The Ravens are on their bye week and the players will be off until Monday. It’s a time to convalesce. It’s a time for reflection. It’s probably also a time for a reality check.
On Monday, Luke Jones from WNST asked John Harbaugh:
“You’ve changed coordinators in the past with offenses that, statistically, were better than this one. In both cases, you’ve cited wanting to get a spark. What makes you believe that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is still the right guy to lead this offense?
“I understand – fair question. It was more than that in those instances. I think those kinds of decisions are always fairly complex and cut to the heart of what you’re trying to do; those are tough choices to make. But, I see an identity to this offense. I understand the identity; I understand where we’re going as an offense. I have a good feel for what we’re trying to accomplish, and I can look at it, and I can see where we’re going to build.”
Maybe Harbaugh just didn’t want to throw his OC under the bus publicly.
Maybe he wants to project optimism and inspire his team to collectively hang on to what little hope remains in 2017.
Maybe the Ravens head coach is delusional.
Despite what Steve Bisciotti shared with us during The Ravens Rap in OCMD on October 18, John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ozzie Newsome are doing things that are wrong. The team’s problems run deep and they cross over from the front office to the sidelines to the field.
That’s the reality.
Let’s hope the organization understands it. Otherwise 2018 will look a lot like 2017, 2016 and 2015. With that in mind, here’s a look in the rearview mirror at the things we’ve seen so far.
Best player: Jimmy Smith
The Ravens 2011 first-round draft pick slid to the 27th overall pick, not because his talent wasn’t worthy of a higher pick, but primarily due to character red flags. Character has never been an issue while Smith has been in Baltimore. The issue the former Colorado Buffalo has had to overcome as a pro, is the injury bug. It has bitten Smith often. Even this season, he’s carefully managing a tender Achilles but the plan is going well and Smith’s play is even better. Opposing quarterbacks are avoiding him because his technique is as sound as ever and he’s making more plays on the ball, as evidenced by his second-ranked 34.5 passer rating allowed per Pro Football Focus (“PFF”).
Runner up: Justin Tucker
Most Improved: Ryan Jensen
The entire offseason fans clamored for the Ravens to sign free agent C Nick Mangold. The team even brought Mangold in to kick his old Jets’ tires. But they passed on the former Buckeye. Then, seemingly desperate, the Ravens re-signed Jeremy Zuttah who never made the final 53. All along, the guy the Ravens needed was right under their collective nose – Ryan Jensen, PFF’s 7th ranked center through nine games.
Runner up: Matt Judon
Most Surprising (Good or Bad): Eric Weddle
Last year he was a welcomed addition to the Ravens secondary. He brought leadership and enthusiasm and he played at an All-Pro level. This season, playing beside highly-regarded free agent Tony Jefferson, Weddle was expected to be even better. Instead, he looks a bit like a fish out of water as a back-end roamer. Perhaps he’s still adjusting, but the drop off from 2016-17 has been precipitous.
Runner up: Alex Collins (Good)
Most Disappointing: Tony Jefferson
The plethora of injuries to key players should probably be listed as the most disappointing thing in 2017 thus far. But this category is intended for a player – and that player is Tony Jefferson. Jefferson’s ability to play up in the box was supposed to afford Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees with unprecedented flexibility in the secondary. But Pees hasn’t used Jefferson often enough near the line of scrimmage and in coverage Jefferson has been a liability. He’s the 56th ranked safety this season according to PFF but the 10th highest paid per Spotrac. That spells disappointment.
Runner up: Breshad Perriman
Best Moment: Shutout the Bengals
The Ravens have struggled against the Bengals, particularly in Cincinnati where they had lost 7 of their previous 8 outings. But the Ravens played old school football during their season opener, forcing turnovers, winning the battle for field position, controlling the clock and running effectively. They even protected their quarterback, Joe Flacco, who skipped the entire preseason with a herniated disk issue, asking him to throw just 17 times on their way to a 20-0 win.
Runner up: Overall team performance v. Raiders
Worst Moment: Losing to The Bears in OT
The (3-2) Ravens hosted the (1-4) Chicago Bears who committed to starting rookie Mitch Trubisky. At the time, John Harbaugh teams had yet to lose at home to a rookie signal caller. Yet with 5:29 remaining in the game the Ravens trailed 24-13. Despite not scoring an offensive touchdown during the game, the Ravens rallied to tie it at 24 and send the game into overtime.
After exchanging punts during the first two possessions in OT, the Ravens had the Bears and their rookie QB pinned at the Chicago 7-yard line following a Sam Koch punt of 45 yards. On the very next play, Eric Weddle tried tackling the ball instead of Jordan Howard who rambled 53 yards to flip the field and set up the game winning FG by Connor Barth.
Runner up: Loss to the Jaguars in London
Outlook for The Rest of the Regular Season
The Ravens will face 3 backup quarterbacks in their final 7 games, two of which will be at home. Four of their final 7 will be at home. Three of the opposing defenses remaining on the schedule are currently among the league’s top 9 and that represents a challenge for the Ravens 30th ranked offense.
My predictions (home team in CAPS)
Ravens 24, PACKERS 17 (5-5)
Texans 20, RAVENS 17 (5-6)
Lions 27, RAVENS 20 (5-7)
STEELERS 30, Ravens 16 (5-8)
Ravens 16, BROWNS 13 (6-8)
RAVENS 30, Colts 24 (7-8)
RAVENS 19, Bengals 16 (8-8)