The Baltimore Ravens have a tall-task in store when the Tennessee Titans roll into town: slowing down Derrick Henry. Is this even possible to do?
There was one mission the Baltimore Ravens needed to accomplish during the 2020 offseason: find a more effective way to stop the run. This was something the team struggled to do all of last season and it bit them in the butt during the 2019 season playoffs. The Tennessee Titans went to Charm City and absolutely embarrassed the AFC’s top-overall seeded team behind Derrick Henry’s 195 rushing yards.
From that butt whoopin’ came big changes. The Ravens went and added to great run defenders in the forms of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, as well as drafting to young linebackers in Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. These four new additions showed how serious Baltimore was at improving their defense against the run and wanted to show that this would never be an issue again.
Thus far into 2020, those additions have paid off. Prior to last week against the New England Patriots, the Ravens had allowed just one 100-yard rusher in its previous eight games. That one game belonged to Philadelphia Eagles back Miles Sanders, and 74 of his 118-yards on the ground came on one play. Aside from this, Baltimore had proven to be much better against the run in 2020 and their additions looked to have paid their dividends.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the health of this front-seven is in question.
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During the team’s week eight matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, Campbell suffered a calf injury that held him out vs. the Patriots. The run defense took a huge hit with Campbell missing from the defensive line and it showed early. To make matters worse, Brandon Williams went down shortly after the game kicked off to an ankle injury. He did not return. Wolfe also got banged up during the game and was clearly slowed down.
Without Campbell and Williams out, the run defense was significantly worse. Baltimore’s depth on the defensive line was challenged and proved to be overmatched. The Patriots ran the ball at will on the defense, seeing their running backs average 5.4 YPC including Damien Harris eclipsing the century mark and averaging 5.5. YPC.
It was certainly a humbling experience the team would like to soon forget. Unfortunately for them, that won’t be happening anytime soon.
Remember those Tennessee Titans we talked about earlier? Well, they’re coming back to Charm City on Sunday for a rematch. The Ravens would love to claim victory this time around and get some major revenge for such an unceremonious loss in the playoffs last year. But can they do it?
Headed into this week, the Titans are averaging the sixth-most rushing yards per game at 148.7 powered almost entirely by Henry, who is leading the league in rushing yards (946) and is averaging a ridiculous 105.1 rushing YPG and 4.7 YPC. Few have been able to even slow down Henry this year, with his worst performance coming way back in week four vs. the Buffalo Bills, who pinned Henry down to just 57-yards. Henry has been neigh unstoppable aside from this game.
Now he’s back in Baltimore and ready to throttle this defense once again. Things have changed since January, but things also look bleak for this injury-riddled defense against arguably the league’s best running back. Who’s going to stop Henry from running all over the Ravens defense? The defense’s two best run stuffers are likely out this week and the rest of the defensive line seems overmatched. Truth be told, the game may be dictated by the play of the young linebackers, Queen and Harrison. They’ll both need to bring their games up to the next level, whether they’re ready to or not.
This game is going to be gritty, as both teams love to run the football. The winner will likely end up being the team who runs the ball best and right now the favorite should be Tennessee thanks to the matchup.
Revenge will be on the mind of the Baltimore Ravens, but it won’t come easy. Derrick Henry is likely going to make life hell for the Ravens once again in this matchup and might be the ultimate trump card when it’s all said and done. If Baltimore can find a way to limit Henry they can easily win this game. If they can’t, all bets are off.