Ravens Have to Get Better

The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox Ravens Have to Get Better

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8-8, the definition of mediocrity in the NFL.

And mediocre is clearly an accurate description for the 2016 Baltimore Ravens.

This isn’t anything new. Since the purple, black and gold confetti fell upon the Super Bowl 47 Champions in New Orleans back on February 3, 2013 the Ravens are 32-34 – slightly less than mediocre.

Save for 2014, the Ravens offense has struggled.

Save for 2014, the Ravens haven’t been able to run the football.

Save for 2014, the Ravens were among the six most penalized teams each season.

Save for 2014, the Ravens have failed to produce a winning season in the last four.

Throughout 2016 we listened as John Harbaugh said that they want to run the football yet 27 other teams ran it more. We heard him say that the mistakes they made along the way were correctable, yet they repeated the same mistakes over and over. We heard him say that the Ravens have to stop hurting themselves with penalties, yet each week they regularly outpaced their opponents in the category featuring yellow laundry.

Today during his season-ending presser Harbaugh repeatedly said that, “we have to get better.”

But can they?

The Ravens approach to football seems so obsolete. It’s as if they haven’t changed with the times. Harbaugh has never really been looked upon as an X’s and O’s kind of coach. He’s a motivator, a manager and someone who can get his players to give all they’ve got. Therefore, he’s reliant upon his coordinators to lead the charge when it comes to game planning and innovation and help bring the Ravens out of the dark ages.

And today we learned that all three coordinators would return in 2017.

The rest of the AFC North just stood up and applauded because they know that there’s a great chance that the Ravens will remain mediocre and we’ll all find ourselves in the same spot next year, saying the same things about needing to play better and watching 12 other teams not named the Ravens mix it up during the postseason dance.

I’m shocked!

Seriously.

I’m shocked because I never expected Steve Bisciotti to sit around and allow this to happen for another season. If during his days as a CEO, Bisciotti rolled into Aerotek’s National Sales Meeting and revenues were flat for four consecutive years, I’m guessing some heads would roll. But because he has such respect for the football guys he employs and because said football guys have a greater football acumen than the guy who strokes those big checks, Bisciotti defers to their overrated level of NFL competency.

So here we are talking about corners and edge rushers and wide receivers again. Here we are talking about bringing in some playmakers. Here we are talking about football being a game of inches and that the Ravens need to find the guys to win those extra inches in closely fought games.

Here’s an idea – maybe Bisciotti should hire Al Pacino!

Surely I jest – well at least a little…

But really, what is going to change in 2017?

Dean Pees will return and when the Ravens kick off their 2017 season, Pees will be 68 and still employing the bend-but-don’t-break approach that inspired Bill Belichick to show him the door years ago. But here in Baltimore, Harbaugh holds the door open for the master of the 4th quarter flop – the coordinator who turns into Kris Kringle as the clock winds down.

On offense Harbaugh has decided to bring back Marty-ball and pair him up with Check Down Joe for one more season. Gee if only Ray Rice was around to help convert more of those 4th-and-29 situations, everything would be great.

Mornhinweg has done next to nothing as an offensive coordinator over the years. He was an Andy Reid slacky and now he’s a Harbaugh slacky although at least Andy was a play caller. Mornhinweg won next to nothing other than a coin toss in Detroit and we all know what he did with that.

There’s a reason that Mornhinweg was willing to take a job as Joe Flacco’s quarterback coach! Do you think if Marty was let go that any NFL team would hire him as a coordinator?

I’d hate to work in ticket sales for the Ravens this offseason. If you thought 2016 attendance was thinning with more empty seats and more fan apathy, wait until 2017 if the Ravens go 0-for-October again.

They might be calling M&T, “Jacksonville North”.

All that being said, I thought that given the mail-it-in effort from Sunday, that instead of focusing on that exhibition game, I’d focus on the season in its entirety instead.

THE GOOD

Terrance West (774 yards, 4.0 YPC) and Kenneth Dixon (382 yards, 4.3 YPC) were both solid contributors despite not being worked as hard as most hoped. Many of their yards came after initial contact. With an improved approach to the running game with more technical efficiency in the blocking scheme, this pair could double this total. But with the same old approach expected with the same old schemes, it’s hard to imagine things being any better in 2017…Kyle Juszczyk had a great campaign and was the only reliable back in terms of pass protection. He’s also a solid contributor on teams. He is an unrestricted free agent but I look for him to return. The demand for fullbacks is light and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg is likely to put up a big fight to retain Juice. Rosburg seems to win such battles.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Mike Wallace had a productive season (72 receptions, 1,017 yards) but was underutilized as a deep threat. He carries a cap charge of $8M and a salary of $4.75M into 2017. It’s possible that he’s played his last down in Baltimore. The Ravens can pick up $5.75M in cap space by setting Wallace free…Steve Smith, Sr. fought to the end and he was an offensive spark plug (70 receptions, 779 yards, 5 TD’s) …Dennis Pitta was often on the receiving end of Check Down Joe while leading the team with 86 catches for 729 yards. If someone had said that Pitta would catch more balls than any other Raven back in July, said someone would probably be forced to take a drug test. Kudos to Pitta for the effort, the determination and for fielding the nauseatingly steady stream of questions about his hip while maintaining his poise.

