After Further Review: Offense a work in progress

After Further Review: Offense a work in progress
September 23, 2013, 9:45 am
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Lewis returns, sparks Ravens over Houston

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Here is a key question for the Ravens moving forward.

How much better will the Ravens become offensively? A lot? A little? Not better at all?

Nobody knows yet. There have been too many changes, and too many injuries, to get a definitive read on what the Ravens will be offensively in 2013.

Fortunately for the Ravens (2-1), the defense has been stellar enough to carry them. But the offense is still searching for consistency. That 30-9 victory on Sunday was misleading from an offensive perspective. One touchdown came on defense. Another came on special teams.

The Ravens are not panicked about their offensive problems. Teams that are 0-3 would love to have the Ravens’ issues.

In the locker room after Sunday’s game, quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t try to sugarcoat the situation. Anybody who expected the Ravens to make a seamless transition after trading Anquan Boldin and losing Dennis Pitta (hip surgery) in training camp was being naïve. The Ravens are in work in progress offensively. Not having Ray Rice (hip flexor) Sunday, and Jacoby Jones (knee) the past two games has only made things harder.

“We are a young team.” Flacco said. “We have a lot of new guys, and we were thin at the running back position today. We are going to have some growing pains throughout the first couple of weeks. I have said all along the biggest thing will be can we win while we have those. So far, the last two weeks we haven’t played great, but we’ve managed to win football games. We have to continue to get better.”

Coach John Harbaugh was also candid Sunday about the offense. Asked if the offensive playbook had been changed due to injuries, Harbaugh said, “I don’t know what we had in our playbook to this point. We’re so new to this with a bunch of new players. We’re still building an offensive playbook at this time.”

Actually, the Ravens are still building their offense. They have one consistent player on offense so far – wide receiver Torrey Smith. He is tied for 10th in the NFL in receiving yards (269), despite seeing plenty of double coverage.

So how do the Ravens get better offensively? It starts with their running game. The offensive line needs to do a better job creating holes. In Rice and Bernard Pierce, the Ravens have two backs that will produce if the running room is there. Pierce took a pounding Sunday against the Texans, needing 24 carries to get 65 yards. Flacco admitted the Ravens’ running game needs to pick things up.

“We thought we could run the ball well today, so we came out trying to establish that,” Flacco said.

The Ravens have realistic reasons to believe they will improve offensively. Neither Rice nor Jones has a long-term injury. Wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark did not arrive until midway through preseason. They are feeling more comfortable each week. Wide receiver Marlon Brown is a rookie with obvious talent and upside.

By December, the Ravens believe they will be far better offensively than they are now. But for the Ravens to develop an offense they can depend on, it’s going to take more time.

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