Why are the Ravens so dang mediocre?

With Sunday’s 23-16 loss to their AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens are 44-45 since hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on February 3, 2013 at the Mereces Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Everyone has their theories on why the team has been trudging along in mediocrity since that glorious triumph. It’s clearly the coaching:

And if it’s not the head coaches, it’s definitely the coordinators:

Furthermore it has to be Joe Flacco that is to blame right?

None of these are incorrect in full. All of these things play a key part in the Ravens inability to escape mediocrity. It’s obvious that if the Ravens miss the playoffs this year as they currently are on pace to do, someone is going to take the fall for this at the end of the year. It is even possible that one of these dominoes fall at some point during the season.

But the real reason that the Ravens are mediocre is that they simply don’t have any consistent difference makers on their roster. I am defining a difference maker as someone who other NFL GM’s and coaches would want on their teams to upgrade their current rosters. I have been asking fans to name the top three guys on the Ravens that other teams would want for their rosters. The first name out of nearly everyone’s mouth is a freaking kicker.

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Justin Tucker is the Ravens best player. That’s a huge problem. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

After that it gets hazy. Some I have spoken with have said Marshal Yanda, a 34-year-old offensive guard in the twilight of his career. C.J. Mosley has been another popular choice. Mosley is a solid run stuffing middle linebacker but is a liability in pass coverage. Maybe you prefer Jimmy Smith as a member of this list. He has flashed shutdown corner potential in the past but has been struggling throughout most of this season.

Maybe Brandon Williams is your cup of tea but a run stuffing nose tackle doesn’t get you far in the 2018 NFL. John Brown has come up on a few lists when soliciting feedback as well. Brown is having a great first season with the Ravens. No doubt about that. However unless Flacco connects with Brown for a deep ball, he is relatively ineffective in full. Terrell Suggs? A 36-year-old former monster with his best years way behind him. Marlon Humphrey has also been floated around. His age and potential make him a viable candidate for the future, but this is about the right now. My list is Tucker, Brown, and Smith for what it’s worth.

There could be a few others that you throw hats into the ring for, but the bottom line remains that when you look at the current playoff teams in the league, their lists put the Ravens to shame. Some of these teams even have players left out of their list who would be the #1 guy on the Ravens list.

New Orleans: Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Drew Brees. NEXT

Pittsburgh: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner. This excludes players like Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, and LeVeon Bell.

Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs

If Kareem Hunt is your fourth best difference making player, you’re not hurting for talent. Image Credit: Getty Images

Kansas City: Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce. Kareem Hunt is probably fourth. Holy Talent Batman.

Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers. That Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa ain’t too shabby either.

Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Jared Goff. Child Please.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman. There’s some debate for the third guy but the first one is the GOAT and the second one might be.

Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, DeShaun Watson, J.J Watt. Advantage Texans.

Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green, Joe Mixon, Carlos Dunlap. Ravens may be deeper than Cincy, but in terms of difference makers it’s not close.

Minnesota Vikings: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Luke Kuechly

It can be argued that the Ravens may have comparable lists to the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears. It is important to note however that Adrian Peterson (though 100) and Khalil Mack are currently greater playmakers than any that the Ravens possess.

Joe-Flacco

Joe Flacco is undoubtedly part of the problem with the Ravens. But he isn’t the main one. Image Credit: Wikipedia

So a team that has no difference making talent is 4-5. What is surprising about this? They were able to beat up on the Bills, Broncos, and Titans who are all terrible. Two of those teams in the Bills and Titans are actually less talented than the Ravens in regards to difference making players. The Ravens somehow put that Steelers performance in Pittsburgh together, so good on them for that, but they have struggled with the Bengals, Saints, and Panthers who are all in the playoffs currently.

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Michael Crabtree’s drop in Cleveland could come back to doom the Ravens. Image Credit: ESPN

The loss to the Browns furthers the point. At no point in the listing of players for the Ravens did any Ravens fan on any platform say Michael Crabtree. As bad as the Ravens were in Cleveland that day, they were in position to win the game when Flacco hit Crabtree in the back of the end zone for what would have been the go ahead score with 52 seconds remaining. He drops it, the Ravens settle for three and fall in overtime.

