’ defense

Contain Jackson, limit Mark Andrews - easier said than done. The Giants’ defense must remain disciplined. Baltimore leads the NFL in multi-tight-end personnel. They run multiple tight ends and multiple running back personnel at the highest rate.

The Giants have used light personnel - zero linebackers, seven defensive backs - at times. That may be difficult against a power-rushing attack like Baltimore.

The Ravens have a 300-pound fullback in Patrick Ricard, and he can move, so the Giants have to respect their run fits and prepare for a physical matchup. The Giants’ linebackers will have their hands full, and the return of Leonard Williams would certainly help.

Baltimore will attempt to run Jackson in the A Gap, which will put the Giants’ hottest defensive player in a position to succeed. Martindale uses Dexter Lawrence more at the nose and as a one-shade, which will be difficult for rookie center Tyler Linderbaum. Lawrence has about 50 pounds on the rookie.

Lawrence’s presence and ability can assist the Giants in protecting the A-Gap.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith presumably will be spying on Lamar Jackson like James Bond. The edge defenders have to respect their lanes on the rush to contain. Martindale’s propensity to run man coverage could be a disaster if New York fails to contain Jackson.

The health of Adoree’ Jackson (knee/neck) is important even though the Ravens have injuries at receiver. Jackson’s ability in run support is an assist on outside runs. Jackson was limited in practice on Wednesday.

I expect Martindale to dial the blitz up against his former team. Martindale currently ranks fifth in the league in Cover-0 rate, and loves to bring Cover-0 in the red zone.

The Giants will be aggressive while having contingencies to contain Jackson, as they did on the three cross-dog blitzes against Justin Fields that resulted in two sacks and a quarterback hit.

Final thoughts

New York will have their hands full, keeping Lamar Jackson in check. Jackson has two games with more than 100 yards rushing. Ideally, using a faster personnel package to account for Jackson’s speed and ability to throw the deep ball makes sense. The Ravens, however, also have a power rushing attack with multiple offensive linemen who are well over 300 pounds.

New York will look to pressure Jackson, play man coverage or Cover-3 with a spy (middle-of-the-field-closed), and Martindale will hope to defeat his former team in a fashion that fits the respected coordinator.