Week 13 is less than 24 hours away for the Miami Dolphins, who will host the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. Both clubs have stumbled their way to 4-7 records, and will now be looking to try to put together a respectable end to the season, starting with this game.
To get a better look at the Ravens, we turned to SB Nation's Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown, and their editor, Nathan Beaucage, was happy to give us a preview. Below, you will find his answers to some of my questions about a team Miami has faced 10 times in the regular season, splitting the all-time matchups 5-5. My answers to some questions from him will be coming up over on Baltimore Beatdown later, as I was really, really late in getting back to Beaucage (and, my apologies for that, Nathan).
Obviously, this year has not gone as expected for either the Ravens or the Dolphins. At last count, I believe the Ravens have 17 players on injured reserve, including players like quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith, wide receiver Breshard Perriman, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and safety Matt Elam. Do you believe this year's disappointing results are merely a correlation to the injuries, or is there something else going on with Baltimore?
While the Ravens did have their own problems, even as a healthy team, no team can recover from this shocking number of injuries, especially to high-profile players. Losing your starting QB, RB, WR, first round pick, and multiple starters is something that you really can't bounce back from. Our 4-7 record seems somewhat like a miracle, considering the circumstances
Probably the biggest impact to the offense - other than Flacco - with those injuries, has been the wide receiving corps, with players like Kamar Aiken and Chris Givens trying to fill in. Can you give us a quick scouting report of what to expect from your receivers, familiarizing Dolphins fans with some players they may not immediately recognize by name?
Kamar Aiken and Chris Givens headline this shoddy Ravens' receiving corps. While Aiken and Givens are both talented receivers, they simply shouldn't be the top two receivers on an offense. Aiken is a fantastic possession receiver, but not much more. Givens is a speedy situational guy, who should really only be used sparingly. Other noteworthy guys are Marlon Brown, Kaelin Clay (who made some nice plays last week), Daniel Brown, and Jeremy Butler. Since there's a lack of talent here, any one of these guys could break through and have a big game.
Matt Schaub was 20-for-34 for 232 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions last week against the Cleveland Browns, with Baltimore ultimately winning their second straight game and actually moving ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC standings. How confident are you in Schaub's ability to take control of the offense, and what did you see from him against the Browns?
Matt Schaub really excelled when the right plays were called for him. When Marc Trestman was calling conservative, calculated risk plays, Schaub was able to move the ball down the field. It wasn't fancy, but it worked. He made some nice throws, but he also made some truly bad ones, like tossing a signature Schaub pick-six. Ultimately, Matt Schaub isn't going to win the game himself, or put the offense on his back, but he is a good game manager.
Despite all of the injuries, the Baltimore defense is only allowing 93.9 yards per game on the ground, good enough for the 8th rushing defense this season, but are 18th against the pass, allowing 258.6 yards per game. Is the run defense that stout, or are teams just throwing the ball more against the Ravens, so the run defense stats look better? How would you attack the Ravens' pass defense?
Well for starters, the front line is actually the one area on the team that hasn't really been beat up by injuries. Despite the loss of Terrell Suggs, I'm not afraid to call the run stopping juggernaut of Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, C.J. Mosley, Daryl Smith, and Elvis Dumervil one of the best run defenses in the league. Lamar Miller might just have to rest yet another week.
As for attacking the porous pass defense, I would tell my number one receiver, Jarvis Landry, to use precise footwork on tricky routes. This would likely really mess up Jimmy Smith, our number one cornerback. Smith just hasn't been himself this year, showing a lack of mobility after his season-ending Lisfranc injury last year. The shifty Landry lining up against a hobbled Smith could be a really dangerous mismatch.
Who has been the biggest surprise for the Ravens this season, especially stepping up with all of the injuries? Biggest (non-injury) disappointment?
I would nominate the rookie running back, Buck Allen. The Ravens have drafted quite a few backs over the years, but they rarely saw action in their first campaign. Allen has broken that status quo however, becoming the de facto starting back after Justin Forsett went down. The stats might not show it, but Allen has really improved as the season has gone on. He looks explosive in both the receiving and running games, and took his first catch to the house last week.
On the opposite coin, I would nominate Kyle Arrington as the biggest disappointment. We all thought he was a genius signing after being inexplicably released by New England this offseason. But it has become quite clear why the Patriots parted ways with him. He simply isn't good. Arrington has been essentially phased out of the defense, and has been subbed out for guys that we would have never guessed could usurp him. Despite being healthy, I'm not even sure he's been active the past three weeks, recording absolutely nothing in the stat boxes over that time period.