Perhaps if the Ravens had elite offensive and defensive coordinators they could scheme up better things to help assist their overall lack of talent. Could Sean McVay make the Ravens offense better? Probably. How much better? Not sure. Gurley and Goff aren’t coming along with him.

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Wink Martindale is not blameless in all of this but when your best pass rusher is 36 years old, you’re asking a lot. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Maybe you think Wade Phillips would help the Ravens defense. The Rams, with significantly more talent, currently rank below the Ravens defense in nearly every statistical category. Is he improving the Ravens defense? Methinks not.

Is it frustrating that Harbaugh is a former special teams coach and doesn’t truly specialize on one side of the ball or other? Of course it is. But looking back at the talent this team had since the Super Bowl, I’d argue that the Ravens have gotten significantly more from their seasons than their talent would indicate they should’ve.

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Matt Elam is one of many recent Ravens draft busts. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Look at the first five rounds from each of the drafts from 2009 to 2016. If you were grading them here’s how it would look:

2009- Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb, Jason Phillips, Davon Drew: C-

2010- Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, David Reed, Arthur Jones:D-

2011- Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, Tandon Doss, Chykie Brown, Pernell McPhee: B

2012- Courney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce, Gino Gradkowski, Christian Thompson, Asa Jackson: C-

2013- Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, John Simon, Kyle Juszczyk, Ricky Wagner: D-

2014- C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan, Terrence Brooks, Crockett Gilmore, Brent Urban, Lorenzo Taliaferro, John Urschel: C-

2015- Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, Carl Davis, Za’Darius Smith, Javorius Allen, Tray Walker, Nick Boyle, Robert Myers: F

2016- Ronnie Stanley, Kamalei Correa, Bronson Kaufusi, Tavon Young, Chris Moore, Alex Lewis, Willie Henry, Kenneth Dixon, Matt Judon: B

Those types of grades get you grounded. Moreover, very few, if any, of the players that failed to be successful with the Ravens have gone on to be successful elsewhere. That is a testament to poor scouting.

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Eric Weddle is one of many veteran stop gaps that have brought in to correct the Ravens drafting errors. Image Credit: 12UP

These draft pick misses have led to many free agent moves in recent seasons. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are here because the Ravens couldn’t draft a safety. Brown, Crabtree, and Willie Snead are here because of the issues drafting receivers. The same could be said for Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin from last season’s cast of over the hill veterans.

Elite level talent in the NFL is rarely acquired via free agency. The way to secure elite level talent is to draft it, develop it, and sign it long term. That is why the teams that are often scraping the free agent pile rarely prove to be the most successful. These players are available for a reason.

This isn’t rocket science guys. Sure there is plenty of blame to go around between Harbaugh, Flacco, and the coordinators. These are your obvious scapegoats. But at the end of the day, the Ravens are mediocre because they weren’t built to be anything more than that.

Image Credit: The Baltimore Sun

 

 

 

 

 

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Defense overcomes penalties, forces late turnovers as Ravens top Texans 23-16

BALTIMORE — Hosting their first home Monday Night football game in over five years, and just the second home Monday Night contest of the John Harbaugh / Joe Flacco era, the Baltimore Ravens walked into M&T Bank Stadium with a purpose on Monday Night. Facing a light schedule the rest of the season, the Ravens needed a win on Monday to keep their #6 playoff spot intact. They took care of business on Monday against the Houston Texans, coming away with a 23-16 win.

The Ravens defense forced three turnovers in the game, two of them occurring in the final five minutes to seal the win. A Terrell Suggs strip-sack recovered by Willie Henry led to a field goal, and a Anthony Levine Sr. interception right before the two-minute warning left no time on the clock for Houston. In the first half, Tony Jefferson caught his first interception as a member of the Ravens and ran it back 13 yards. Jefferson, a recipient of jokes from teammates due to his lack of interceptions, can finally cross that chore off his “To-Do” list.

Although the turnover-savy Ravens defense carried the team again on Monday, the win did not come easy. The Ravens got penalized 10 times against Houston; eight of them against defense. Brandon Carr got penalized three times – twice for holding and once for pass interference. His PI call in the first quarter led to Houston’s first touchdown of the game – a four-yard run by Lamar Miller. That gave the Texans a 7-0 lead, presenting the Ravens with the challenge of winning a game after trailing, something that they had not done prior to Monday.

