Ravens Should Unleash Matt Judon All Over Tom Brady
Don’t look now, but the Ravens have won four of their last five games improving to a record of 7-5. Their 38-6 fish fry of the Miami Dolphins, who entered last Sunday on a six-game winning streak, is the Ravens most lopsided victory in a long, long time. There seems to be a new found confidence, new energy overtaking the doom and gloom of late October.
This Monday night the Ravens will travel to Foxboro to face the AFC’s best team, the New England Patriots. Depending on how you view the matchup you feel one of two ways. Playing their best football of the season there is no better time than now to meet up with the Patriots. Or, the Patriots are the perfect team to ruin a good thing the Ravens have going. BSL’s Gabe Ferguson gives his breakdown, previewing the upcoming matchup.
One thing is for sure. The book on Tom Brady hasn’t changed in years. If you try to out score him in shootout you probably won’t. If you give in too early with a lead he’ll close the gap in a blink. If you play a conservative defense he will pick it to shreds. If you play an aggressive, in your face, pressuring Brady and knocking him down all day defense then you might have a shot. You also need to employ a stout running game that chews up the clock with long drives, keeps Brady on his sideline, and keeps your defense fresh.
Discuss your thoughts on this topic on our message board.
That is what the Ravens need to do this Monday night to give themselves a great shot at winning. The last time these two teams met, the Ravens defense blew not one, but two, 14 point leads in the game, losing in the 2014 AFC divisional playoffs, 35-31. In that game the Ravens hit Tom Brady nine times resulting in two sacks. It took its toll on number 12 as the Patriots had to dig deep into their bag of tricks to get over on the Ravens. They used the rules to their advantage deploying six receivers, one of them ineligible, to confuse the defense as to who they needed to cover. They also pulled out a WR pass as Julian Edelman caught a swing pass, then chucked it down field to Danny Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown.
The pressure up front was ample. The Patriots couldn’t establish any running game. Brady only had time to complete one deep ball to old reliable Rob Gronkowski. Though he leaned on him in the short game heavily. However, the Ravens secondary was their weakness all season and Brady picked on them in the short game to out last Joe Flacco and a strong running game powered by Justin Forsett.
All of those things are recipes for beating the Pats, it just wasn’t in the cards two years ago. This time around Brady will be without safety blanket Gronkowski. A huge blow to their game plan. The Ravens secondary is also one of their greatest strengths these days. Eric Weddle is lock to be a Pro Bowler. Jimmy Smith has played like one but isn’t the household name like “Revis” or “Sherman” yet. We’ll seeif he gets the respect later in the year. Rookie Tavon Young has been exceptional in year one and could give Julian Edelman fits in the short game on Monday with his lightning quick closing speed.
With a secondary that can make Brady go three and four deep into his progressions, it could leave him looking like a sitting duck for the Ravens pass rush to tee off on. No NFL star publicly admits to hating another player, except for Terrell Suggs. He only refers to Brady as “number 12” and Suggs hasn’t looked the least bit slowed down after tearing a biceps weeks ago. You know he is going to bring a little something extra for a game like this.
On the other side of the edge rush the question is who will show up? What I can tell you is who has shown up. It’s rookie Matt Judon, Grand Valley State. I want to see Judon get the start Monday night and the lions share of the snaps in a game where pressuring Brady could be the key to finishing week 14 with an upset victory.
This chart breaks down what percentage of the team’s defensive snaps Matt Judon received. As well as anointed first option in pass rush snaps when healthy in Elvis Dumervil, and second year linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Smith had seen a lot of snaps early on when Dumervil was on the shelf and Judon was a rookie earning his playing time. Mid-season, you can see Matt Judon chew into some of ZDS’s snaps. This coming just after being a healthy scratch in place of a returning Dumervil in weeks four and five. But when Dumervil returned here the last couple weeks, Judon saw his time dip again. Not scratched for games like he was before though.
Pro Football Focus measures pass rush productivity. Not just sacks, but includes quarterback hits and hurries to encompass all of it as “total pressures”. Of the trio being discussed, Matt Judon leads Dumervil and Smith in pass rush productivity with a number of 10.1. That number is above average, bordering on Pro Bowl level. The league leader in this category is often in the 12.0 – 15.0 range.
Both Matt Judon and Elvis Dumervil are generating some kind of pressure on 12% of their rush snaps. Za’Darius Smith has done so on 9.3%.
But on the stats that leave a mark, sometimes a literal mark on the opposing quarterback, Judon leads with 8 hits/sacks. 5.7% of the time he’s hitting them. Dumervil 2% and Smith just 1.5%. Has Dumervil lost a step in his aging years? Is he slowed by not being 100% recovered yet?
Matt Judon is young, has fresh legs from his lack of playing time, is fast around the edge (evident by his combine numbers) making him the fastest on the team to reach the quarterback. For me, this is the week to unleash a fury of Matt Judon all over Tom Brady. That tactic, plus suffocating coverage, could limit the scoring to a point where the offense doesn’t have to light up the score board to leave with victory.
Last year the Denver Broncos ended the Patriots undefeated season at 10 games by hitting Brady nine times and sacking him three. When they met again in the playoffs, Denver hit him 17 times! Sacked him four times. If the Ravens go out and hit Brady at least 10 times on Monday, I’ll say they did enough on defense to win. I think to reach that goal, you got to put Matt Judon out there a lot, with Dumervil coming in to spell him. Not the other way around.
No place like Monday Night Football for a coming out party.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]