Saving The Season
Full disclosure – while I’ve covered the Ravens for years, I make no bones about the fact that I’m an unabashed fan of the team. That’s quite a contrast from the reporters regularly on the beat.
Over the years I’ve learned to temper my emotions, but this past Sunday I reverted back to the days when I suffered from what I call Football Tourette’s.
I hate the Tennessee Titans and all they stand for. And it starts with their smug head coach who sets the tone for the collection of punks that comprise their roster. Vrabel as an NFL skipper is akin to Charlie Sheen as a high school guidance counselor. My disdain for that team with the flaming thumb tack logo was alive and well before Sunday.
Then Sunday happened and things got worse. Just ask those who watched the game with me.
Don’t get me wrong. The Titans earned that win and as hard as it is for me to admit this given my affinity for the Ravens, Lamar Jackson was spot on after the game when he shared that the Titans wanted it more. And for me, “wanting it more” started before the game.
Now that I’ve had a few days to decompress, as a fan I’m in a better place. Moving forward, I’ll view each of the remaining games as opportunities to improve – to learn more about the team so that they can reset this offseason and address the glaring issues that confront John Harbaugh & Co.
Maybe they’ll make the playoffs. Maybe they won’t. With each passing day and each new case of COVID-19, the season feels like one that will be labeled with an asterisk. Just like the Dodgers World Series victory and the Lakers NBA Championship.
Towards the tail end of Joe Flacco’s time in Baltimore, the Ravens lacked an identity. And that was quite unusual given that for nearly two decades the team embraced their role in the league as bullies. Then along came Lamar Jackson.
Lamar reestablished the team’s identity and they found success to the tune of (14-2) in 2019. But things have changed and the 2020 Ravens are once again seeking an identity. Opponents have solved the mystery of Greg Roman’s, Lamar Jackson-led offense and it has forced them to broaden the playbook – to become more multi-faceted. And as they attempt to be that kind of offense, they’ve bumped into learning curves and the results have been anything but ideal.
Meanwhile the investment in the team’s defense has been dramatic. Per OverTheCap.com 68.9% of the team’s cap is invested in the defense yet time and time again in clutch situations Wink Martindale’s unit fails to come up with a game altering play. They just lack that big, physical presence – that alpha dog who dares you to cross the line and makes an imposing statement with his raw, aggressive demeanor. Maybe DeShon Elliott or Malik Harrison can develop into that kind of player. We can only hope, but for the moment, that presence is missing.
Harrison with a fantastic play. Tackles Henry while fighting off block from Jones. #Ravens were vulnerable to the screen here (2 lead blockers and a lot of open space), but a great individual effort snuffed it out. Bowser intercepted Tannehill 2 plays later.#RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/oK9GXUrAiJ
— KingMoose (@Yoshi2052) November 23, 2020
The Blind Side
There’s no denying that the loss of Ronnie Stanley was significant. There’s also no denying that his replacement, Orlando Brown, Jr. has mitigated Stanley’s absence. OBJ has done an outstanding job, so much so that some have begun to question the big contract recently extended to Stanley. The thought being, that it’s unlikely that the Ravens could afford to keep both tackles and Brown may have provided similar results at left tackle for less. I broached this topic back in June in the 3 minute video below.
The Real Lamar
Which Lamar Jackson is the player that we can project forward – the player that the Ravens should pay in a way that is commensurate with the productivity they can expect for years to come? Is he the 2019 Lamar or the 2020 model?
Last week I opined as to why the Ravens should wait before extending Lamar. You can check that out below. I’m no Eric DeCosta but if I was, I’d shift some of the overall spending towards the offense. I’d strengthen the interior line and I’d get Lamar a true No. 1 wide receiver and then see how the offense shakes out. Only then will the Ravens gain some clarity as to how Lamar’s future will shape. But without the aforementioned enhancements to the offense to achieve a clearer perspective, paying Lamar could be an organizational noose, much like that of Joe Flacco’s second contract.