As you can imagine I like to get my hands, eyes and ears on as much Ravens information as I can. And with last Sunday’s surprising upset at the hands of the division leading Cincinnati Bengals (Did I just say that?) there was plenty of information to digest.
I listened to radio call in shows, though not for long. I heard everything from Baltimore is doomed to finish 8-8 to Joe Flacco can only play well against average to below average teams.
I read in the Sun paper about how the team was outplayed and outcoached (Which I agree with) and that the teams weaknesses are glaring. The secondary can’t cover anybody, they miss Bart Scott, they miss Rex Ryan, and the offense needs to rediscover itself.
I listened to John Harbaugh’s media press conference as tried to soothe the fan base after such a hard loss to explain or understand.
But then instead of getting overly excited I thought of something I read almost a year ago. I remember it because I wrote it, last year here on this site.
So let’s go back one year ago to the date.
The Ravens had just come off one of their worst losses of the season, a 31-3 thrashing at the hands of Peyton Manning and the Colts. Once again it was an experienced quarterback picking on the secondary to cruise to a relatively easy victory. Most fans were left dumbfounded, confused and wondering just exactly where the team was headed. The loss to Indianapolis wasn’t just embarrassing, it was the team’s third in a row. Baltimore’s record at that time was 2-3.
Now let’s move back to 2009. The team has dropped two straight and now sit in second place at 3-2 and just as before they must go on the road to win their next game to stop a potential freefall. What do they need to do?
Well, much like I tell my students, let’s take a look at history.
First, this team needs to re-establish it’s commitment to discipline and accountability. Baltimore is the most penalized team in the league. Real or imagined all that matters is that you give up yards to the opposition and either extend drives or shorten your own chances to score. The officiating has been on a downward spiral for years but as Trevor Pryce put it so well, “If you dominate, the refs can’t have a say.”
John Harbaugh was installed as a no nonsense type of old school coach but the remnants of a reckless type of football held over from the Billick regime are creeping back into 2009. So, the head coach must step forward and get some of this nonsense to stop. Stop whining about officials and make a play or two. Put the game in your own hands and step up.
Secondly while we are on the coaches, let’s look at our coordinators.
Coach Cameron, I love what you’ve done with the offense in just your second season but it makes very little sense to me to go against what you are and how you’re built.
I’m sure some of you read this article in the Sun before Sunday’s game.
Joe Flacco is a talent that will be this franchise’s quarterback for years but he’s still in his second year. He’s still learning and growing and he’s already light years ahead of his play last season. But, honestly this team isn’t built like the Colts or the Saints. Perhaps in the future when more money is invested in playmakers on the outside then the full fledged offense can take off. But you have to stay true to who you are.
Baltimore’s rushing game last season not only took pressure off a rookie Flacco but it also allowed Baltimore to dominate time of possession. It wears the opponent out and keeps your defense fresh. If you notice the last two losses Baltimore was out possessed by almost a full ten minutes.
You can still be creative and you can still throw but you can not forget a major strength of this offense which is using all THREE backs in some form or fashion. That’s just who were are and until the roster turns over it’s where it needs to be for now.
Coach Mattison I know you have a lot of experience but it’s pretty clear that this defense doesn’t feel that same as before. Some of it isn’t your fault, the core is a year older but you may need to make a few changes too.
I liked you idea about getting pressure with the front four, the problem is we have guys suited for run defense and not a pass rush. Again a roster rehaul will be necessary for the future but for now use what you have. That means using a 3-4 more and letting these hybrid types loose. Jameel McClain, Antawan Barnes and even Paul Kruger need to be given one assignment – rush the passer. You may also need to spot Terrell Suggs around at different spots and angles so he can do what he does best.
The secondary as I’m sure you already know has been awful and that includes Ed Reed if you don’t count his heroics from last Sunday. The corners are short and can’t tackle and even when they have been in the right spot they have been out physicaled to the ball. It could be time to bench some of these guys to wake them up, Lardarius Webb has speed and talent, give him a shot.
Special Teams coach, Jerry Rosburg. Sit Chris Carr please. I know they payed a lot of money for this guy and all he’s shown so far is an ability to get the ball to the 25. Again give Webb the job for now. He’s got speed to spare. I wouldn’t mind seeing Zbidowski get a shot returning punts either.
Also please keep Ed Reed on the sidelines. If his nerve condition is as bad as advertised, he shouldn’t risk it back there. But again it tells me just how desperate they are to get something going when #20 is on the field.
Thirdly, the players must produce and execute. It’s the coaches job to put you in the right spot and you must take it the rest of the way. It’s time to quit the excuses and do your jobs. I don’t want to hear about officials. I want to see improvement.
The next stretch of games will be crucial into how this season will finish. The Vikings this week, the undefeated Broncos at home after the bye,then a re-match with the Bengals and they still have two meetings with the Steelers as well as one with the Colts.
Once again they stand at the crossroads and they will decide together which road to take in Minnesota this Sunday.