When Mike Wallace joined the Ravens before last season, he made it clear he was looking to prove his doubters wrong. After enjoying immense success early in his career with the Steelers, Wallace struggled to repeat that production after signing a massive free agent contract with the Dolphins. He was traded after two seasons to the Vikings where he had the least productive year of his career and was subsequently cut for cap savings.
Wallace proved the naysayers wrong last season and doubled his production from 2015, while eclipsing 1000 yards for the first time since he was with the Steelers in 2011. Wallace’s success, though, wasn’t a reflection of the Ravens as a whole. The team stumbled to an 8-8 finish and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Wallace may need to come to the realization that his individual success will have to be sacrificed if the Ravens are going to return to the playoffs.
While being interviewed by the media on Tuesday, Wallace repeated “he needs the rock” seven times over the course of a four-minute interview, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. Now to be clear, Wallace’s tone was generally a playful one. He encouraged the media to deliver his message to Joe Flacco and egged on Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson to agree with him.
However, the fact that Wallace is even bringing this up (regardless of his tone) after only two weeks is somewhat troubling.
After four years of the Ravens allowing Flacco attempt to turn the Ravens into a pass-happy, high-octane offense, Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh came to the realization that blueprint wasn’t working. Their success from 2008-2012 was built around an efficient ground game and good defense.
After their seats began to get warmer after missing the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, they wisely went back to that formula for success, and after two games it’s working. Yes, the Ravens have played two bottom feeding teams and they’ll have some real tests over the next three weeks with both the Steelers and the Raiders, but even with an offensive line that just lost its best player, they need to stay committed to the ground game.
Make no mistake about it: the Ravens need to find a way to get more from both Wallace and Breshad Perriman. If the Ravens make it back to the playoffs, relying solely on the ground game and a punishing defense won’t cut it. Both the Patriots and Steelers will find ways to hang points regardless of how good the defense is.
But the Ravens knew from the get-go that this offense would have to evolve as the year went on. Considering the fact that Flacco missed the entire preseason, it’s not surprising that the game plan has been so conservative through the first two weeks.
Maybe Wallace missed that memo, or maybe he is truly just playing around. Usually behind every joke, though, there’s a little bit of truth – and Wallace made it clear that “he needs the rock.”
Chances are, though, that he won’t get it as much as he did last season, and whether he likes it or not, that’s probably a good thing for the Ravens.