For those with a memory span longer than a gnat on his third thermos of coffee, you know that the team the Baltimore Ravens take to training camp every summer is not the same squad that takes the field on opening day. Other teams make cuts. The Ravens sometimes make trades. A lot can happen.
Now imagine you know what that opening-day roster is going to look like after about a day of a new league year being in operation — before that “second wave” of free agency hits with the better deals. Before your team brings in fresh talent via the draft. Before other teams make cuts after drafting players they believe are capable of replacing a costly veteran for a fraction of a price.
Forget that. Forget imagining you know what the roster will look like before all these things happen because it’s a complete and utter waste of time and energy on your part. You can’t. Eric DeCosta doesn’t know what the roster will look like yet. John Harbaugh does not know what the roster will look like yet. That fortune-telling machine on the boardwalk that can transform a young boy into a grown man through the power of a wish doesn’t even know what the roster will look like yet.
Forget all of that, and focus instead on this: why are people so angry at the Ravens’ leadership at this point because they haven’t completed a 53-man roster to take the field in September? Hasn’t this group earned a little trust by all of us that they are working day and night to field the most competitive team they can when the games actually, you know, count?
John Harbaugh has amassed a 129-79 regular-season record with the Ravens and won a Super Bowl. That’s not inheriting a talented team and sitting on cruise control.
That is heading the ship through “generations” of Ravens’ talent passing through its doors, and rarely fielding a team that doesn’t give fans of opposing teams anxiety leading up to facing his squad.
Eric DeCosta, the general manager heading into his third year in charge, has built a team that has gone 25-7 over the last two seasons and won a road playoff game against a formidable Titans team last year. And, let’s face it, with a touchdown instead of a pick-six, and some made field goals, the Ravens could have gone another round deep last season. They outgained the Bills 340-220 in yards in that game.
That’s just the truth.
In fact, if I were to pick out a single weakness with that Ravens team at the end of last year, it would have probably been the offensive line. No, check that. It was the offensive line. The Bills last season were 17th in the NFL in rush defense and gave up 4.6 yards per rush. J.K. Dobbins averaged 6.0 yards per rush last year, and Gus Edwards averaged 5.0.
That should have been a good formula. But instead, those two backs each averaged 4.2 yards per tote and had hard sledding all game. The Bills also sacked Lamar Jackson three times and destroyed him on one double-hit that concussed him out of the game.
So, what has the Ravens brass done this year? Well, they added reliable guard Kevin Zeitler to fill the void that Marshal Yanda‘s departure left all last season at right guard, and they are hoping a healthy Ronnie Stanley returns to his All-Pro form at left tackle. There might be a little more work to be done, especially considering Orlando Brown Jr.’s situation, but they have upgraded their weakness. And I trust they will continue to do so.
Heading into this offseason, it was obvious that another glaring need would be the outside linebacker group, particularly regarding edge rushers. They have lost Matthew Judon, Jihad Ward, and Yannick Ngakoue.
That hurts. But they did re-sign Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee, along with reliable veteran Derek Wolfe upfront. Problem solved? No. There’s still work to do there, but remember this: If the 2020 Ravens defense had a weakness, it was their pass rush. Working to improve that is not a bad thing. Let’s see what happens.
Receivers… my, my, my. Receivers are where the Flock goes to pieces. It’s true that the Ravens lack difference-makers with their pass-catchers. I might be the rare fan who thinks Marquise Brown is a good player (who admittedly went through a funk at one point last season), and Jackson has good targets in Mark Andrews and, to a less-dynamic extent, Nick Boyle. But they need another. Are we all in agreement there?
Well, maybe we wait to see what the Ravens line up with on opening day? Would Corey Davis have solved all their problems? I liked him. I wanted the Ravens to sign him. Guess what? Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh know more about Corey Davis than me. Maybe he’s not what they were looking for. Maybe Davis didn’t want to come to Baltimore. Maybe the Ravens have another plan?
Maybe? Will you meet me at “maybe?”
The Bottom Line:
It’s fair to question things. It’s part of the fun of being a fan, right? We all like to pretend we’re general managers or head coaches or the guy who sets up his beer concession at the bathroom line and gets me every game right after I make room. We’re invested. We’re fans… it’s a mental illness we all share.
But let’s get through free agency, the draft, cut-downs after the draft, training camp, cut-downs during training camp, and everything else before we demand heads on pikes. I’m also a fan of the Orioles and Wizards. I know of what I speak when it comes to organizational incompetence.
The Ravens ain’t it. Let’s give them a little space, and a lot of trust, in building another winning team.