Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has never been one to publicly criticize his players or coaches.
That’s not his style.
Last week was the perfect example of his preference to keep his displeasure in the confines of the Castle in Owings Mills. When asked about the organization’s interest in pursuing some help in the defensive backfield prior to the NFL’s trade deadline, Harbaugh shrugged and pulled a Buck Showalter saying he doesn’t think the team needs to and that he likes who he has.
Fast forward one week.
After Sunday night’s loss to the arm of Roethlisberger & Co., I was almost expecting Harbs to have his Mike Singletary moment during Monday afternoon’s presser (“Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them. Can’t do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win.”) regarding the team’s secondary woes.
Instead, while Harbaugh didn’t mention names it was clear he knows the Ravens are in trouble without Jimmy Smith while he recovers from injury. His words only echoed the look on his stern face.
“The best players play, to me, and the best players are the players who are playing the best. When some player expresses himself as being the best player by how he plays, he’ll be out there permanently. Until that happens, nobody is given anything. I think guys have played OK at times, well at other times, and there have been a few bad plays back there. Yesterday, we had two plays which were coverage bust – basically you call them. We were in the wrong spot. We weren’t on the same page. We misplayed the coverage, and there were three other times where we got beat physically. Those are bad things. It’s a good group, but we’re capable of covering them.
Let’s pause there for a second shall we.
Harbaugh has always been the type of coach who plays the guys that practice the best. That’s no secret!
The problem here lies not with who practices well but rather who is left, regardless of who practices well.
The mixed & matched secondary with and without Jimmy Smith certainly isn’t helping anyone except opposing quarterbacks.
Webby looks lost, Chykie Brown is lucky to be in a uniform, Dominque Franks is a 2014 version of Frank Walker. Matt Elam can’t tackle or cover, Stewart has been a disappointment regardless of what secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo thinks and Miles, Levine, Trawick are special teamers. The light hasn’t clicked on for the rookie Brooks as was the case throughout the summer and safety Will Hill is the only one given a pass for now. Hill did see his reps increased finally and graded out positive in his 63 total play counts against Pittsburgh.
So who exactly is left coach?
Moving on with the second part of Harbaugh’s statement.
“We have to look at what we’re doing scheme-wise, look at what we’re doing technique-wise. We have to play better technique. We’re not disciplined back there in technique like we need to be. Our eyes aren’t in the right spot all the time like they need to be. And when you’re in the back end – just like in the offensive line – your footwork has to be right, your eyes have to be right, your leverage has to be right, and then you have to play the ball well. We had one time where we were in great position and we misplayed the ball, and then we didn’t tackle. We’re looking for the right combination, but I think that’s a little overrated. I think it’s the best players. You want to play in that secondary? Step up and practice and play well and step up in the game and make plays and be in the right spot. And that’s what we’re looking for guys to do.”
Looking for the right combination is a bit overrated as he eluded to but when it comes to the best players what you see is what you get with this group, sorry to say. Entering week ten, the Ravens boast the NFL’s 26th worst pass defense giving up an average of 263.2 passing yards a game.
The bottom line is the Ravens dropped the ball this offseason and failed to address the concerns that many had entering 2014.
Hindsight is always 20/20 as we know but it’s clearly showing just how much the team misses the services of Corey Graham (19th best corner in coverage per Pro Football Focus) when they let him hit the free agent market. Even Graham wouldn’t be enough to save this group through the first nine games of the season.
So as the Ravens look to make a run starting on Sunday against the Titans the concern is real.
And the truth be told with a secondary that’s as leaky as the Ravens there are no “easy games” left on the schedule.
Buckle up folks it’s going to be another white knuckled ride and one I’m hoping ends with me eating crow in the not-too-distant future.
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