We’re halfway through the season So we are in a great position to take a look at where the Ravens have been, where they are at, and where they might be going. Today I am going to tell you some things I have found disturbing so far.
The Ravens have been terrible on the road this year. They put up a measly 9 points in a near loss to the Chiefs, they lost a close game to the Eagles and they were completely slaughtered by the Texans. The Offense has struggled in each of those games, in the last 2 road games the Ravens have scored just one touchdown, a garbage time Tandon Doss reception against the Texans. The Defense has been worse. They allowed Jamaal Charles to run wild over them and Arian Foster and Matt Shaub systematically picked them apart. They actually played fairly well on both sides of the ball in Philly, but it just wasn’t enough when they didn’t get the stops when they needed them at the end of the game. The Ravens have to find a way to at least stay competitive on the road. They have tough road games in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Washington and San Diego Coming up, they need to fix this problem quickly or they risk loosing ground to the Steelers in the division race.
I am convinced that the pass D is not a huge liability. I believe that if the Ravens can shore up the run defense, then the pass D will fall in line. Right now, the Ravens have been having to drop 8+ into the box on every single play and they are still being ripped in the run game, once teams are running at will, passing the ball becomes much easier because QBs are just having to find a WR that has beaten his man coverage there is almost never any help over the top and CBs almost always will bite on play action. So that brings us full circle to the run defense. Having Suggs back made a huge difference last week as the best RB the Ravens have played over this stretch of bad D was held to the least yards. When Suggs was in the game the Ravens allowed just over 2 yards per carry, when he was out they allowed just over 4. That is a major disparity for one player, but that is the type of defender Suggs is. That is the good news. The bad news is that over the next three weeks the Ravens potentially will play Trent Richardson, Darren McFadden, Rashad Mendenhall, Ryan Matthews and Rashad Mendenhall again over the next 5 weeks. Those 4 guys are all very good RBs (granted some are hit miss and Mendenhall is coming back from injury). The Ravens will have a tough stretch of matchups, but it might be just what they need to work themselves out of this funk they are in. The major thing they need to improve on is missed tackles. I have never seen a Ravens D that misses as many tackles as this one does. If it weren’t so depressing it might actually be kind of impressive. If the Ravens just wrapped up their guy, they almost certainly wouldn’t have allowed either the Cowboys or the Chiefs to break the 200 yard mark. That isn’t this groups only issue, but it is their biggest issue. The other problem has been the play of the defensive line. They have been abused at the line and are constantly moving backwards on run plays. I know that Haloti Ngata has been injured, but what happened to Terrence Cody? He was on his way towards being one of the top NTs in the NFL last year and this year he can’t find his gaps and is getting pushed around like a rag doll. Teams are actually targeting a 350 lb. nose tackle and running the ball at him, that should never happen. I’m not sure what happened to Cody, but whatever it was, he needs to get it straightened out because his level of play has been horrendous this year.
Offensive line play
The offensive line has had 3 good games. Week 1, week 4 and week 6. Outside of that, they have been average at the best of times. Last week in Houston Joe Flacco only had 4 drop-backs where he had more than 2 seconds to throw the ball (2 seconds from the snap, not from the end of the drop). I believe the Ravens need to go back to Ramon Harewood. His game isn’t as complete as Bobbie Williams game is, but Harewood has the speed to recover on twist moves and when he is beaten, Williams does not. As a result, Williams, despite only playing in 2 games, leads the line in free rushers allowed. What makes that stat even worse is that he actually played very well against the Cowboys (the boys essentially line up and rush straight, they don’t twist or play zone blitz often). Williams allowed 14 pressures, sacks and hits in Houston….14. That number is beyond inexcusable. His play was one of the single worst individual offensive line games I have ever seen and he was a big part of the complete collapse suffered by the entire group. I would be surprised to see Harewood in the lineup this week given that he struggled so mightily against the Browns a few weeks ago, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in action against Oakland and I definitely think he will play against Pittsburgh. Starting Harewood won’t fix all the Ravens problems, but it will help to mask some of their quickness issues. Playing Birk and Williams next to each other (neither of whom has any reasonable foot speed or recovery speed anymore) opens up a huge hole for defenses to pour through.