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Lombardi's Way Ravens Repair Man

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24+ Comments Pete says Excellent analysis. I especially agree with the point about drafting a quarterback now.
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1. Fix the Offensive Line

The most obvious weakness and by far the single biggest deterrent to the Ravens success in 2013 was the horrific play of the offensive line. Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times, good for second highest in the league and the running game was a putrid 30th in yards and a league worst in yards per carry (3.1).

The repairs won’t come easy and they won’t generate production immediately as offensive fronts take time to gel. Ozzie Newsome needs to: 1) Re-sign Eugene Monroe; 2) Closely monitor the rehabilitation of Kelechi Osemele; 3) Sign a cerebral veteran center; 4) Take the line calls away from Marshal Yanda; and 5) Draft or sign a road grader at right tackle. Michael Oher, nice story but that movie is so over.

If the Ravens want toimprove their odds to make it back to the Super Bowl, it starts with an overhauled offensive front.

 

2. Fix the Running Game

Word is that the Ravens changed the strength and conditioning regiment of running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, emphasizing power while apparently sacrificing agility and explosiveness. 86 that program! Why the Ravens felt compelled to noodle around with what was arguably one of the best 1-2 punches in any NFL backfield just wreaks of arrogance. Let these two battle it out and may the best man be the featured back, contract be damned. And while you’re at it Ozzie, find a third down back – one who can actually convert a 3rd & 1 so your offensive coordinator doesn’t feel compelled to inexplicably empty the backfield in such situations.

 

3. Coaching Staff/Front Office Changes

Speaking of offensive coordinators, clearly it’s time for a new one who has complete control and doesn’t have to look over his shoulder. The Ravens offense compared to the league’s best is like comparing rotary phones to smart phones. The Ravens offensive game planning has been anything but smart – just predictable and unimaginative. It’s time to find a fearless play caller who can instill the same qualities in an offense sorely lacking an identity.

Like their counterparts on offense, the Ravens defense lacks an identity as well. The bend but don’t break mentality of Dean Pees might help keep the team in games for three quarters but it breaks down in the fourth when opposing offenses go into full blown attack mode. The Ravens gave up 63 points each during the first and third quarters this season and 89 and 134 in the second and fourth quarters respectively. To put that fourth quarter in perspective, the Ravens 2000 defense gave up 165 points in total during their championship season.

The Ravens have always been an opportunistic defense built on multiple looks – hence the defense formerly known as organized chaos. They once forced turnovers and scored points. This season the Ravens were ranked 19th overall in forced turnovers with 24, only one of which went for a score. They forced just 5 fumbles all season and were tied for 17th in sacks (40) after gathering 28 sacks through the first 8 games of the season. The pass rush fizzled markedly down the stretch, as the Ravens were only able to take down opposing QB’s 3 times during the last 5 games of the season.

Lastly, the Ravens have focused upon bringing in smart players with strong character and while that is generally a good strategy it wouldn’t hurt to bring in a few players with some attitude – the type that John Harbaugh seems to have flushed out of the roster. Anquan Boldin brought attitude on offense and Bernard Pollard, love him or not, brought attitude to the defense. As one league exec shared with me, “A little thug isn’t a bad thing in the NFL.”

 

4. Obtain a Big WR

Despite a second half fade Torrey Smith showed improvement in 2013 and given his great work ethic and the fact that he’ll be playing for his next contract in 2014, it stands to reason that the improvement will continue. That said, Smith doesn’t possess the ball skills or the ability to consistently make contested catches. The back shoulder throw disappeared from the Ravens offense despite its development in 2012 – perhaps another thing lost with Boldin’s departure.

The Ravens, if they want to get the most out of their investment in Joe Flacco, need a big bodied, big play receiver with a big wingspan who can help mitigate Flacco’s accuracy issues and improve his efficiency in the red zone.

 

5. Draft a Quarterback

It’s time that the Ravens bring in a quarterback who could be the possible successor to Joe Flacco and one who could be a reliable backup in the event of injury. Flacco’s contract was written like a 3-year deal and both he and the team’s front office will have to reset the deal after the 2015 season. It would make sense for the club to have a young player with starter potential in the wings in the event that the sides can’t come to terms on an extension for the 2016 season and beyond. Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome and Pat Moriarty can’t afford to let Flacco and his agent Joe Linta hold them hostage in 2 seasons like they did after Super Bowl XLVII. And don’t think that they won’t.