Along with Carr’s blunders, Jimmy Smith got flagged twice (defensive holding, pass interference), Maurice Canady was guilty of a late hit on Tom Savage, and Matt Judon committed an unnecessary roughness penality off a late tackle on Braxton Miller. On Houston’s nine-play touchdown drive, the Ravens committed three penalties and allowed gains of 23 and 29 yards. On the Texans’ three drives ending in field goals, four penalties were committed by Baltimore. The extra chances given to Houston via penalty, along the offense’s struggles, almost gave the game away. As a result, the Ravens won in their normal fashion: ugly.

Baltimore received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out. Houston got the ball back and responded with their first and only touchdown of the game. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in a 23-yard reception, and Savage would find Bruce Ellington for a 29-yard strike. Opponents have rarely found early success against the Ravens this season, making that opening defensive drive so uncharacteristic of this top-10 defense.

Following a few punts, the Ravens tied up the game on a quick seven-play drive that eclipsed just three minutes. Along the way, the Ravens converted their first of two good 4th-and-one attempts on the night when punter Sam Koch completed a perfect 22-yard pass down the left sideline to Chris Moore. Following a nine-yard completion from Flacco to Nick Boyle, Buck Allen found the end zone on a 10-yard run for his second rushing touchdown of the season.

Allen’s score became the start of a 17-play second quarter that featured another Ravens rushing touchdown. On Baltimore’s drive after Allen’s score, Alex Collins ran for 37 combined yards; a 29-yard dash – again on 4th-and-one – to the Baltimore 8-yard line, and then an eight-yard touchdown run. This five-play drive, like the prior one, occurred quickly (2:26), and gave Collins his second rushing touchdown as a Raven, and the third overall score of his career. His first touchdown as a Raven came during last week’s 23-0 win over the Packers.

On Houston’s drive following Collins’ touchdown, Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked his first of three field goals of the night (25 yards) to end the Ravens’ scoring run at 14 points. On the Ravens’ next drive, Justin Tucker booted his longest attempt of the day – 53 yards – to extend the Ravens’ lead to seven with as many seconds left on the clock. Going into the locker rooms, the Ravens held the 17-10 edge with 30 minutes of football left to play.

On the second Texans drive of the second half, three penalties in the Ravens’ secondary led to Fairbairn’s 36-yard field goal to put the Texans back just by four, 17-13. That wound up as the lone third-quarter score. Early in the fourth quarter, Tucker added three points in Baltimore’s favor on a 31-yarder. Fairbairn added three more points on Houston’s next possession, which turned out to be the last threat Savage and the Houston offense made. Suggs’ strip sack led to Tucker’s last field goal (49 yards), and Levine Sr.’s interception ended the comeback dreams of the Texans.

As a whole, the Texans outgained the Ravens in total yards, 303-294. Both teams faced 14 third down situations; the Texans converted six, and the Ravens successfully converted three. The Ravens went 2-for-4 in the red zone, and the Texans went 1-for-4. The Texans also held the edge in the possession battle, 30:16-29:44.

For the Ravens, Flacco went 20-for-32 for 141 yards. Savage went 22-for-37 for 252 yards and two interceptions. The Ravens failed to rush for 100 yards in their previous two games, but racked up 139 yards of rushing on Monday, led by Collins’ 60 yards with a touchdown on 16 carries. Flacco carried the ball six times for 42 combined yards. For Houston, Miller recorded 51 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Hopkins put on a show for the Texans, catching seven passes for 125 combined yards. Hopkins was targeted 10 times, and four penalties in the Ravens’ secondary occurred when the defender was assigned to Hopkins. The Ravens simply had no answer for him.

C.J. Mosley led Ravens defenders with 12 total tackles (five solo). Suggs notched two sacks, and now owns 124 career sacks, which is 18th all-time. Behind Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor continued his impressive sophomore season with eight tackles (five solo). For Houston, Kevin Johnson picked up seven solo tackles, and Jadeveon Clowney tallied his seventh sack of the season. Clowney disrupt the Ravens;’ offensive line early in the game, but finished with two tackles.

