It’s week one, and the Buffalo Bills will be traveling to Baltimore to face the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium next Sunday. It’ll be a real challenge to this rebuilding team to be able to come back from this away trip with a win. After looking at the three matchups to watch on the offensive side of the ball, here are the top three for the Bills’ defense:
Tremaine Edmunds vs. Alex Collins
The Bills’ linebacker of the future is tasked to be also the solution of the present, not only stopping the run, but also covering receiving backs in one-on-one situations. Collins isn’t the most dangerous player in this department, but he had a breakout year in 2017, earning an 83.4 Pro Football Focus overall rating, good for the third-best in the NFL. His 86.9 rushing grade was the highest in the league, and he will offer a nice challenge for the Bills’ first-round pick. Edmunds had an impressive showing versus the Bengals in his last preseason game, and if he continues to improve, I’m sure he’ll be able to give fits to the up-and-coming Ravens running back.
Damn good K&D by Edmunds. He shut this drive down. The offense tries to outflank the D with the pitch out, but Edmunds is able to force the cutback and 4th down.. pic.twitter.com/MvpzYZlnW8— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 28, 2018
Phillip Gaines/Vontae Davis vs. John Brown
Michael Crabtree joined the Ravens this summer to be their number one wide receiver. The former Raider should draw the Bills’ top cornerback attention, and I’m pretty confident Tre’Davious White (91.6 PFF grade in 2017) can deal with him. The problem should be on the other half of the field, where another Baltimore free-agent pickup, former Cardinal John Brown, will be matched up against Vontae Davis (45.2) or Phillip Gaines (35.9).
Brown is a dangerous deep threat with speed to burn. Davis struggled trying to contain a similar player in John Ross during the preseason week three game versus the Bengals. He was summarily benched, and we’re already seeing reports about Gaines working with the ones during this week’s practices. Being the faster option, maybe the Bills’ coaching staff really is planning to send White to shadow Crabtree all over the field and let Gaines deal with the speedster. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco certainly has the deep ball to take advantage of this matchup. Gaines being able to contain Brown could make a huge difference in this game.
Jerry Hughes vs. Ronnie Stanley
The Ravens have some interesting pieces in their revamped pass catching group. The already mentioned pair of wideouts will be joined by Lee Snead and rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, giving Flacco nice options to work with. I believe the Bills’ secondary has a good shot in this battle, though. The key will be the team’s pass rush being able to pressure Flacco on a consistent basis. With Kyle Williams and Trent Murphy still not confirmed in the lineup, and probably not at full strength if they are able to play, Jerry Hughes may be the only pass rushing threat against the Ravens.
Hughes picking up where he left off last year vs Kalil but can’t finish. pic.twitter.com/q0RORcI2I9— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 9, 2018
Hughes finished 2017 with 45 total pressures, earning an 84.5 PFF overall grade. His speed off the edge will always cause problems for opposing left tackles, and it should not be different to the Ravens’ young LT. Stanley is coming off of a good season, earning a 76.2 PFF overall grade, and his performance versus Hughes may make all the difference in the game since Shaq Lawson and Star Lotulelei aren’t known for their pass rushing ability.