If you have paid any attention to the Baltimore Ravens during the past five years, you’ve probably heard plenty of complaints about the play calling, stemming from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. To the delight of many Ravens fans, Cameron was fired towards the end of the 2012 regular season and was replaced by the quarterback’s coach, Jim Caldwell. Since then, the Ravens’ offense has improved dramatically, running the ball more effectively and scoring more points. However, some hypocrisy is starting to rear its head as Ravens fans are continuing to complain about play calling, despite the improvements.
The biggest gripe with Cam Cameron was his neglect to run the ball. Ray Rice would sometimes rarely see the ball in the second half and the entire offense would fall apart. Now that Jim Caldwell has taken over, the Ravens are averaging 32 run plays per game and 415 yards per game of total offense. While the stats indicate all is well and good, fans are now beginning to see problems with how frequently the Ravens are running the ball.
To get this straight, at the beginning of the season, fans wanted the Ravens to run the ball more, but now people say they’re running it too much…makes perfect sense. While it seems contradictory, they may have a point to some degree.
During the AFC Divisional game against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens’ offense began to display very predictable play calling. The thought running through Caldwell’s head seemed to be “run the ball on first and second down and if you don’t have the first down yet, throw the ball.” Although the Ravens were able to eventually get a nice drive going with this strategy, it failed multiple times and gave the ball back to the Broncos way too frequently. Fans kept waiting for a play action pass on first down to throw off the defense but it never happened. While I’m all about running the ball more, this is a puzzling situation as the Ravens have all of the key pieces for deadly play action passes: Rice is an incredible threat on the ground, Joe Flacco is a great play action quarterback with a huge arm, and Torrey Smith is an incredible deep threat that will make safeties pay for coming up to stop the run.
We again saw this type of offense during the first half of the AFC Championship. Once it became clear that the Patriots were selling out on the run and forcing Flacco to make the plays to win the game, Caldwell put the ball in his hands, playing the rest of the game almost entirely in the shotgun. Flacco delivered and threw three touchdown passes to give the Ravens the win.
In the past, the Ravens offense was too quick to abandon the run, but now appears too hesitant to mix things up. While last week was a step in the right direction, the Ravens will need to change things up early against the 49ers if they want to get things moving on offense.