Although he faded late Terrell Suggs should be given his due for fighting through a biceps tear yet still leading the team in sacks (8) and forced fumbles (3) at the age of 34…Brandon Williams also faded late but up until the game against the Eagles he played at a Pro Bowl level. Unfortunately, he’s played his last down as a member of the Ravens…Michael Pierce surprised many from the start of training camp right on through the season. Pro Football Focus actually ranked him (30th) ahead of Williams (36th) as an interior defender although he took 261 fewer snaps…C.J. Mosley bounced back from a disappointing 2015 with a very productive 2016. He was among the league’s best inside backers…Zach Orr dropped off measurably in December but up until then he was a pleasant surprise.

Eric Weddle proved to be a smart buy from Ozzie Newsome and his presence on the back end helped, specifically in the area of leadership and communication. His presence also helped to boost team interceptions from a league low of 6 in 2015 to a tie for the league lead in 2016 with 18. However, when facing the league’s best QB’s, the Ravens failed on the back end and Weddle has to accept some of the blame. In 2015 the Ravens were ranked 10th defending the pass but fell to 24th in 2016.

The Ravens 2016 draft class was their best in years with measurable contributions from Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Tavon Young, Dixon and Matt Judon. Chris Moore was a productive special teams player.

THE BAD

Joe Flacco inconsistencies are a microcosm of the Ravens season. He has shown little progression since Super Bowl 47. He continues to predetermine where he’s going with the football, regularly fails to allow plays to develop and opts instead for premature check downs. His long ball skills have fallen despite possessing one of the most powerful arms in the world. The Ravens ranked 26th in the league in completions of 20+ yards (40) despite leading the league in passing attempts (679). The way the Ravens salary cap is allocated, Flacco has to play better or mediocrity will be a common theme as long as he’s around. The Ravens team passer rating had a rank of 24th (82.6) and the Ravens’ yards per pass play ranked 27th (6.4) …One way the Ravens can improve their ground attack in 2017 is to find a new center. Jeremy Zuttah is manhandled too often particularly when facing stout nose tackles. Should he return as the starter, expect the Ravens to be pass happy again next season.

Buck Allen was a disappointment. From the day Patrick Onwuasor decked him during training camp right on through the season, Allen lacked confidence and decisiveness. His only real contribution all season was a blocked punt against the Steelers…Breshad Perriman flashed but he lacks consistency with his route running and his hands. He’s the 2015 first-round pick yet he remains a project. “Project” is not how a team wants to describe a first-round pick…When the Ravens rolled into Training Camp 2016, they had what appeared to be an embarrassment of riches at tight end. Here we are 6 months later and now it’s just an embarrassment. Only the highly written off Pitta made any real contributions. Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore were big disappointments, Nick Boyle missed 10 games while Ben Watson missed them all. Darren Waller has some promise.

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Kamalai Correa looked like a stud during training camp. Then he got bogged down by the playbook and played slow. At this point he looks much more like the next Arthur Brown than the next Jamie SharperShareece Wright was signed to a three-year, $13M deal this past offseason that included a $4M signing bonus. That deal was three years too many. The Ravens can save $2.67M by saying goodbye to Wright. If he returns in 2017, the Ravens failed to improve at corner…Elvis Dumervil finally came clean and admitted that his foot problem was worse than he let on – a partially torn Achilles. Thanks for the memories. One-dimensional speed rushers who aren’t so speedy anymore and less agile with their bend AND cost $8.375M against the cap are (hound) dogs. Elvis should leave the building…Will the real Za’Darius Smith please stand up in 2017.

THE UGLY

This ugly category would probably have taken a different direction if not for John Harbaugh’s press conference during which he unleashed his inner Tony D’Amato and then proclaimed that all of his coordinators would return in 2017. Wow!

In life, we are told that doing things the same way and expecting different results qualifies as insanity. The Ravens, by bringing back Messrs. Pees and Mornhinweg have by definition gone insane.

And if things don’t improve in 2017, it will redefine “The Ugly” at The Castle.

THE MEGAN FOX

He’s a great guy, active in the community, multi-talented, an outstanding spokesperson for an outstanding sponsor (Royal Farms) and he just finished an insanely productive 2016 that would have been flawless if not for the Ravens being outcoached by Bill Belichick & Co. on December 12 when his only missed FGA was blocked by a long-snapper leaping Shea McClellin. With all due respect it’s sad that a kicker is your team MVP for a season but that’s exactly what Justin Tucker deservedly is.

FINAL THOUGHTS

• Today John Harbaugh proudly stated that they were the best defense in the NFL for 12 weeks. He then added they were among the worst for the final four weeks. Is this supposed to be a good thing?

• I wonder how much influence Joe Flacco had in Mornhinweg’s return? I also wonder if Flacco prefers not to have a demanding coordinator at the helm and opted for the path of least resistance. If so, he won. But I’m sure if the offense is stuck in first gear at the quarter pole next season, it’ll be Marty’s fault.

• Harbaugh’s decision to retain all coordinators suggests that he believes the team’s problems are more about personnel than coaching. I see this as Bisciotti giving Harbaugh all the rope he needs to…

• So there’s a new QB Coach coming to town? Who might that be? Hmmm, is there any former Eagles coach that John worked with in Philly that he hasn’t hired in Baltimore?

• It’s now safe to say that Ravens ticket prices will remain the same.

• If you want to buy PSL’s, now would be a good time.

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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 and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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