Harbaugh: Not content with missing playoffs
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Joe Flacco missed on plenty of throws this season, but what he said after Sunday’s game was accurate. The Ravens didn’t deserve to make the playoffs. Not at 8-8. Not losing their last two games in convincing fashion.
The Ravens played three of the six AFC teams that made the playoffs, and finished 1-3 against them. Denver routed the Ravens, 49-27. The Patriots routed the Ravens, 41-7. And on Sunday, the Bengals avenged a three-point overtime loss to the Ravens in November by beating them, 34-17.
The Ravens (8-8) were not playoff caliber, which is why they were packing their bags Monday. Their five-year playoff run is over, and to make the playoffs in 2014, they have at least three major needs, including:
1. A better offensive line
This unit needs major surgery. The Ravens will not be a contender in 2014 unless their offensive line improves. The impact of losing center Matt Birk to retirement was vastly underrated. Second-year center Gino Gradkowski struggled all season, but the Ravens had nobody better to replace Gradkowski. Losing left guard to Kelechi Osemele to back surgery made matters worse. Michael Oher did not have a good season at right tackle either, and as a free agent it would hardly be shocking to see Oher depart. Even if the Ravens re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe, expect at least two new starters. And if the blocking scheme of first-year run-game coordinator Juan Castillo is an issue, then the Ravens need to consider a change there, too.
2. More playmakers at wide receiver
As an undrafted rookie, Marlon Brown led the Ravens in touchdown catches with seven. That was great for Brown, but it also pointed to problems at wide receiver. Torrey Smith had his first 1,000-yard season, but he only had four touchdown catches, as defenses took him away in the red zone. Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson simply have not developed. Jacoby Jones is a dangerous returner, but he is also a free agent whose impact as a receiver (37 catches, 455 yards, two touchdown) remains inconsistent. The Ravens missed Anquan Boldin, who had a terrific season (85 catches, 1,179 yards, seven touchdowns) with the 49ers. The Ravens need more consistent threats for Flacco to throw to.
3. Another legitimate pass rusher
The Ravens had 40 sacks for the season, but just three in their last five games. Both Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil struggled in December, and Sunday was rock bottom. Andy Dalton could have played without pads, as the Ravens went the entire game without a hit on the Bengals’ quarterback. Be it a defensive lineman or a linebacker, the Ravens need help for their pass rush.