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No Moss = More Questions


PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

Ravens cornerback **Fabian Washington** said he isn't going to lose any sleep over the fact that he doesn't have to match up against Randy Moss this Sunday.

But while Moss is now a Minnesota Viking, his absence leaves the Ravens with a new quandary.

How will New England's passing game change without Moss?

The answer is anybody's guess.

Head Coach **John Harbaugh** said it's now actually more difficult to scheme for New England because the most recent game film of the Patriots' offense without one of the game's elite receivers is from 2006.

"I think with Randy you kind of knew, and pretty much people were starting to play them in a similar way," Harbaugh said. "What does that mean? How are we going to defend them? Who's the deep threat?"

New England added even more to think about by trading for wide receiver Deion Branch on Monday night – one of Brady's favorite targets during their Super Bowl heyday.

Baltimore can look back on what Branch did when he was last with the Patriots in 2005, but that's a long time ago and the Patriots have obviously changed quite a bit. Currently, Branch is buried on the Pats' unofficial depth chart, but he's expected to be active.

"It's going to be interesting to see how they plug Deion in there," Harbaugh said. "We can speculate all we want, but we won't really know how he fits into their offense until we get out there and start playing."

One player Harbaugh pointed out as being somebody to watch is wideout Brandon Tate, who could be the Pats' closest thing to Moss.

While the second-year North Carolina product has only 11 catches for 135 yards this year, he's shown his explosiveness in the return game with two touchdowns.

"They've got some speed, vertical guys they haven't used a lot because they've had Randy Moss," linebacker **Jarret Johnson** said. "So we think they're going to use those guys more now."

Still, Tate is no Moss – even if Moss wasn't having his most productive year thus far.

"I don't think they're going to take as many shots anymore," Washington said. "With a guy like Randy Moss, that's what he does. … They still have a receiver in Tate that's a nice vertical threat. I still expect them to throw deep balls, but not as much."

New England can always rely on Wes Welker, who sat out the Ravens' Wild Card win after suffering a knee injury. One of the craftiest route-runners in the game, Welker has 26 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns this season.

New England's pair of rookie tight ends could be the main beneficiaries of Moss' departure. Like Baltimore did by drafting Ed Dickson (3rd round) and Dennis Pitta (4th round), the Patriots selected a pair of big, field-stretching rookie tight ends in Rob Gronkowski (2nd round) and Aaron Hernandez (4th).

While Dickson and Pitta have played sparingly behind **Todd Heap**, the Patriots put their rookies to work. Gronkowski has two touchdown receptions and Hernandez has been even more of a receiving target with 18 catches for 240 yards.

"[Hernandez] is a vertical threat, crossing route threat, he can run all the underneath routes they run with Wes Welker – that's how athletic he is," Harbaugh said. "He's kind of a new dimension for them and a guy we're figuring out exactly where he fits. We would assume after the bye week there will be some new wrinkles for him."

So how are the Ravens approaching all of this from a studying perspective?

Cornerback **Chris Carr** said the Ravens are for the most part studying this year's game film.

"We're sure they're not going to change their whole offense," Carr said. "But there's definitely going to be some new routes they run. They mix it up."

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