Updated Playoff Picture: 

AFC:

Division Leaders: Steelers (9-2), Patriots (9-2), Titans (7-4), Chiefs (6-5)

Wild Card: Jaguars (7-4), Ravens (6-5)

In the hunt: Bills (6-5), Chargers, Raiders, Bengals (5-6), Jets, Dolphins, Texans (4-7)

NFC:

Division Leaders: Eagles (10-1), Vikings (9-2), Rams (8-3), Saints (8-3)

Wild Card: Panthers (8-3), Falcons (7-4)

In the hunt: Lions (6-5), Cowboys, Redskins, Cardinals, Packers (5-6), Buccaneers (4-7)

Up Next: The Ravens remain at home on a short week with the Detroit Lions coming to town for a 1:00 pm tangle on Sunday, Dec. 3. The Lions will own a rest advantage, with 10 games separating Sunday from their last contest, a 30-23 loss to the Vikings on Thanksgiving. The loss to Minnesota snapped a three-game winning streak for the Lions. The Lions are 0-2 all-time in Baltimore.

Image Credit: Newsday

Ravens set to host first Monday night game since 2012

BALTIMORE — We at Charm City Bird Watch hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving with friends and family but now that the holiday rush is over, it’s time to get back to Ravens football. After last week’s 23-0 win over the Green Bay Packers, the team and fan base has been given new life but there remains a lot of work to be do as the Ravens approach the last six games.

The victory in Green Bay marked the third shutout of the year for this Baltimore defense but the team still only has five wins. Their .500 record is good enough for the second wildcard spot in a weakened AFC but there’s barely any space separating the Ravens from other playoff hopefuls like the Buffalo Bills.

Going into this final stretch of the year, we know that the Ravens have a chance simply based on their schedule. Four of the final six games will be against a team with a losing record. The other two are the Lions (6-5) and Steelers (8-2). In addition to this, the Ravens defense will get the chance to face yet another backup quarterback on Monday night in Tom Savage. They are 3-1 so far this year in games against backup QB’s.

Savage did start the season. as the Texans’ starting quarterback, but he got replaced by DeShaun Watson after he struggled mightily in Houston’s season opener. A torn ACL suffered in practice by Watson  means Savage has been thrown right back into the fold, going 1-3 as the Texans’ starting signal-caller.

The visiting Houston Texans are struggling, winning just two of their last six. However, they find themselves just one game behind the Ravens in a crowded playoff race. Many pundits are already counting Houston out, largely due to the loss of Watson. When it comes to the playoffs, this game means just as much for the Texans as it does for the Ravens.

Last Meeting: These teams haven’t seen each other in a few years. The Texans hosted the Ravens during week 16 of the 2014 season and came away with a 25-13 win. This was just the second win against Baltimore in Texans history as the Ravens lead the all time series 7-2. After four previous tries, the Texans have yet to win at M&T Bank Stadium.

Injury Report: As of Saturday Nov. 25

Notes on Texans:

  • Since losing Watson to a season ending injury, the Texans’ offense has averaged 15 points a game. That’s not a very comfortable number to work with if you are the Texans defense, especially when you are giving up over 24 points a game in the same span.
  • If the Texans want to beat the Ravens the blueprint is simple. Get pressure on Joe Flacco. Houston defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney has managed to get after the QB despite commanding double coverage after injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Clowney has posted five sacks in his last four games.

Notes on Ravens:

  • There has been a lot of talk about Flacco’s quality of play this season but lets look at the numbers. Last week Flacco had a decent game but he failed to throw for 200 yards for the sixth time this season. Through ten games, Flacco is also averaging a career low 5.44 yards-per-completion. His passer rating of 74.4 is also the second lowest of his career with 2013 (73.1) coming in just slightly worse.
  • This weeks matchup against Houston marks just the second home Monday night game for the Ravens in the last ten seasons. Even though Flacco’s stats listed above are abysmal, lets give him credit for his 11-1 career record in prime time games.

Details:

When: Monday, Nov. 27, 8:30 pm

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, MD

Radio: WBAL 109098 Rock

Commentators: Gerry SanduskyJustin Forsett, Stan White

TV: ESPNWBAL-TV

Commentators: Sean McDonough, John Gruden, Lisa Salters

Image Credit: Fanspeak