Confusing and bruising young quarterbacks

Is it possible for a player to earn Most Valuable Player honors without lining up for a single snap all year?

If so, we might as well just give this year’s award to Peyton Manning right now.

The Colts lost 62-7 to the Saints last night, dropping their record to 0-7 on the season and illustrating yet again how vital Manning is to that franchise. I can’t recall ever seeing a team go from a Super Bowl contender to a joke so quickly.

In just the fourth start of his career, poor Curtis Painter had only 67 passing yards and an interception, and struggled to put together much of anything through the air. The Ravens hope to force a similar stat line out of another young quarterback - Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert - tonight.

Gabbert, Jacksonville’s first-round pick in April’s draft, has gone 0-4 to start his NFL career, and he’ll have a tough time earning his first career win with Chuck Pagano’s defense taking the field against him.

We’re all well aware of how the Ravens present problems for opposing quarterbacks. Even proven, veteran signal-callers with Super Bowls or MVP awards under their belts have been known to struggle against this Baltimore defense.

Imagine then what it must be like for a young quarterback to face this Ravens D. Actually, don’t - it’s not a pleasant experience for that group.

Since John Harbaugh took over the Ravens’ head coaching reigns in 2008, Baltimore is a perfect 6-0 against first- or second-year quarterbacks. They’ve beaten the likes of JaMarcus Russell, Dennis Dixon, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, and have done it in dominating fashion, with none of those quarterbacks throwing more than one touchdown pass in those six games, and only one (Russell, of all people) putting up more than 170 passing yards.

The Ravens batter inexperienced QBs, confusing them with complex schemes and pressures. They mix coverages, rotate personnel all over the field and send different bodies at the quarterback from all different angles.

“We’re built in such a way that it’s hard to recognize what we are doing,” Harbaugh said. “We bring a lot of pressure. We’ve got good players doing in it; that’s the main thing. I also think we have players who understand the system. Guys like Ed Reed, he’s a master of disguise. It helps.”

When the Ravens are facing an experienced quarterback, they make it their goal to confuse. The less comfortable a quarterback is in the pocket, the less he can hurt you.

When facing an inexperienced quarterback, that effort to confuse seems to get ratcheted up a notch. The Ravens will try and vary their looks even more and disguise coverages more frequently, knowing young signal callers haven’t seen as much film or had as many in-game experiences to fall back on.

It’s almost like the defense knows a big play is out there for the taking. If they can create enough confusion and make a young quarterback doubt himself or what he’s seeing, they can force a mistake.

“Our scheme is built around mixing up our pressures and moving coverages around, and disguising,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “It’s tougher for a young quarterback. Obviously veteran quarterbacks have more experience, they’ve seen it more times, they know what to look for. Young guys, they haven’t seen it as much. It’s tough.

‘Peyton Manning would tell you that the scheme that we run is extremely tough, especially the amount of film it takes to prepare all the different looks. Young guys who haven’t seen that, it’s tough for them.”

Good luck, Mr. Gabbert.

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