“I’ve never in my life seen a dumber move”, Linta said about the Ravens handling of Flacco before the 2012 season.

“I guess people can say, ‘Well, Joe was dumb, too.’ It could have been [dumb], God forbid, if he got hurt. But $1 million to [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti six years from now? That’s like 100 bucks for you or me today.

“I’m not apologetic for the fact [the new landmark $120.6M contract] is really a three-year deal, there’s no way they can afford $29 million a couple of years from now, I’m not apologetic. They chose to walk away.”

Doesn’t sound like a guy who won’t stick it to the Ravens again if given the chance.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham. Follow Tony on Twitter @RussellStReport. More from Tony Lombardi
24 comments
Pete
Pete

Excellent analysis. I especially agree with the point about drafting a quarterback now.

Mark
Mark

Tony, Excellent column. Your point about why a big receiver is needed is on the money but rarely discussed. Although Flacco can stretch the field with his arm, he is not an accurate short and intermediate passer in the mold of Brady, Brees, Manning and Rodgers. These guys almost always hit receivers in stride resulting in many YAC. Brady is particularly adept at throwing to short receivers with a small catching radius. Even Cameron understood the advantage of throwing big to big when it came to Joe. It's no surprise that Marlon Brown was a favorite target even though he was a rookie. Joe lneeds more big targets. Lets give him some. I hope the Ravens use two early picks on a big WR and big TE to maximize Joe's efficiency in the short and intermediate levels. With regard to drafting a QB, it seems more likely we get someone toward the end of the draft like Jeff Mathews of Cornell but this is the year to get somebody. Was it Ron Wolf who said draft a QB every year?

JerryB
JerryB

Tony: Flacco is either a FRANCHISE QB or he's not! Every team with a franchise QB deals with the same cap constraints. Obviously, the Ravens believe that he IS their franchise QB and paid him accordingly. We can all agree to disagree on whether or not ANY of them are worth it, but that's REALITY in today's NFL! Like I've said, I heard John Unitas booed at home on any number of occasions, so I learned long ago not to pay attention to fans......

Ron
Ron

I agree with all of these points and pretty much said a lot of the same stuff in this to some friends this past week. Oher, gone. Sign Monroe if it's a friendly deal, if it's to much see if you can sign a better LT for same price and they really REALLY need a vet center. Out of all of the off season loses I really think after it was all said and done Birk was the biggest loss. Bring in a hammer for third and short if you can find one. The coaching staff needs an overhaul for sure, Caldwell and Castillo really do need to go, but we know that won't happen to Harbs friends, at least not both of them. A Sammy Watkins type in the draft would be amazing but sadly he'll be long gone by the time the Ravens pick. I like Lee from USC but don't if he's worth the 16/17 pick in the draft and Evans from A&M I am not a huge believer in at all and think it would be a future bust pick in the middle of the first round to pick him, but they do need a big bodied, strong handed play maker, who can run short and sometimes deep routes. Also need to let Dickson walk and either give Furstenburg a shot or draft a backup TE. And while I am huge believer in Joe at QB, it sure wouldn't hurt to bring in a much better back-up than Taylor, who I think frankly is pretty terrible. All these people clamoring for Taylor to come in annoy the heck out me, they just don't get that the biggest reason he is here is because he's F'N cheap! They'd much rather have the money to bring in a vet back up like they did with Marc Bulger a few years back, but they can't afford to pay a back-up 3.8 million again right now, not even close. So drafting a QB maybe no earlier than the 3rd round that can come and learn under a new OC, and Joe and the rest of the team would be a positive thing.

Walter C. Schmidt
Walter C. Schmidt

Conditioning, I agree is the key to finishing a game. PLAY 60, should the Motto for The Ravens, next year. Does Anyone agree with me- Ok Coach Harbs? Rebuild the O-Line with The Thugs, you need to get yardage, when it counts. Draft or sign a tough WR, is this out of the Question? Please go back to the 3-Headed Monster, you used last year, didn't it work? Please develop-draft or sign "Tougher" people, to be Your Next Man Up. Divide your reps, for three steady rb's, is this possible? This season was a hiccup, please don't let it happen again. Give Us The Raven Nation A Reason To Believe.

