During this past offseason the Ravens organization had an opportunity to take a long, hard look at itself – to do some self-scouting and set in action a course of direction which would prevent them from repeating the disaster that was the 2015 season.
So far through six games in 2016, things don’t appear to have changed all that much.
The offseason questions about the offensive line, the secondary breakdowns and the pass rush (or lack thereof) still linger. The approach both offensively and defensively hasn’t really changed. And for some reason a player who can run down the field and get a close up look of a punt returner making a fair catch or a kick returner taking a knee for a touchback, is more appealing than a player who might provide a spark on offense or defense.
And then there’s this thing with injuries that is back in full force.
The Ravens are preparing for Week 7 and they already have 14 players on injured reserve not to mention key players like CJ Mosley, Marshal Yanda, Steve Smith, Sr., Elvis Dumervil, Devin Hester and Terrell Suggs who could all miss significant time. The Ravens went out and invested money in hyperbolic chambers to speed the healing process but has anyone from outside of the organization taken a look at the team’s strength and conditioning coaches?
Sure it could be that the Ravens have had a string of bad luck when it comes to injuries but intel about strength and conditioning from the outside – perhaps someone who has worked with other NFL teams that have been healthier than the Ravens, could be brought on as a consultant if for nothing else than a sanity check.
But back to the 2016 season and the unanswered questions…
No. 1 pick Ronnie Stanley has missed the last 3 games and given John Harbaugh’s reluctance to provide meaningful updates about top secret health information on players (rolling eyes), who knows if he’s back this week or not? Who knows if Rick Wagner returns? The Ravens could be going with one starter from the season’s outset – Jeremy Zuttah, just as they did last week against the Giants.
So much for addressing the offensive line.
The Ravens secondary appears in tatters. Thankfully they signed Eric Weddle who has been a star thus far. Jimmy Smith has been up and down and now, is in the concussion protocol and there’s no certainty that he’ll play against the Jets. Shareece Wright has a hamstring (or is that a thigh?). Tavon Young was nicked up in the Giants game as was Jarraud Powers. Lardarius Webb played in midtown Manhattan when the rest of his team played in East Rutherford, NJ and he still wasn’t deep enough to protect the back end of the secondary.
And then there’s the pass rush…
Through 6 games the Ravens have registered 11 sacks, five credited to Terrell Suggs who now at the age of 34 has a torn left biceps. Za’Darius Smith was supposed to provide a push and looked the part in preseason, but he’s ranked by PFF as the 90th best edge rusher in the NFL. Elvis Dumervil at 32 can’t seem to shake his foot problems – not necessarily a good thing for a guy who depends on speed and a burst while trying to shave the corner towards the quarterback. Second round pick Kamalei Correa was supposed to be a menacing presence at the line of scrimmage but he doesn’t see the field. Instead the coaching staff has got the former Boise State Bronco tied up in knots.
When asked last week if Correa might see some action against the Giants Dean Pees had this to say:
“Kamalei has had a really good week [of practice]. He has really done well. I’m not sure … Early on, we tried to teach him maybe too many positions and too much. Now he’s honing in on just one. I saw a big improvement this week in him.”
Is this Paul Kruger and John Simon all over again?
Through 6 games Correa has seen the field for 15 snaps.
So what HAS improved?
Well the team did get off to a (3-0) start but we all know that was smoke and mirrors. It is frighteningly reminiscent of the 2007 season when the Ravens got off to a (4-2) start only to drop 9 straight on their way to a (5-11) season.
A look around and you have to wonder with the injuries and the lack of playmakers in key positions if the Ravens can avoid a similar fate. They’ll have 10 games to prove it.
And if they don’t, I suppose the 2017 offseason will be far more interesting and filled with discussions about bad contracts to underachieving players, free agent whiffs, free agents that got away, so many draft picks yet a relatively barren cupboard and perhaps a real discussion about life after Joe Flacco.
Flacco and John Harbaugh get the lion’s share of the heat and perhaps deservedly so. It’s part of their respective job descriptions.
But there’s also the team’s Teflon Don, aka Ozzie Newsome, who so far has had an endless supply of hall passes.
But isn’t he just as culpable?