Going into Week 8 of the NFL schedule, the Baltimore Ravens will get a much needed bye to evaluate what exactly is wrong with their team. At this point, the casual fan would say “everything.” To a point, they would be right. There isn’t a “shining star” on this team that is leading them through their perplexing season.
Which leads us to our No. 1 issue: leadership. In short, the Ravens have no one leading this team. Even after the management dropped $120 million on Joe Flacco, he still just saunters onto the field in a non-chalant way. On the sidelines, when most quarterbacks would be ripping offensive linemen for a missed assignment or scolding a wide receiver for dropping an easy pass, Joe Flacco is just “chillin, having a Gatorade with some buds.” Being “Joe Cool” after a pick-6 or a sack that takes your team out of field goal range does not equate to being a good leader.
Changing a personality isn’t easy, but it can be done through repetition and awareness. Flacco needs to become more fiery and passionate about his play and his team and nothing changes attitude more than taking money away! The Ravens should ask Flacco to give back some of that contract money until he earns it.
Secondly, the play calling leaves a lot to be desired. Offensively, the Baltimore Ravens just stink. They are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league with a lot of their yardage coming late in games when other teams play prevent against them. The rushing attack is simply non-existent. Ray Rice’s numbers have declined each year. Though the phrase “Hey diddle-diddle, Ray Rice up the middle!” became an instant classic during the playoffs last year, that has actually been their biggest flaw this year. Every run play is telegraphed. The formations never change, the calls never change, and the blocking never changes. If the average fan sees this at home, what do you think a professional NFL defense is seeing?
To fix this, you have to fix your coach. Though Jim Caldwell has done a sufficient job for being thrown into the position during a playoff run, he has never had the opportunity to call an offense before. He needs to change schemes, change personnel, and change his mindset from, “Rice up the middle, Flacco deep, Flacco deep. Punt.” Put some wrinkles in the run game, call end-arounds, call flea-flickers, call counters, call anything different!
The third fix the Baltimore Ravens need to look at is a combination of one and two. Flacco standing in the pocket waiting for a receiver to get 50 yards downfield, defenses just tee-up on Flacco and the offensive line. Most people are interpreting this as the “offensive line stinks,” but that’s simply not the case. Obviously calling the same plays every game gets old to everyone except defenses. If defenses know the play call, it gets really difficult for an offensive lineman to defend his quarterback at all times.
So with that in mind, the coaching staff and Flacco need to get moving…literally. Flacco gets pressured on nearly every offensive play. Some people call that stoic or brave. You probably know what others would call it. Getting the quarterback to roll out or move the pocket with the quarterback is a great way to relieve some of the pressure of offensive linemen breathing down your neck. Even having your stationary quarterback call his own number occasionally for a QB draw would really throw off some linebackers and secondaries!
That brings us to number four, our defense. Although, not for the reasons you would’ve thought in August. Losing future Hall of Fame players like Ed Reed and the great Ray Lewis along with Cary Williams and Paul Kruger can cripple most defenses. However, these moves allowed us to bring in new, younger players. One would think the chemistry would need to be built or the new guys would need time to adjust to schemes and new playbooks. And though the Denver game was brutal, the new guys have delivered. It’s the “old” guys that need some help in the secondary. Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, and Lardarius Webb have all shown a decline in their covering abilities this season.
As to the fix for the coverage woes, I’ve got nothing. Our defensive line is getting decent pressure on the quarterbacks and generally shutting down the running game of the opposing team. Unfortunately, when the ball leaves the quarterback’s hand, he hits his receiver that doesn’t have a Raven defensive player within 10 yards of him. How is this happening?
Finally, the turnover battle. The Ravens are a minus three on the season. Through seven games, we only have four INTs and Flacco has thrown eight. Our defense has been good, but not great. Our offense is horribly inconsistent.
On both sides of the ball, we need to sharpen our awareness. Defensive players need to diagnose plays quicker and offensive players need to practice not giving it to the other team!
I think we will be okay if we can fix these issues during our off week. Though we are sitting at 3-4 for the first time in a very long time, this should serve as a wake-up call to all our players and hopefully, it’ll give them something to think about!