Ravens Want a Better Offense – Go Ahead and Build It!

I took a few days off to cool down after Baltimore took a 20-3 drubbing from the Colts.

After having some time to mull it over I’m back to my intial source of frustration after that disappointing loss last Saturday.

How is this team any better than the one that went to the AFC Title game last season?

Well, it’s not and there is plenty of blame to go around for it. I’ll start with Ozzie Newsome. Let me preface this by saying that Ozzie has been a very good General Manager over the years and this is not some sort of let’s get rid of Oz post. However he must judged for the moves he made and didn’t make to help improve this team and get them to an elite level.

After last season it was clear that the Ravens needed secondary help, more weapons on offense, and help at Right Tackle. Tackle was taken care of when Michael Oher fell right into the Ravens laps and they drafted him in the first round. They signed Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr and also drafted Lardarius Webb. Foxworth and Carr were both dreadful until almost mid-way through the schedule but both were solid the last five games. Webb if he recovers from injury, could be and should be a starter on this team in 2010.

But offense is another story. The team needed an explosive player to get behind defenses and they signed Kelley Washington. Now Washington was a surprise as he filled in well as a slot receiver but he’s not the difference maker they require. L.J. Smith was signed to back-up Todd Heap. Quite honestly if I hadn’t heard his number called for a penalty last game I would have thought he was just inactive again due to injury. He’s been a non-factor.

Let’s not forget the worst move of them all, not re-signing Matt Stover. There has been no bigger contributor to the offense over the last ten seasons. They took a position of strength for so many seasons and turned it into one of weakness and uncertainty.

Not one draft pick was spent on a wide-out. Instead, Paul Kruger sat inactive most weeks. Jason Phillips was hurt. Davon Drew and Cedric Peerman were never heard from again.

Johnny Knox, Austin Collie, Louis Murphy and Julian Edelmam were all available after the fourth round.

It really bugs me to have the same questions of this team right now that I did after the loss to the Steelers in January. Pittsburgh bottled up every receiver and played a loose zone and got pressure from the front four. We needed playmakers then and we still need them now.

Second, Cam Cameron was brought in to boost the offense and build a quarterback. Under Cameron’s guidance the offense has averaged 24 points a game, which is a nice jump from previous years. But those numbers are inflated with blow outs over mediocre teams.

The focus in the offensive game plan made sense last year. Limit Flacco’s reads and run the football. In year two you’d figure the playbook would open up but certainly not throwing the ball 47 times a game. Such a huge shift in focus with an almost identical roster seemed to make little sense and while the offense had success early, defenses adapted and the team dropped 6 out of 9 in the middle of the year.

While I can appreciate the idea of opening the offense it just wasn’t the time to do it. You always play to your strengths as a team and this team’s strength was rushing the ball. You had three runners that could get the job done in various situations and at one point you only use one. I’m still trying to find the logic in that.

But it’s not as if some of the pieces aren’t in place already. You have a young quarterback in Joe Flacco whose numbers went up in every important passing category. He has things to work on for sure but he is a player you can build around. You have a star runner in Ray Rice who broke out huge this season. You have the makings of a solid offensive line that will need some depth in the next year of two with Matt Birk aging.

But lastly you have the receievers. Todd Heap had a fine bounce back season but they need depth there and who knows if he’s healthy enough in 2010. Derrick Mason said he was 60-40 in favor of retirement. Even if he does come back, who of the current crop do you retain and how do you fill their spots with uncertainty in the free agent rules?

We will all have to stay tuned as to the Ravens moves in the coming year but this much is clear to me.

If you want a better offense you need to build one.

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