Interview with the enemy: Ravens vs Bengals Week 1

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joe flacco andy dalton baltimore ravens
Jan 1, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) shakes hands with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after their game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are preparing for their Week 1 divisional matchup. Both teams are going to try to set the tone for the season with a big win against a bitter rival. Since most Ravens fans don’t follow the Bengals too closely during the offseason, I turned to cover32’s Managing Editor for the Bengals, Andrew Hammel to answer some questions about the upcoming game.

1. How do you think Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones missing the game will affect the outcome?

I don’t know if the absence of Jones substantially impacts the game. At this point in his career, the gap between him and Dre Kirkpatrick as press/zone corners isn’t significant, and there’s no matchup on the Ravens’ offense that he’d have to follow around and cover individually. In terms of the secondary, I’d consider the hole left by Shawn Williams’ unavailability to be far more concerning.

2. Do you think the Bengals’ offensive line can handle the depth of the Ravens’ defensive line?

I don’t know if they will, but they certainly can, at least as far as a basic four-man rush goes. It seems as though the coaches are scheming around interior pressure being a weakness, with Dalton either dumping the ball quickly from the pocket or only throwing downfield after leaving it by design. I could see the Ravens succeeding on interior blitz patterns, but otherwise I think they’d be better off containing Dalton, encouraging short passes and just preventing any grievous gains after the catch.

3. What is a player on the Bengals someone who isn’t a follower of the team might not know about that we should keep an eye on?

I’m personally very high on fourth-round rookie Carl Lawson. Neither Michael Johnson or Carlos Dunlap have ever provided a speed rush presence on the edge as base ends, but it appears the Bengals’ brain-trust devoted this offseason to loading up on reserve edge players who can. Lawson is listed as a linebacker, but his biggest moments should be as a sub-package end, at least as a rookie. His one-on-one victory running around Trent Williams was the most impressive play from a rookie during the third preseason game. If he can get back to the form he had before injuries in college, he can become a force.

4. The Bengals are 7-3 against the Ravens over the past 5 seasons. 5-0 when the game was played in Cincinnati. How do you think they’ve been able to consistently beat the Ravens?

I don’t know that 7-3 is a substantial lead over the Ravens, especially considering one of those wins came over a team led by Ryan Mallett. Still, the starting point for that conversation has to be A.J. Green. The Ravens haven’t adequately defended him in their previous matchups and I don’t know that there’s any reason they will in 2017. Green set his current career high for single-game receiving yards against the Ravens in 2015 with 227 on 10 catches. It’s difficult to win games when you can’t take away the opposing quarterback’s first option.

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