I’ll give offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg a lot of credit for sticking with the run during the win against Pittsburgh. However, the overall performance was terrible. The run blocking just wasn’t there. I’m really hoping that a lot of the issues with running the ball can be chalked up to basically everyone on the line coming off of injury and needing to shake off the rust.
Regardless, if the Ravens want to build off of an ugly “W” against Pittsburgh, they need to be able to run the ball effectively. Many other coaches probably would have thrown in the towel and asked Joe Flacco to drop back 50+ times, which we all know is not a recipe for success with Baltimore.
So, kudos to Marty because by running the ball (even as ineffective as it was from a yards gained perspective), the Ravens were able to control the clock and force Pittsburgh into trying to make a lot of big plays late in the game.
But I could just not get over how poorly this line was run blocking. The entire game it was a struggle for Terrance West (who was looking like the only offensive bright spot) and Kenneth Dixon (a talented rookie) to pick up a yard or two.
A good example of how bad the run blocking was came in the 2nd quarter at the 11:05 minute mark. The Ravens had just fielded a punt and – go figure – due to a penalty, had to start from their own 13.
In this play, James Hurst checked in as an extra lineman giving the Ravens a heavy set on 1st and 10. Joe lined up in the pistol formation with Dixon and Kyle Juszczyk in the backfield. Steve Smith Sr. was split out to the right. The way the play is drawn up, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, and Hurst are supposed to crash down, with Alex Lewis pulling to block the safety, Robert Golden. That left Juszczyk to block Anthony Chickillo and Senior to take Ross Cockrell out of the play. The red circle is Ryan Shazier, who ends up bringing down Dixon after a 1-yard gain.
Wagner and Yanda do a great job sealing their guys off, but Hurst gets completely blown through on the play causing Dixon to stutter step and shift his direction to the right sooner than he would have liked. Making matters worse, Juszczyk completely whiffs on his block and Chickillo tries to force Dixon back inside.
Another angle of the same spot:
Lastly, Lewis’s inability to finish a block on Golden was the final act in what could have been a pretty spectacular run by Dixon. Lewis just pathetically runs into Golden and then turns around, not realizing that Dixon had escaped the pile and was bouncing it outside. Also, if you notice, Shazier (#50) isn’t even looking at Dixon. Lewis should run some extra laps this week for a lack of effort.
Had Lewis maintained that block on Golden, Dixon had the opportunity to pick up 10-15 yards and maybe more.
If it weren’t for Dixon’s pretty incredible balance and quickness, this play would have surely been a loss rather than a 1-yard gain.
My big take aways from this one play are the following:
– Juszczyk may be pretty good as a receiver, but he needs to be a lot better as a lead blocker. That was embarrassing.
– The fact that the Ravens keep trotting Hurst out there is maddening.
– I realize Lewis is a rookie, but where is the effort?
– Dixon’s balance and quickness could make him a pretty special back for the Ravens if they can fix the blocking issues.