Reality: Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce had 366 carries for 1,096 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Perception: That’s an average of 3 yards per carry for our top 2 running backs. That is not good enough.
Midseason Ray Rice kept saying he was healthy, but after John Harbaugh came out and said he wasn’t 100%, Rice started saying he was working towards getting healthy. Now he says he’s ready for a full off-season and will be ready to prove himself next season.
In my opinion, Pierce looked stronger than Rice all season, but his numbers really don’t show any big upgrade. I think most of us would have all expected more from Pierce after his great showing in short spurts last season.
However, the poor rushing cannot be left on the shoulders of Rice and Pierce. The offensive line was a major reason why they couldn’t gain any yards. There were simply not enough holes made for significant gains on the ground, and when there was, Rice and Pierce didn’t take advantage.
Reality: Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times in 2013.
Perception: That’s 2nd only to Ryan Tannehill in Miami. A few sacks can be put on the quarterback as holding onto the football too long but if you watched any of the Ravens games this season, you could see that was not the case, most of the time with Flacco. Take Sunday as an example. He was getting hit before he even had a chance to plant his back foot. The offensive line was just horrendous and never gave him much of a chance to wait for his receivers to get open. And you saw the toll those hits began in take in Week 17. Joe was battered and bruised more than any other time in his career. Flacco has been the most durable QB in the NFL, not having missed a single game yet. The Ravens want to keep it that way, and will need to improve the offensive line in the offseason to make it happen.
Reality: The Ravens committed 28 false start penalties, most in the NFL.
Perception: The offensive line’s shortcomings were more than just physical. The mental lapses and offensive false start penalties were just ridiculous. One of the advantages they have is that they know the snap count yet they too often squandered that knowledge. Michael Oher was a major culprit and it will to his exodus this offseason. With a team that struggled to move the ball, losing 5 yards and disrupting the down and distance rhythm amounts to boneheaded drive killing blunders – the most blunderful time of the year.
Reality: The Ravens were called for unnecessary roughness 13 times, most in the AFC and 2nd most in the NFL.
Perception: This is a franchise that has struggled with keeping it’s cool for years. Whether it was under Brian Billick or John Harbaugh, we have seen this team get way too many unnecessary roughness calls on defense. Once again, this really hurts when you are stopping the other team on defense but then giving them free first downs to move down the field.
The running game, offensive line and penalties are three huge areas where the Ravens need to improve in 2014. Fixing the offensive line might actual accomplish all three.