LOMBARDI’S WAY: WHY WORRY ABOUT A 7-2 TEAM?

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: WHY WORRY ABOUT A 7-2 TEAM?

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The Ravens are off to their best start in franchise history and they hold a three game edge in the AFC North. They also look like a lock to make the postseason dance.
 
So why all the worrying among the team’s staunchest supporters?
 
If someone would have told you after being embarrassed by the Vikings in the preseason that the Ravens would occupy the exact position in the standings that they currently enjoy entering Week 11 you would have exclaimed, “Ok, enough of the Purple KoolAid!”
 
Yet if the playoffs were to start today the Ravens would be the third seed in the AFC Playoff picture and they would host one of the wild card teams.
 
But don’t get too excited.
 
The worrying has some merit.
 
If you look at the Ravens defense, the team’s backbone throughout the Billick Administration, there are signs of weakness. Even if you write off the Titans’ thrashing of the Ravens defensive front as an aberration considering that they entered that game as the No. 28 ranked offense, you must at least be concerned about the Ravens’ secondary and its propensity to give up the big play.
 
Ask the members of the secondary why there are regular breakdowns and they quickly point to communication or the lack thereof. Yet the most consistent member of the secondary is also its newest and youngest member, Dawan Landry.
 
When will the communication improve? Haven’t Samari Rolle and Ed Reed and Chris McAlister played together long enough? Should these communication problems be such a lingering issue?
 
And while you’re chewing on that one, what does communication have to do with Rolle being turned around by Drew Bennett like he was auditioning for Dancing With The Stars? On a simple out pattern no less?
 
After the game Rolle pointed out that, “Drew knows me and knows how I cover,” speaking of his former teammate. “He made some good moves and has a way of getting himself open and making the catch. But the bottom line is we won the game.”
 
Clearly that is the bottom line but why is it that Bennett knows how Rolle covers but Rolle can’t read Bennett’s route running? That familiarity should go both ways, right?
 
The bottom line in the secondary is that the Ravens defensive backfield has done nothing to deter opponents from attacking it with confidence. Until he proves otherwise, Samari Rolle is a marked man and he will be thrown at and run on until he can start to break up passes and convince himself that he has no business tackling anyone above the waist with that 175 pound frame of his.
 
The worries don’t end there either.
 
By his own admission Brian Billick knows the Ravens need more balance in their offensive attack. If they don’t run the football better, the Ravens will not advance in the playoffs. It’s that simple. And the way things are currently configured there is very little to no compelling evidence to suggest that they will.
 
So far the Ravens have faced ineffective run defenses such as Tampa (24), Oakland (26), Cleveland (30), New Orleans (22), Cincinnati (23) and Tennessee (31). Against these not very ground stingy defenses Jamal Lewis has averaged 3.6 yards per carry on 129 carries. On average these defenses yield 4.6 yards per carry to the rest of the league when they aren’t playing the Ravens.
 
Tennessee yields 5.0 yards per carry to teams not called the Ravens while the Browns and the Saints give up 5.0 and 5.3 yards per carry, respectively.
 
What did the Ravens average against these teams?
 
Try 2.4, 3.2 and 3.5 yards per carry.
 
Jamal Lewis on the season is averaging a shade over 3.4 yards per attempt. His longest run from scrimmage (v. Tampa) is 27 yards and of his 168 carries only two have gone for more than 20 yards and only 8 have gone for more than 10 yards — less than 5 percent of his carries. Eighty-two of his carries (49%) have gone for 2 yards or less. And perhaps the most important stat looking ahead to the post season, Lewis is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
 
Will that get it done in the postseason?
 
You can’t change the entire offensive line — not at this point. And why would you given the protection they’ve given Steve McNair as of late?
 
No, it’s time to change the running back or at the very least it’s time to slice up and dice up the workload. It’s worth a try! It can’t get any worse. The Ravens are paying Mike Anderson $3 million this year. For what? If you project out his current number of carries over the entire season (25 for 109 yards to date) he would finish with 44 carries for the ’06 campaign.
 
That’s $68,182 per carry!
 
Now that ain’t chump change especially for such a chump workload.
 
And what has Musa Smith really done other than everything the Ravens have asked? Why isn’t he deserving of more touches?
 
The time is now to get this fixed. It’s not too late!
 
If the Ravens are expecting the 2003 version of Jamal Lewis to miraculously appear, for that it is too late. That player lies in pieces upon the Momentum Turf of M&T Bank Stadium.
 
Time to get busy and get it right Mr. Offensive Coordinator. If you don’t your Captain Comeback QB could be the next one lying on that turf and with him the team’s post season aspirations.
 
The Ravens are in a very good spot right now. It’s time that they assess how they got there and then make the proper adjustments to get to where it is they all want to go and can go should they put these worries aside — Miami in February!
 
But unless they make the running game and the secondary primary concerns, those aspirations like Jamal Lewis, will be running on empty.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 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.

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