As I left the game on Monday night with thousands of others, there wasn’t the same jubilant vibe that we’re accustomed to after a big Ravens victory on Opening Night.
Without question the many hours of pregame tailgating probably sucked some of the energy out of the crowd. But it was more than that. The Ravens we have come to know and love are not the same Ravens and the reality of that left the hometown patrons in a state-of-being that fell just short of “dazed and confused.”
At the end of the day the only thing that really matters is the “W”. How you get there in the grand scheme of things and game plans, isn’t all that important. But right before our eyes the beginning of an evolution began to take shape – one that appears to be on the fast track.
Since 1999 the Ravens have been the standard for great defense. Not only that, the defense has for all intents and purposes carried the team. The offense has never really been much more than serviceable and in many ways it has ridden the coattails of a big brother named DE-FENSE.
The times, they are a-changin’ ladies and gentlemen.
So on that note and given the late posting of this piece (forgive me for being so late …the times have also been very busy with the launch of our new site coming this Tuesday), let’s give this edition of The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox a slightly different twist and focus not as much on individual performances, but that of the 3 units that make up your Baltimore Ravens.
THE GOOD: One of the glaring weaknesses during preseason for the Ravens was their inability to effectively cover kicks. If one game is any indication, Jerry Rosburg’s unit has corrected the flaws led mostly by K Justin Tucker (6 touchbacks) and Chykie Brown. The Bengals averaged just 22 yards on 4 returns, all of which started in the Cincinnati end zone. Mission accomplished on winning the battle for field position after a score…
The Ravens linebackers, particularly Ray Lewis were effective getting back in their drops and that made it difficult for Andy Dalton to find his dangerous tight end Jermaine Gresham. This proficiency eventually led to a pick 6 for Ed Reed…Courtney Upshaw is beginning to make strides…On the defensive front the standout was Haloti Ngata who was far more effective at tackle than he was at end…The secondary was solid led by Lardarius Webb, Bernard Pollard and of course No. 20…
Cam Cameron and his unit have had the most noticeable augmentation. The uneven and unspectacular play of the offense during the Harbaugh Era has been characterized by predictability, ball control and preservation while lacking a killer instinct. That approach seems to have been scrapped in favor of a no-huddle, fast pace style that fits Joe Flacco like a custom suit. Moreover the offensive line has been reconfigured at least in part to accommodate the show time style. Linemen like Bryant McKinnie and Bobby Williams have lost their starting jobs to players who are younger and more physically fit (Messrs. Oher, Harewood and Osemele)
THE BAD: It appears that the front office and the coaching staff are a bit disjointed when it comes to Jacoby Jones. The former Texan was brought on to be the team’s No. 3 receiver and provide a pop to the return game. UDFA Deonte Thompson handled kick return duties and on punts, Jones wasn’t used exclusively on just two punt return opportunities.
Defensively it seems like the Ravens are still trying to find themselves as coordinator Dean Pees alternates various personnel packages. The run defense has not been stout throughout preseason and Monday night was no exception. The edge containment issues remain and linebacker play is inconsistent.
Matt Birk’s play raises some concerns. Too often he looked like a boxer in need of a standing eight-count. Instead courtesy of Geno Adkins he went down like Frazier.
THE UGLY: Paul Kruger was engulfed by the Bengals offensive linemen. One game isn’t a body of work but let’s just say the start was at best inauspicious. He’ll need to step up or his future lies in situational sub-packages…Why Rosburg and Harbaugh insist on putting Lardarius Webb out there for punt returns is absolutely mind-boggling. He was the best defender on the field Monday and he’s far too important to risk when the team has other capable returners. Dean Pees must be holding his breath every time Head Coach and Assistant Head Coach allow that to happen.
THE MEGAN FOX: The Ravens offense has evolved from a ball control, safe passes, field position, protect the lead kind of offense to a fast breaking, unpredictable one with a killer instinct. The M.O. is no longer to protect a lead, but to stretch it. Some want to give most of the credit to new QB Coach Jim Caldwell. It’s not that simple. Caldwell certainly has had an influence and if nothing it shines through in the way Joe Flacco steps up in the pocket; in his cadence; his command of the offense; and ball skills.
But that’s just part of it. If you are going to criticize Cam Cameron for an inept offense, you have to give him credit for a rapidly improving one. Maybe he’s finally seen the light. Maybe he and Joe are finally on the same page. Maybe he finally has the personnel to execute the playbook. Maybe the offense is simply maturing together.
The bet here is that it’s all of the above.
The hope here is that they keep it up.