jimjim5
jimjim5

Tony, Thank you for this article. I have speculated your "Fix the Running Game" topic for three years now as I watched Rice's body and natural talent erode as each year passed. Initially, I was attacked on the forums for this stance. After seeing Rice, Ray, Reed, Dawan Laundry develop to look cartoonishly big, and slow. Then seeing Dawan look MUCH quicker, albeit smaller (like the guy we drafted) for the Jets this year, and researching and finding this article: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2008-04-06/sports/0804060219_1_rogucki-free-weights-weight-room about the the Ravens S&C program change, I felt completely justified with my thoughts going into the season this past year. I am curious to know where the S&C whispers are originating from??? I don't understand why the team couldn't see this issue developing.

Hate Milquetoast
Hate Milquetoast

I miss Bernard Pollard!!! He was not a cover guy, but man he instilled fear!!

Boldin Raver
Boldin Raver

I think you are on point, Tony, although I think people have a way of not hearing what the front office was telling us plain as day at last year's State of the Ravens. They told us their plan for this year and executed as promsed by "not selling the future," focusing 2013 on the middle of the defense in free agency and the draft and not mentioning they chose to accept a high level of risk with their offense and crossed their fingers ... whereupon everything totally broke: Harewood and Reid dreams of being NFL calibur, breaking in Gino, the champagne bottle breaking on Jacoby and Mount McKinnie's departure ... Osemele, Pitta and Rice being, well, broke. With the lack of pass protection and they needed a "hot read" game (but they lacked hot read receivers), play action (but nobody respected the running game), screen, slants, draws (but the offensive line couldn't block) Add in whatever the hell that was with the "run game coordinator" and "offensive line coach" and as you said, the offense line was HORRIFIC. Fix that line and everything else starts looking waaaay better. Pees? I actually like his strategy, think he built a solid foundation and I think he probably wants thugs more than you give him credit for. But I think the D would have been more aggressive had the FO not made the mistake with Huff. I think Elam will be a berzerker as he develops, and we'll probably get a future berzerker at MLB and/or safety, but Brown should turn out to be a very solid versatility guy. Either way, they had to "reset" post Lewis/Reed. Right now it looks like fixing the offense will be a huge challenge, but not much worse than what they went through with the D last year.

JerryB
JerryB

Harbaugh's purge of some players with attitudes combined with his infamous, "dog house", suggest that he's looking more for a "choirboy" mentality than a.....thug! Maybe he forgets that it was the latter mentality that contributed to two Super Bowl wins. As for the much talked about contract, please get over it! The guy gambled and.....won! If winning a Super Bowl is some kind of "standard" of excellence as those who predicted that he'd never win won suggest, that notion's been put to rest! The guy had one bad year in 6, deprived of playmakers, a running game, an OL and quality, imaginative coaching. That's not likely to recur, so let's just.....MOVE ON!

SeaBass
SeaBass

The offensive design was predicated on at a minimum having a decent running game. No running game = play-action passes don't work = limited success throwing the ball down field. That pretty much describes what happened to the Ravens.

purpleneonexpress
purpleneonexpress

Tony, you've been on fire the last couple of columns, astutely pointing out the issues with this team and the dysfunction that lies just under the surface. I especially like the way you've held Harbie accountable, while he gets a free ride with the rest of the Ravens friendly press. I don't think the owner is particularly happy with Harbie right now, let us know if you hear anything about their relationship. The owner had to force Harbie to fire Cameron because Harbie refused to fire his security blanket. Now we have the Castillo hire, a disaster by any standard that cost the owner a couple of million with negative results. Castillo and Harbie managed to destroy an offensive line and handicap the team for the entire season. Then there was the abysmal coaching in the Patriot's game, where the large gulf in coaching ability between Belichicks staff and Harbie's staff was on full display. I also believe Harbie had his fingerprints all over the Boldin situation. Harbie seems to want a collection of wimps as players, anyone that speaks his mind or tells the truth or upsets the apple cart in not wanted by Harbie. Maybe Harbie should learn how to handle the Pollards and the Boldins of the world because they make your team better. Harbie's solution? Just get rid of them. So this year we had a team with all the loudmouths gone, nobody gonna challenge Harbie in the locker room. A bunch of "white milk" players is what we had and Harbie's was not able to coach em up. The presser tomorrow should be interesting. Love to watch the body language of Harbie and Biscotti. I would especially like to see the look on Biscotti's face when Harbie is talking. Great work Tony!

