OWINGS MILLS, MD.
1. The pitchforks are out!
Probably the most memorable quote from Tuesday’s press conference was when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said that “The pitchforks are out” after the Ravens failed to reach the playoffs for third time in the last four seasons. Bisciotti looked to be prepared to answer questions from reporters regarding the team’s shortcomings, but nonetheless this was a notable thing to hear from the team’s owner.
“I think John Harbaugh can coach better,” Bisciotti said. “I think Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta can draft better. I think Joe Flacco can play better. I believe that they can collectively bring us back to prominence.”
It’s clear that the coaching, front office and quarterback of the Ravens have all been put on notice. It should also be mentioned that Bisciotti said that despite the team’s lack of success in recent years, he trusts his general manager, head coach, and quarterback to get the job done because of how successful the Ravens have been under them. Regardless of his trust, the fact of the matter is that the Ravens have made the postseason once since winning Super Bowl 47. If the team is to turn it around and make it back to the postseason in 2017, a lot needs to happen this offseason.
2. Joe Flacco needs to be better
The entire “State Of The Ravens” press conference lasted a little over an hour, and a lot of the questions were centered around Flacco. Flacco finally threw for more than 4,000 passing yards in 2016, but threw for just 6.4 yards-per-completion, the second lowest mark of his career. There is no doubt that Flacco needs to be better next season if the Ravens are to make it back to the postseason.
“I’m pretty optimistic that Joe will be better next season,” Bisciotti said. “We need to get more out of Joe.”
The Ravens know that they need Flacco to perform better, but they should also know that Flacco needs a supporting cast around him to get the job done. Flacco has never been one to carry an entire offense by himself, so getting him some weapons is a big priority for Baltimore this spring and summer.
“I need to get Joe to execute better,” Harbaugh said. “[We need to] build a better team around him.”
At one point, Bisciotti brought up the idea of inviting Flacco to come meet with Harbaugh, Newsome and himself in Florida to see what Flacco thinks could help improve this football team. This has not been done before with Flacco, but as he enters his 10th season it could be beneficial to pick apart his brain and get a sense of where his mind is.
3. Three key targets – secondary, offensive line, wide receiver
As he is every year, Ozzie Newsome was asked about what positions he will be looking to address in the coming months. Every position is important, and there is a lot for the Ravens to look at this offseason. When asked, Newsome mentioned three particular areas of the team that he feels need to be improved:
- Adding depth in the secondary
- Bolster the offensive line
- Add a complementary wide receiver
Most Ravens fans would agree that those three positions will need upgrades. The secondary’s lack of depth was exposed all season as Jimmy Smith missed time. Bisciotti picked apart Shareece Wright’s disappointing performance, which leaves me wondering if Wright will be back in 2017. The offensive line will need to be evaluated with the likely departure of tackle Rick Wagner and center Jeremy Zuttah being a potential cap causality. With the retirement of Steve Smith Sr. and the uncertainty surrounding Kamar Aiken, the Ravens will have to bring in some receivers via the draft or free agency.
Those three positions are probably the biggest areas of need, but let’s not forget about pass rushers. The Ravens have two aging veterans in Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. One of them is likely to be a cap casualty (probably Dumervil), and behind them stands unproven youngsters in Zadarius Smith and Matthew Judon, entering their third and second years, respectively.
When asked about the pass rush, Newsome mentioned that the Ravens will look to add some edge rushers, but also alluded to Smith and Judon needing to improve in order for the pass rush to improve.
After hearing all of this from Ozzie, we now have a sense of what positions the Ravens will be looking to upgrade. The question now becomes how they plan on getting these positions to where they need to be.
4. Offense needs to be more balanced
It was good to hear from the front office that there will be an emphasis on being more balanced on offense. The Ravens threw the ball 64% of the time in 2016, and the results were not efficient.
“I think we are all in agreement that [we] need a more balanced offense,” Bisciotti said. “I want to run the ball. I want to control the clock.”
The Ravens lacked a strong running game in 2016, which has been a benchmark of the Baltimore Ravens dating back to the early 2000’s. Running backs like Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice have allowed the Ravens to be a top-notch rushing offense in year’s past, and Bisciotti would like for the Ravens to get back to that standard.
How do the Ravens fix the problem? The answer to that question could be simple in theory. If they “bolster” their offense line like they say that they will, that will certainly help. The other solution here is to simply run the football more. Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West are more than capable of providing an above average running attack. The responsibility of getting the ball in their hands rests on offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s shoulders, as well as Harbaugh’s.
Mornhinweg has never been one to run the football as much as you would like to see, but its clear that his mindset needs to change in 2017. Mornhinweg could be on a short leash this season, so building an effective running game will be a big undertaking for him this offseason.
5. Ravens reiterate stance of not taking chances on players with character issues
Ever since the Ray Rice saga, the Ravens have shied away from drafting or signing players with significant character issues. That stand appears to stand firm in 2017. Newsome mentioned that the Ravens are not afraid to take chances on players who have these kinds of issues, but Bisciotti said that the Ravens would rather not deal with that.
In all fairness, who can blame them? The domestic violence incident with Rice in 2014 led to a public relations nightmare that had the Ravens ripped apart by national media and the general public for keeping Rice as long as they did. The Ravens did a good job of not allowing that event to distract them on the field, but it was sure to be a huge annoyance for the public relations staff to defend the organization’s actions throughout the ordeal.
Sure, the Ravens will probably study film of players with character issues, but I think that the organization would rather not link themselves to those individuals altogether. They are probably better off by keeping the stance that they have now with these questionable character players.