As has become a tradition with us, each Friday prior to a Bills game, we sit down with a blogger from the Bills' opponent and get the inside scoop on the team they so adoringly cover. This week, as the Bills prepare to play the Baltimore Ravens, we sit down with Rexx, SB Nation's newest football blogger over at Baltimore Beat Down. Rexx is just getting his feet wet, but he was still kind enough to answer five questions of mine. Here's the interview (my questions in bold):
Brian Billick has plainly stated that when Steve McNair is healthy, he's the Ravens' starter. But there is a contingent of Ravens fans who feel that Kyle Boller should be playing. Who's got your vote - McNair or Boller?
BBD: McNair should be considered the starting QB. Boller's stats are no better, but it does appear that he has a stronger arm, better mobility and, most impressive to Ravens fans, he is willing to take shots downfield. However, McNair makes better decisions and is more accurate and only needs to put up enough points to let the defense do the rest (see Super Bowl XXXV season).
Despite ranking 4th in the league in total rushing, former Bill Willis McGahee has only scored once. Yet he's still second in the league in rush attempts with 127, right behind Edgerrin James. What gives - is it play-calling, the offensive line or is McGahee just ineffective in the red zone?
BBD: Remember, the Ravens have been without not only All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden all season, they have lost both their center and backup left tackle as well. Their right guard and tackle are rookies as well. Therefore they have the youngest o-line in the league and are starting one second year player and four rookies on the line.
At the same time, I have not liked the stubbornness to go with the pass inside the red zone. McGahee has been great so far and I think he needs more touches in the red zone, especially around the goal line.
Baltimore has come along nicely on defense after struggling to slow down Cincinnati, Arizona and Cleveland early in the season. What's the cause of the turnaround - a defensive resurgence, or playing the 49ers and Rams the past two weeks?
BBD: The defense's swagger has definitely returned, especially as far as the pass defense is concerned. They played a little too over-confident the first couple of weeks and got burned a few times. Since then, they tightened up their deep coverage and returned to their dominant ways. Playing the 49ers and Rams might have made it look like it was as much poor offense as dominating defense, but we'll see in the tougher second half of the schedule. Besides, Buffalo's offense is probably considered in the same way as San Francisco's and St. Louis', isn't it?
Talk for a moment about the loss of Adalius Thomas. Sure, the defense may be starting to come around in Baltimore, but how much of the early-season struggles can be attributed to not having #96 in a Ravens uniform? How have the Ravens attempted to fill his rather large shoes?
BBD: Losing Adalius Thomas' versatility and 10+ sacks has certainly hurt, but combining that with the loss of injured DE Trevor Pryce and his 13 sacks from last year has forced the defense to make certain changes that might have taken away from their success in past years. It looks like they've reconfigured the defense to accommodate these losses and it should improve come week #8 when Pryce returns.
New England has certainly seen firsthand how Thomas can disrupt other teams' offenses and how he makes everyone around him better.
Take off your Purple and Black gear for a moment. If you were game-planning to beat the Ravens, what areas of Baltimore's offense and defense would you look to expose?
BBD: Everyone is talking about the woeful Ravens offense, but I see it differently. Look at it this way: Other teams are playing prevent against the Ravens offense, willing to give up the underneath passes and if necessary, field goals but not touchdowns. They know if they give up the big play and a couple of offensive touchdowns, the game is basically over because the Ravens defense won't give up too many points. If they hold us to field goals, then the opportunity to get a big play for a TD can get them back in the game.
I'd put 8 in the box to stop McGahee and force Boller to throw and hope for an INT. Offensively, I'd stretch the Ravens secondary and go to three and four-wide sets. I'd also try a trick play early, because forcing the Ravens to play catch-up leads to turnovers by us.
Despite that little dig at Buffalo's offense, I'd like to thank Rexx again for taking time to answer these questions. Let's face it - the Bills' offense deserves a dig from an unintimidated opponent.
With a matchup coming up next week against the Jets, feel free to leave any questions you'd like answered here for Jetfighter over at NY Landing Strip.