Quick fixes for Ravens offense

Quick fixes for Ravens offense
December 18, 2012, 7:45 pm
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With two games left in the regular season vs. the New York Giants and at the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens’ offense doesn’t have much time left to get it right.

They seem to be falling apart just about everywhere on the field as they’ve lost the last three games in a row, including twice at home.

Problem: QB Joe Flacco continues to underperform, and there’s no indication that changing offensive coordinators from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell has made much of a difference yet. Flacco was responsible for both of Baltimore’s turnovers that resulted in 10 points in a 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos last week. He completed a total of 1 pass for 14 yards to his two best receivers, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Grade: F.  

Solution: Flacco’s predictable passes on the flat routes outside the hash marks cost him 7 points vs. Denver. The accuracy isn’t there, and those low percentage throws have become his security blanket and defenders are jumping the routes. To Caldwell’s credit, he attempted to get Tandon Doss more involved but the Ravens must use the middle of the field better.  

Problem: RB Ray Rice isn’t getting the ball nearly as much this season, especially in the passing game where his numbers have dipped significantly. He had 706 yards receiving last season. He has 427. Because of the early deficit vs. the Broncos, Caldwell didn’t have much chance to stick with Rice. He did mix in FB Vonta Leach and RB Bernard Pierce earlier in the game plan than the Ravens usually use them, which is a good sign. But Rice had 3 catches for 3 yards. That won’t cut it. Grade: C -

Solution: It starts with getting better gains on first down. The Ravens went 1-for-12 on third downs against Denver because they were so bad on first down. As Rice showed on that 4th-and-29 play in San Diego last month, get him the ball in space over the line of scrimmage and he can make things happen. Pierce’s status is in question because of a concussion. Assuming he’s got the green light, they’re a perfect 1-2 combination that can take the pressure off Flacco, move the sticks and improve the time of possession. With a defense that is as wounded as this one, the less time they spend on the field, the better.

Problem: The protection of Flacco has been suspect. He has been sacked 8 times in the last three games and even when he has time, he appears so concerned about pressure from behind he gets skittish. Particularly in the loss to the Redskins, there wasn’t enough protection arranged pre-snap and that led to two crucial turnovers in the third quarter that shifted the momentum. Pre-snap penalties such as off-starts by LG Jah Reid and holding calls on LT Michael Oher have been costly as well. Grade: D

Solution: Shorten the passing game. The Ravens rely too heavily on deep routes and it takes too long for plays to develop. Flacco needs to get the ball out of his hands quicker. Running more crossing routes, for example, could help. The OL then doesn't have to block quite as long.