Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Ravens are 4-4 at the midway point of the season.
It’s been the story for the past three years (including this one), and we’re all aware of how the previous iterations ended. So is it too soon to give up? Yes and no. This team will probably limp into the playoffs, and some will call that a success. But this team isn’t anywhere near ready to win a third championship, and I call that a failing season. You play, to win, the [big] game. Looking back at yesterday’s loss, the 2018 Ravens simply aren’t capable of doing that.
Let’s take a look at what went right, and what went wrong.
This isn’t one of those ‘moral victory’ losses, like last week. However, there were some bright spots, so we’ll take a look at those before moving onto the steaming pile of horse manure that made up the rest of the team.
Eric Weddle. Weddle led the defense in PFF grading, with a 3.9. He wasn’t flashy, didn’t notch any picks or sacks [though he did tip a ball that could have easily been intercepted in the end zone, if CMC didn’t somehow out-athletic the entire Ravens defense…), but he was solid in the run, and good in coverage. The entire defense looked to be slow, and a step behind, so Eric’s usual lumbering pace was hidden in the rest of the mess.
Za’Darius Smith. ‘Z’ was quietly very good on Sunday, notching a 3.3 rating, and being involved on a number of plays. He had just two tackles, and a QB hit, but some plays don’t show up on the stat sheet. He showed a nose for the ball, and until he got hurt late in the game, controlled his assignments well.
Alex Collins. I know, I know. ‘But he fumbled!’ If you really think that the fumble was his fault, when he got missiled by an unblocked defender due to a missed block, I encourage you to stop watching football – or at least talking about it. Collins ran 11 times for 49 yards, good enough for a 4.5YPC, his second-highest average of the season. He also scored, and had a couple of grabs on a couple of targets.
Now for the fun part…
Boy, is there a lot of bad.
Joe Flacco. The leader of this team finished with his second-lowest completion percentage of the season, fewest yards, worst rating, and worst TD:INT ratio. He made two very bad decisions while trying to extend drives, both of which ended up as interceptions. It’s not ‘LamarJacksonSZN’, as many would like to think, or have you believe. It’s simply a bad game that can’t happen again…just like he has every year.
The Wide Receivers. ‘You want guys who can catch the ball.’ Yeah, coach. That’s kind of the point of being a wide RECEIVER. However, yesterday was a bad day for the hands of the ‘much improved’ wide receiver group in Baltimore. Between them, they had four unofficial drops (not counting TEs). Willie Snead led the group in yards (54), receptions (5), and YPR (10.8), but it took him 11 targets to get there. John Brown and Michael Crabtree only had three receptions apiece, for 28 and 31 yards, respectively. Marty wants this to be a passing offense so badly, but if they can’t catch, perhaps they should try to improve the run game?
The entire.. Freakin’.. Defense. This ain’t the same ol’ Ravens! Really, Weddle? Because it SURE LOOKS LIKE IT IS. The defense (sans Weddle and Z) was slow to the ball. They appeared to be a step behind, reacting instead of diagnosing. Two weeks removed from an 11 sack performance, the defense has recorded one sack in two games, and had a goose egg in Carolina. Wink’s ‘genius’ that he had shown through the first seven weeks, even in losses, was nowhere to be found. Jimmy Smith, a normally very good corner, allowed 5-of-6 passes thrown his way to be completed. C.J. Mosley couldn’t cover Greg Olsen with a blanket. It was a miserable performance, one that I, and the defense, would like to forget.
Playcalling. There’s some days where Marty is really freakin’ good. Then, there’s days like Sunday, where he’s really freakin’ bad. I have no idea what he was trying to make happen, but more often than not, I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming at the TV, because I know an object would be flying along with my words.
The Offensive Line. Outside of Marshal Yanda, and for the most part, Orlando Brown, Jr., the offensive line was in shambles. Hroniss Grasu was absolutely miserable, up to and including the whiffed block that caused the Collins fumble behind the line of scrimmage. To make matters worse, Ronnie Stanley had his leg rolled up on by Joe Flacco, and it immediately brought back memories of 2015. He came back into the game, but was noticeably slower. He’s now dealing with two injuries (remember, his shoulder is wrapped up), and the makeshift offensive line that Baltimore is fielding doesn’t help anything.
Normally, I would single out one part of the game, or one player, to put in this category. However. This week, I’m going for the fan base.
As if awakened from a seven week slumber, calls for Lamar Jackson arose just as soon as the game clock had hit 0:00.
It’s time for Lamar! We’ve had enough!
Why is it time for Lamar? Because he had one decent drive against a soft prevent defense in garbage time? Because he found a wide open Hayden Hurst for his first passing touchdown of his career? Or is it really because, after a loss, this fickle fanbase is too damn emotional to see past the box score?
Look, man…and woman, I guess. Flacco admittedly had a bad game. This season isn’t going to end in a championship. That doesn’t mean that you throw the rookie (who isn’t ready) into the fire, and ‘let him learn’. Here’s why.
— This offensive line is nowhere near capable of protecting him consistently, and that will force Lamar into his run-first mentality, getting him hit, and eventually hurt.
— Lamar has not shown that he can consistently run this offense.
— Lamar has not shown that he can consistently complete passes.
— You run the risk of stunting his growth, and forcing him into bad habits, under this coaching staff.
— You risk shaking his confidence, especially since throwing him in midseason is essentially saying ‘we’ve given up on this season, and that’s the only reason we’re going with you as our guy’.
I understand the reaction. Flacco has had at least one of these games, every single year. The fan base is tired of it. But if you truly expect LJ to succeed (I don’t, not as anything more than a stopgap), then you need to provide him with the best possible situation.
The Megan Fox
Oh, you guys really read this far? And you expected to have somebody actually win this award, this week? That’s cute. Really.
If I had to give one? It’d be Justin Tucker, who, a week removed from a complete ‘What the hell just happened’ situation, made every single one of his kicks.
But honestly, I really don’t feel like anybody on this team is worthy of it this week.
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