Without a competent running game, the Ravens will continue to be a franchise that is heavily reliant on a sensational defense. While Joe Flacco’s mediocre performances have contributed to the Ravens first half inadequacies, it is their meek rushing attack that is a greater cause for concern. As a result, the Ravens are a one-dimensional team that can’t put up crucial scores when they matter most. With that being said, the Ravens are still competitive within their own division as they are tied with the Browns for second place and are only a game behind the Cincinnati Bengals for first. If Flacco and the Ravens struggling offense can figure out how to be more proficient on a consistent basis, they have a chance to emulate last year’s Super Bowl championship team accomplishments.
Although Ozzie Smith has been known for his innovative and thought provoking management skills, he is not immune to making a mistake from time to time. By far the Ravens biggest free agent loss was when they gave up their prolific wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers. While the Ravens still have a solid receiving corps in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, they are without their former strong-handed offensive juggernaut that was Flacco’s reliable security blanket throughout last years post season. Looking at the Ravens offense now, it is evident that without Boldin they are undeniably crippled, particularly in third and long situations where Boldin was exceptional at creating space from a defender while simultaneously catching balls that came his way.
Yet, despite Boldin’s noticeable absence, Torrey Smith has stepped up as the Ravens star receiver. So far, Smith has garnered 28 receptions for 568 yards and a single touchdown (he only had 855 receiving yards throughout last years regular season). While Smith’s total receptions and receiving yards are on course to eclipse his numbers from last year, his touchdown receptions have been hard to come by this season. This is due largely in part to opposing defenses scoping out Smith, particularly in the red zone where the Ravens have found the most success offensively. Luckily, rookie receiver Marlon Brown has become a standout play maker in his own right (221 receiving yards, and 3 TD’s) and free agent acquisition Dallas Clark has likewise proven that he fill the void of tight end Dennis Pitta in certain situations.
However, the Ravens new and developing receiving corps can’t be effective if their quarterback continues to struggle, especially in the first half. While Flacco hasn’t necessarily been terrible, his overall performances from game to game can only be described as anemic and uninspiring. Between his finicky completion percentage (57.9%) and his careless interceptions (he already has 8 on the season and only threw 10 INT’s last year), Flacco is hardly the reigning Super Bowl champion that he made himself out to be during the playoffs when he was practically flawless. To be fair, the Ravens offensive line hasn’t given Flacco much help. Flacco has been sacked 19 times this season (he was sacked 5 times in the Ravens home loss to the Packers, a season high) which has undoubtedly contributed to the Flacco making careless passes that ultimately get picked off by the opposition. If the Ravens offensive line can find a way to remain stout, Flacco will have more time in the pocket to look for open targets that will eventually allow Flacco to get back to doing what he does best, throwing the deep ball.
In order for the Ravens passing game to be successful, their feeble running game needs a tremendous amount of reworking in order to open up the option for the play action pass. Currently, the Ravens are ranked 27th in the NFL at rushing the ball and the Ravens star running back Ray Rice has yet to rush for more than 200 total yards on the season. What’s even more startling about Rice’s slow start is the amount of yards he gains per carry. Typically, Rice averages between 4.0-4.5 yards per rush. This year, Rice has only managed to average 2.8 yards per carry that forces the Ravens to throw the ball more frequently. As a result, Flacco is constantly put under pressure to convert third and longs while trying to find receivers that he his still unfamiliar with.
In the end, the Ravens are a solid football team that lacks some much-needed rhythm. Between the loss of veteran receivers to free agency and injuries and Flacco’s on the field meltdowns, the Ravens are a franchise that is still struggling to win consistently. However, if the Ravens have proven anything since they were introduced into the league, it is that they are a resilient and emotionally driven team. If the Ravens can tap into those intangibles while making adjustments to their offense as a whole, they have a shot at taking the league by storm while making the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.