John P
John P

Well said! As far as Flacco is concerned, forget worrying about Linta holding them hostage. Paybacks are a b1tch and Linta will get what he deserves if Joe doesn't start producing. The bigger need is merely having a capable backup. Joe was obviously playing hurt the last couple of games. He should have been benched in Cincy, but everyone knows Tyrod Taylor is incapable of filling in so we stuck it out with him. Kudos to Joe for sticking it out though. He's one tough hombre.

rolo
rolo

I agree, Ray Rice has tree trunks for legs and can't move...way to many leg presses! Since this is a passing league, guys like Cody, Williams, Ngata, & Suggs are all way out of shape and conditioning is an issue. Ever notice the 49ers or Seahawks defensive front? They are huge up top to stop the run but they are trim in the middle to help stop the pass. Our guys are huge all over and are winded whenever up against a high potent offense (see the Broncos game this year).

purpleneonexpress
purpleneonexpress

Jerry, you said it better than me....Harbie wants a collection of choir boys in the locker room. He backed down when Pollard led the revolt in the locker room and poor Harbie was humiliated. He vowed never to let that happen again, so don't be expecting any bad asses on this team. Harbie can't handle them.

Tony Lombardi
Tony Lombardi

Get over it? Really? Maybe you have some ideas on how to make 2016's nearly $29M cap number go away? Jerry you are allowing your obvious affinity for Flacco taint your objectivity.

Nancy
Nancy

Why don't you bring back Brian Billick, better yet, why don't you coach since you seem so well versed in the art of professional football coaching.

JerryB
JerryB

"If Joe doesn't start producing? Did you sleep through his first 5 years?!

mc lovin
mc lovin

that article is 6 years old...news flash, guys in the nfl lift wieghts, take supplements, grow into men and get bigger in general. its not like the guys you mention havn't had lots of success in the years since, you know they were in the playoffs and actually won a superbowl using that program....if you think that was a major factor in them not making the playoffs, i'd say your way off base. as for being winded in denver on opening night.....you think playing in altitude, against manning and it being the first game of the year, maybe , just maybe had a hand in the winded theory??? i mean peyton threw 48 more touchdown passes after that 1st game, might a been a little payback??

Bill
Bill

The problem is that the Ravens have no real way of making it go away either. They'll have no leverage to make him take a paycut and the best they can hope for is that he produces to that level for the next 2 years and is worthy of an extension, or the cap goes up tremendously. Both Flacco's and Rice's contracts are structured horribly.

Reading Comments
Reading Comments

What about his next five? Those last five before this one was solid, that's not the discussion now. He is not getting paid in the future for what he did in the past going forward. He is getting paid on the EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT HE CAN DO BASED ON PAST PERFORMANCE. And yes there is a difference. It's one thing to be loyal, it's another thing to be clueless. I want to see Flacco play better. Those last two games were garbage. And there were many times he had time to throw and he was awful with his decision making. He is getting 50+ mil guaranteed, plus his salary. I will call it like it is from now on. If he plays well, I will defend him, if he plays like crap I will not and call him. Stop trying to put lipstick on a pig boy!

jimjim5
jimjim5

The program can get out of control if nutrition is not carefully controlled you know. How many TRULY athletic people do you know that fell in love with weight and the strength that comes with it? I know many. Anyway I'd be willing to bet $100 that Rice will come back smaller. Let me ask you this - name 5 great rb's and 5 great Wr's that changed their body composition while at the top of their game? Second

JerryB
JerryB

So, big contracts are based on EXPECTATIONS! And, 5 straight years of playoffs, including 3 AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl Championship don't count! Really?! Then, why did they WAIT until AFTER the season to negotiate the deal? He gets paid to do one thing......WIN! And, he's done it consistently, including this year when he won 8 games surrounded by inferior talent! Flacco got his big pay day the old fashioned way........he EARNED it!

Mac
Mac

That, sir, was a fine piece of commentary there! The big contract Joe received was not a reward for the previous five years. His play in the past merely put him in a position to demand and receive the big payday. The contract was granted with the expectation that he will continue that trajectory. I too want to see him do well and hopefully the organization gets the o-line, coaching and running game squared away to get him to that point but a 29 million dollar cap hit is outrageous if he's going to be throwing 22 ints a year!

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