Clowney, who played two seasons with Garrett in Cleveland, has identified the key to slowing down the dominant defensive end, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic: “Put a lot of guys on him. He’s a great player. I think he’s one of the best defensive linemen the league has seen in a while.”
There’s nothing groundbreaking in what Clowney said. Double-teaming the Browns’ most effective game-wrecker was likely already in the minds of the Ravens’ coaching staff.
Where it becomes tricky is keeping Garrett under wraps with an offensive line depleted by injuries. The Ravens have been missing key starters, but they have also been boosted by left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum returning to practice, albeit in a limited capacity, on Wednesday, September 27, per Ryan Mink of Ravens.com.
Stanley should take any advice Clowney has to offer about how to handle Garrett, who isn’t the only familiar and fearsome pass-rusher the Ravens need a plan to stop at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Week 4.
Ravens Need Multiple Ways to Stop Clowney’s Ex-Teammate
Garrett ranks third in the NFL with 4.5 sacks, while he also has 12 pressures to his credit. A staggering 3.5 of those sacks came during the Browns’ 27-3 win over the Tennessee Titans, despite Garrett seeing plenty of attention.
The Titans couldn’t stop Garrett even though they committed two tight ends to the task.
No. 95 can take over a game, even when a team takes special measures to contain him. Fortunately, the Ravens should be better equipped than most to approach the Garrett problem in different ways.
Keeping Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard in the lineup would be a good start. Ricard’s a 6-foot-3, 305-pounder who can essentially act like an extra offensive tackle on the edge.
Using Ricard as an H-Back and motioning him to play over Garrett would give the rest of Baltimore’s O-line the help it needs. Even with the help, a reshuffled front five needs other ways to harass Garrett.
With Stanley out, Patrick Mekari started next to guard John Simpson on the left side for Week 3’s shock defeat to the Indianapolis Colts. Mekari’s not the most mobile, so he’ll need help intercepting Garrett off the edge, help Simpson can provide by kicking out and meeting the defensive end with a ‘molly’ block.
Specifics don’t matter as much as the Ravens constantly showing Garrett different looks and keeping extra bodies tasked to helping protection. Ideally, Stanley will be over his knee injury and ready to start.
Even if he is, blocking Garrett is only one part of the equation. There’s also Za’Darius Smith, the versatile former Ravens’ edge-rusher who is now occupying the role Clowney used to play in Cleveland.
While Clowney left under a cloud, he’s insistent there’s no animosity ahead of his reunion with the Browns.
Clowney Clears the Air Over Browns Departure
Clowney’s content to put his time with the Browns firmly behind him, telling reporters “I don’t care what happened last yr,” per Zrebiec.
The exit from the Browns was less than harmonious after Clowney appeared to accuse the team of showing favoritism to Garrett. He was quoted by Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, saying “you’re all trying to get somebody into the Hall of Fame when all that matters is winning.”
Garrett and Clowney were once a formidable double act, but the Ravens need the latter to fly solo when leading a pass rush beset by injuries. David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh are on the shelf, prompting the addition of outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy to the practice squad.
Van Noy can help Clowney the same way Smith is helping Garrett. Smith left the Ravens in 2018, but he’s still somebody who can disrupt blocking schemes from both edges or through the interior.
The 31-year-old is yet to notch a sack for Cleveland’s league-leading defense, but he has registered seven pressures, three hurries and four knockdowns. Smith can’t go unnoticed while the Ravens are focused on Garrett.