In many ways it feels as though the Ravens 2013 season hasn’t exited the starting gate. It’s as if the season has been stuck in mud, spinning out of control whenever they tried to accelerate.
The season, like the running game, just never gained any traction. And now they’ve run out of gas and it’s time to tow away a disappointing season as defending champions.
Not all is lost. There are lessons to be learned from the front office to the coaching staff and of course down to the players. It’s up to the team and it’s leaders to use the knowledge in a productive way.
Let’s take a look back…
- From the early days of training camp Marlon Brown was a pleasant surprise. He never seemed overwhelmed by the leap to the NFL and his adjustment was as smooth as could be expected from a UDFA (49 catches, 524 yards, 7 TD’s).
- Torrey Smith improved and broke through the 1,000 yard receiving mark despite regular bracket coverage. He slumped later in the season but overall he’s shown improvement and given his high-end character and work ethic, continued improvement can be expected.
- Daryl Smith showed quiet leadership, was an excellent pass defender and led the team with 123 tackles while chipping in with 5 sacks and 3 interceptions.
- Another Smith, Jimmy, performed like the player the Ravens believed he would be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Ravens would be wise to lock up Smith before the 2014 season kicks off otherwise the price could climb out of the Ravens range and that could come back to haunt them.
- Lardarius Webb bounced back from early season sluggishness, fought through the recovery from his torn ACL and finished strong in 2013. He is arguably the league’s finest tackler pound for pound.
- James Ihedigbo provided leadership, was the team’s second leading tackler and was Dean Pees’ best Johnny-On-The-Spot with 3 INT’s, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
- Arthur Jones probably played his way off the Ravens roster. He’ll be looking for a big payday and could get it. He had a very solid season but some team will overpay and disregard Jones’ good fortune playing beside Haloti Ngata.
- Matt Elam was inconsistent at times but that could be the result of inexperience and playing out of position as the team’s centerfielder. When attacking the line of scrimmage he was very good.
- Eugene Monroe was the only bright spot on the offensive line and that’s saying something given that he arrived in mid-season and was forced to play beside an out-of-position, under-sized left guard with whom he had little rapport.
- The first half Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil
- Special teams were very good down the stretch, flipping field position in the Ravens favor and at least giving the 29th ranked offense a chance to score 3 points.
- Until the return of Dennis Pitta the Ravens had little production at tight end and that hurt Joe Flacco and the running game.
- Joe Flacco had no running game and his offensive line was an absolute sieve but when you are paid to be elite, you need to rise above the wreckage and Flacco seldom did. Other quarterbacks with equivalent to less talent surrounding them outperformed Flacco’s 32nd ranked passer rating (73.1): Mike Glennon, Tampa (83.9); Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee (82.0); Ryan Tannehill, Miami (81.7).
- Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce were ravaged often before even reaching the line of scrimmage but when opportunities presented themselves, neither delivered. Between them the once dynamic duo had 3 runs of 20+ yards.
- Roster composition and management was very suspect. The Ravens couldn’t find a way to keep Anquan Boldin around and they opted to keep 5 safeties and 6 receivers instead of retaining Bobby Rainey. They made some questionable offseason acquisitions and overpaid for seldom used fullback Vonta Leach who had only 230 snaps all season and just 33 over the course of the final 5 games. Comparatively speaking in 2012 he had 579 snaps.
- Jah Reid, 3rd round pick and can’t bump a 7th round, undersized AQ Shipley from the starting lineup? Enough said…
- The defense lacked clutch play during key moments and it cost the team potential wins.
- The Ravens coaching staff failed to get any rookie not named Matt Elam or Marlon Brown meaningful playing time. They’ll be needed in 2014 yet take the field as green, inexperienced rookies.
- Play calling, in-game decisions, ability to adjust on the fly and clock management are all areas of weakness that you wouldn’t expect from the coaching staff of a championship team.
- Yielding the second most sacks (48) and producing just 3.1 ypc (32nd ranked) is a horrific performance by an offensive line. They are by far the single biggest reason why the Ravens are at home in January. And this isn’t all on Juan Castillo.
- The Ravens ranked 31st in red zone offensive efficiency, ahead of only the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
- The acquisition of Michael Huff may be the worst free agent signing in Ravens history.
It’s not an indicator of a good season when a team’s kicker is its MVP but in the case of the Ravens, there’s no denying that their best player was Justin Tucker. The sophomore placekicker had a phenomenal season connecting on 38 of 41 FGA’s (92.7%), 6 of 7 from 50+ including the 61-yard game winner in Detroit. Tucker’s 38 FG’s and 140 points are both team records.
Despite it being a very trying 2013 season, the year on whole has been a glorious one filled with riveting games, memories that will last a lifetime and of course another World Championship.
Every year should be so good!