The Ravens are set to take on the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET).
*BR.com offers a look at Baltimore's next opponent. *
2009 Rankings* *
Total Offense – 31st (221.1 ypg) Total Defense – 32nd (409.1)
Rush Offense – 22nd (99.6) Rush Defense – 31st (170.5)
Pass Offense – 32nd (121.5) Pass Defense – T22nd (238.6)
Points Per Game – T30th (9.8) Points Per Game – 28th (26.1)
Sizing Them Up
Even though they've had their recent problems, the Cleveland Browns are an opponent that needs to be respected. Head coach Eric Mangini hails from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, and he has his players ready to take the field every week.
The Browns will be starting Brady Quinn at quarterback after he was benched in Week 3 at halftime against the Ravens in Baltimore. Quinn takes the reins from former Ravens sixth-round draft pick Derek Anderson, who owned a 36.2 passer rating while starting.
Quinn's top target is actually rookie wideout Mohammed Massaquoi, who leads the team with 19 receptions for 328 yards. Still, only receiver Chansi Stuckey has scored a touchdown for the Browns.
The running game is dominated by hard-hitting back Jamal Lewis, a former Ravens himself. Lewis, who declared his retirement after this season a few weeks ago, has run for 349 yards on 98 carries (3.6 average).
Defensively, the Browns are having problems at inside linebacker, as Maryland products Eric Barton and D'Qwell Jackson are both lost for the season on Injured Reserve. That means more pressure will be put on outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, a pass-rushing talent with five sacks, and nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who is one of the most massive players in the league.
What's Up?* *
Matt Florjancic of ClevelandBrowns.com, writes that fans should keep an eye on Jamal Lewis in his final battle against his old team.
"Running back Jamal Lewis. The 10th year man moved into 21st place on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 69 yards against the Bears two weeks ago. Lewis passed Eddie George and Tiki Barber on the list and has 10,456 career rushing yards."
Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal reports that several teammates shouted support to Lewis in the locker room. Could this mean more players are disagreeing with Mangini's practices?
"While Lewis, surrounded by media, was trying to put to rest his scathing remarks, several teammates chanted, 'JLew! JLew!' Among the loudest were tight end Robert Royal and fullback Lawrence Vickers, who climbed onto a chair next to Lewis to help lead the cheers."
There aren't many good feelings in the media about Cleveland's offense, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.
"Bad news for Brady Quinn: The Browns offense is so bad that not even Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees could flourish in it, according to ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski."
Offensive – While he may not be the Browns' biggest playmaker anymore, Jamal Lewis is one of the backbones of this team. The 10th-year veteran is a locker room spokesman that helped ease the transition from former coach Romeo Crennel to Mangini and an influx of 26 new players on the roster. He will be missed in Cleveland as a conduit between team and head coach if he follows through on retirement plans after this season.
Defensive – Wimbley is the biggest pass-rushing threat for this last-place Browns defense. With 38 tackles and five sacks, the former first-round draft pick (2006) is excellent at getting to the quarterback. At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Wimbley has good size to be a typical edge rusher, while his speed and strength are exceptional.
WR Mohamed Massaquoi
The second-round draft pick (50th overall) is leading the team with 19 catches for 328 yards and has established an early relationship with both Browns quarterbacks. In fact, Massaquoi ranks seventh among all NFL rookies in receiving yards.
Ravens LB/DE Terrell Suggs vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas
Suggs hasn't been the spectacular playmaker he was last year yet this season, and the Ravens are looking to amp up their pass rush this year. It will largely fall on Thomas' Pro Bowl shoulders to stop "Sizzle" coming off the blind side. Baltimore has made no secret that they want to get to the quarterback better, and Suggs is the key piece to that puzzle.
Ravens S Tom Zbikowski vs. Browns WR/RS Joshua Cribbs
Cribbs is arguably Cleveland's most explosive player. At 215 pounds, he is tough to bring down on returns and already has one kick and one punt returned for a touchdown this year. Zbikowski leads the team with 19 special teams tackles, filling in the void Brendon Ayanbadejo left when he ripped his quadriceps tendon earlier this year. He'll have to find Cribbs and hold on tight.
Mangini on what he's seen in the Ravens from when they played last until now: "They present a lot of the same challenges. I think offensively, I really like the system they run. We ran a system similar to that in New York. It creates matchup problems. It creates adjustment problems. They've got talented skill players, whether it be Ray Rice or Willis McGahee – and Willis was very productive against us last game – with Derrick [Mason], with Mark [Clayton], Kelley [Washington]. All those guys can create problems. Dealing with Todd Heap, he's created problems for people year in and year out. I think Joe [Flacco] continues to improve. You go through ebbs and flows in a season, but this is a team that, in each phase, can create difficulties. Defensively, whether they rush three, four or five, they can pressure the quarterback. Ed Reed can ruin a game at any point with the way that he steals plays and produces big plays for them defensively. Ray Lewis is a Hall of Fame linebacker. On special teams, you look at a guy like Lardarius Webb who runs one back for 95 yards. The progress they've made there and the production they've had on special teams [is noticeable]. Seasons go through different periods, but this is a very talented football team that's physically and mentally tough."
Lewis on if he wishes he finished his career as a Raven: "I can't say that, but at the same time, the time that I was there, when I did end up getting the opportunity to get out, it was actually good timing for me in my career. I think Baltimore was going in a different direction when I was there. At the end of my days there, it wanted to go in a different direction. I don't think it suited me, and I didn't suit them. So, that's why the decision was probably made, but I think that coming here to Cleveland was a good idea. We did pretty good the first year in. I got a chance to play with a lot of young guys and give them some of the things those older guys gave me when I first came in. So, I'm able to lead and help out a lot over here for the future."
The Ravens know it – every game from here on out is a must-win.
That will certainly be more easily accomplished if their pass rush can get going. Previous losses have exploited the way Baltimore's cornerbacks are having trouble matching up with bigger wideouts for an extended period of time.
So, the Ravens need to get after Quinn as soon as possible and make him uncomfortable. Knocking Quinn off-kilter will not let the receivers run all over the field to get open and force some bad throws. Hopefully for the Ravens, those will turn into interceptions. Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson and Trevor Pryce will be the names most-relied upon in that aspect.
For quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense to have success, the Ravens must simply execute. Derrick Mason put his last of an impact last week against the Cincinnati Bengals on his shoulders, so look for him to get back on track with all of his effort.
Ray Rice has been doing it all, so some other weapons will have to stand up in this AFC North battle.
In all, the Ravens know they had a lackluster performance in their 17-7 Bengals loss. A convincing win – and very convincing would be better – in Cleveland could right the ship moving forward.