The Observations of an Excellector.
I have read the comments on this board, listened to fans in passing and taken time to truly evaluate what is going on with the Ravens.
First and foremost, I want to say that this is still a playoff team and, even though they did not look good Sunday, they will still likely win the division with room to spare. Cincinnati caught the proverbial right hook, week 1, against the Ravens. They have not recovered since.
Pittsburgh is scratching their way through, but are not clawing yet. They still do not have a handle on things with their injuries.
With that in mind, I could certainly see the Ravens winning the division again and a sweep is not out of the question. To add to that, New England's vulnerability has brought them down with the rest. So, a first or second seed is not out of the question either, although Houston is the front runner for the top seed.
Defensively, the coaching staff does not have confidence in the pass rush, nor do they seem to have the blitz solutions. As a result, they seem reluctant to press the CBs, even though both perform best in press coverage. Cary Williams strategy, in turn, has been to keep everything in front of him, before running up and trying to strip the ball. It reminds me of the way that Josh Wilson plays. Jimmy Smith is still trying to play off coverage with that aggressive press mentality and, clearly, still has much to learn. However, I think that he will be able to figure it out.
The return of Terrell Suggs can help out several ways. First, he will do a much better job of setting the edge than Paul Kruger, which means that the interior offensive line won't be able to slice up the middle and get on the backers, as much as they have been doing. The TE was taking out Kruger. The T and G were doubling Ngata. The C was engaging Cody, while the other G was helping, before hitting the second level, where Ray was. McPhee was a non-factor. Now, the T has to engage Suggs.
Once Suggs gets into better game shape, the coaching staff will likely feel more comfortable trying some different blitzes, albeit not of the style of a Rex Ryan we know and love (DC wise anyways). Then, they can keep the CBs in press.
Otherwise, their main issue on defense, other than the pass rush, will be the lack of experience.
Offensively, this team is fine when they are at home. On the road, the protection is worse and the lack of balance is more noticeable. I know that they want to run this up tempo offense and I am a very big Joe Flacco fan, but it's okay to use Rice to keep the offense stabilized on the road and they might have to do that. I expect them to against Cleveland, because it will be after a bye, but they consistently seem to push the panic button. Joe is good and I think that Joe can become the best QB in this league. However, he is not Aaron Rodgers. He doesn't use his legs enough. He doesn't have the moves in the pocket that a Rodgers has.
Now, I will say this, Cam Cameron did and has tried a few more slants and WR screens. However, altogether, it just doesn't seem crisp.
Now (again), some of the play-calling imbalance might have something to do with Flacco. Then again, it could be and is likely a choice of a handful of plays brought in from the sidelines.
Now (yet again), what I won't blame Flacco for is the lack of separation from the WRs. Dan Deirdorf talked about this during the game. Matt Schaub was throwing high and low most of the game, but was able to connect as his WRs made plays in space. The Ravens WRs didn't have that space and their issues with press coverage continue. Jacoby Jones has had a better season than I expected so far, but has disappeared at moments as well. He does not play with the physicality that his size dictates. Boldin's issues with separation are a concern and his issues with consistency are becoming a concern. One game, he can catch everything coming his way. Another game, he is not getting open and is dropping passes when he does get a chance. Teams are essentially giving Torrey the underneath stuff. Joe and Torrey just aren't consistent enough in taking it.
Joe got hit a good two or three times, and stopped stepping into his throws. That's why he missed a few. However, how many times did we watch him throw high or low, without much choice, because the coverage was so tight? Tommie Streeter cannot develop fast enough. Boldin is aging. Torrey is still learning how to control his speed and Jacoby Jones does not play up to his size. The need for that size WR with speed, in my opinion, is glaring. It's been this way for years. If Joe doesn't throw it darn near on the mark, it doesn't get caught.
They are just really going to have to, again, work on their balance, on the road.
This team can defeat Cleveland and they can defeat Oakland. They can split with Pittsburgh and they can defeat San Diego. They are still a playoff team. There is no need to call in the season.
The reality is that they were due for a butt kicking. It had been a good while since they had one of this magnitude. Houston has been wanting a piece of them since that playoff game ended. They wanted Baltimore bad and were definitely ticked off after last week.
Now, Baltimore can regroup.
I think that John Harbaugh has done a good job. To have this team at 5-2 with all of the injuries and issues, is a credit to him. I think we all have to understand that he doesn't have the offensive play calling experience that Billick had. He can't just take over play calling from Cameron or fire Cameron and do it himself. Nor can he do that to Pees. His, strength is stability and team unity, which is why this team is better at finding ways to win, no matter which side of the ball is playing bad. However, he has to trust his coordinators and they just aren't the cream of the crop right now.
"When questioned, the Elders explained that they were in search of magical powers. However, they're actually searching for the whereabouts of a certain ring. This ring is a legendary treasure that long ago was known to exist"