Baltimore Ravens will draw on RGIII experience to prepare for 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick
By Mark Maske,
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens hope the lessons they learned from facing Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins last month will help them in the Super Bowl against another dynamic quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, playing in another option-style offense, that of the San Francisco 49ers.
“He’s fully capable of putting 200 yards on you in a second,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday of Kaepernick’s running skills. “He’s just as capable as Frank Gore is, or any of their running backs. He’s not just an integral part of their passing game. He’s a huge part of their run game.”
The Ravens conducted a practice Thursday. They’re also scheduled to practice Friday and Saturday and are to travel Monday to New Orleans for the Feb. 3 game.
Dealing with Kaepernick will be the main concern for the Baltimore defense. The second-year pro started San Francisco’s final seven games of the regular season, and his star has been on the rise during a dazzling postseason in which he had a 181-yard rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers in an NFC semifinal.
The 49ers have done for Kaepernick what Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan did for Griffin: incorporating option running plays and other elements borrowed from the college game into the offense to take advantage of a young quarterback’s varied talents.
“I actually went back to Michael Vick when I was watching this guy and talking to Ray [Lewis] about it,” Ravens safety Ed Reed said Thursday. “I remember the days when we played against Vick and just how he can throw the ball and run.”
Reed said that “you pretty much get some of the same things” from Kaepernick and the 49ers’ offense as from Griffin and the Redskins.
“RGIII is a little bit different [and] their blocking scheme, with how Shanahan does things and what they’re doing with Kaepernick,” Reed said. “It’s the read-option, but there’s no pitch guy. So it’s a little different. I really haven’t looked at our Washington film again. I wanted to. I don’t know if I’ll really get to it. But it’s a little different with what they’re doing with him and even his running style. I know he’s fast. He can run. But RGIII was a little quicker, I think, and probably a little faster.”
Harbaugh, too, stressed that the Ravens won’t be facing an exact replica of the Redskins offense they faced in their 31-28 overtime loss Dec. 9 at FedEx Field.
“The foundation of the offense is different,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not the same base offense. And even the blocking schemes in the read-option stuff is a little bit different. I think the style of play of the two quarterbacks is different. They’re both great in their own right. But they bring different things to the table.”
The Ravens held Griffin to 34 rushing yards in the December game and sacked him three times. But Griffin threw for 242 yards and a touchdown. Redskins tailback Alfred Morris ran for 129 yards and a touchdown. Kirk Cousins, the Redskins’ rookie backup, threw a touchdown pass and ran for a tying two-point conversion in the final minute of regulation after Griffin suffered a knee injury. The Redskins won on an overtime field goal.
“We did a pretty good job in that game once we got our feet on the ground against RGIII,” Harbaugh said. “They took the first two drives down there. But once we got a feel for the offense, I thought we did okay. It’s a similar offense, obviously, style-wise. But it’s not the same offense, by any stretch.”
The Ravens planned to have practice-squad quarterback Dennis Dixon imitate Kaepernick in their practices, just as he played the role of Griffin in practices prior to the Redskins game.
The Ravens also will have two of their defensive mainstays, linebackers Lewis and Terrell Suggs, on the field in the Super Bowl. Both missed the Redskins game because of injuries. Lewis has announced that he will retire after the Super Bowl, but he said Thursday he wasn’t focused on this being his final NFL game.
“Honestly, outside of putting my head in a playbook and really just studying San Fran, I haven’t really thought about anything else,” Lewis said. “It’s gonna be a great day, period, no matter what happens. And that’s kind of the way I’ve approached it.”
Reed said he won’t join Lewis in retirement just yet, even if the Ravens win a Super Bowl that’s being played in his home state of Louisiana.
“I’ll be playing next year, if that’s what you all are asking,” said Reed, who’s eligible for free agency in the offseason. “Next question.”
Lewis told teammates during the season that this would be his final NFL ride. Reed said Thursday: “It’s not my last ride. I just bought a bike.”