I’m trying to figure out how the Ravens offense has failed so badly. Not just in the Steelers game, but let’s face it, they’ve been mediocre at best all year. They’re 16th in points scored and 22nd in yards.
I think a big part of it we know was the offensive line. But I’m having trouble getting past the play-calling. I’m watching the Patriots, and the Packers this weekend, and even the Falcons who sucked but serve as a good example. I see something in their offenses that I don’t see in ours, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly what it is, and I think I’ve got it although I’m not sure that I can express it that well.
I think the best one word for it: variety. Give me a sentence: The Ravens don’t seem to have as expansive a playbook as other NFL offenses.
There are a couple specifics I’d point out. The first is the use of a guy the team went out of their way to acquire to solve their receiver problems. They brought in Anquan Boldin to change the dynamics of this offense. And in the first half of the year, they used him a lot.
Then, his productivity fell off a cliff.
I cannot explain this. You can see the declining trend. It gets horrendously worse if you remove week 5 where he only gets 3 targets and then weeks 12 and 13 where he gets 9 each. But even with them in, it’s basically a steady decline by an average of 0.42 targets per game.
The issue isn’t his catch rate. During the first half of the season his catch rate was 56%; 58% in the second half. He had 71 targets in the first half of the year, only 43 in the second half. Worse than that…in the first 9 games, only once did he get less than 7 targets. During five of the last seven games, he had 5 or less targets.
So, in conjunction with this, I’m trying to think about not just why Boldin wasn’t getting targets, but how he is most effective.
One of the plays I think saw the most success with Boldin in AZ was the quick slant. Get him crossing over the middle, get the ball out in front of him and let him run with it. Last year, in a dispute year, he ranked only 39th in YAC (according to Football Outsiders), though the previous two years he was 5th and 10th.
I’ve charted 15 of the Ravens 32 halves over the regular season for Football Outsiders. In that time, the Ravens ran a total of three quick slants. Two of them went to Boldin, both of those were catches for a total of 30 yards and resulting in more YAC (21) than the yards picked up on the throw itself (9). According to the FO sheets – I have full data from all weeks (just not charted) where they track which direction of the field the passes were delivered.
Only 26% of all passes to Boldin went to the middle and this supports the argument that Cam Cameron’s offense lacks variety.
We don’t see those quick slants. We don’t see crossing routes. We don’t see a lot of the things so many successful offenses use. It really feels like it’s all outs, tosses down-field, screens, etc.
Now, I don’t know if Cam and the coaches just feel like Flacco’s too limited to throw these passes and/or run these plays. But they’re not there. Something fundamental about this offense is broken.
And I’m concerned that it may not improve any time soon, at least under this coaching staff.