Ravens Report Card Through 11 Weeks
After a 14-2 finish to last season, the Ravens haven’t lived up to what many pundits and fans expected. The offense has looked slow and at times nonexistent, and although the defense has been one of the league's best, they have had their uncharacteristically weak moments.
In our fall report-card season, I took inspiration from the Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston and graded each position group through the first 11 weeks of the NFL season.
Coming off of his MVP season, Lamar Jackson doesn't look like himself. He seems more indecisive and inconsistent with his decisions, and sometimes misses throws that would have been easy a season ago. Despite his regression in passing statistics, Jackson has generally been a strong player, leading a team that has scored over thirty points in four of their victories. Although he would probably disagree, Jackson was not responsible for most of the team's losses. Despite strong performances, Jackson has had a number of careless plays over the course of the season. Most notably, he threw two interceptions in week 8 against the Steelers, handing them 14 points. Jackson needs to be the confident thrower we saw last year. The Ravens need to take more shots downfield, and this starts with Jackson's confidence. The Ravens and Jackson need to improve their passing to win big games going forward.
Running Backs: B
This season, the Ravens aren’t coming close to meeting the record running numbers they produced last year. Partly, this can be attributed to Lamar Jackson running less, the retirement of Marshal Yanda, and injuries on the offensive line. Rookie JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards have played well but Mark Ingram, the veteran of the group has been quiet.
Wide Receivers: D+
It seems every year there are major question marks surrounding the Ravens receiving corps. Ravens receivers simply can't get open. Marquise Brown has been a disappointment, there seems to be at least one disconnect between Miles Boykin and Lamar Jackson each game, and veteran receiver Willie Snead hasn’t gotten his fair share of targets. Despite recording fewer snaps, rookie receiver Devin Duvernay has flashed early in the season, and should continue to grow as a speed threat. The Wide Receivers need to let Lamar Jackson to spread the ball around. The group’s route running has been weak, which allows defenses to focus on defending the run. The Ravens lack a staple receiver who fans can be confident will have a solid game each week. Hopefully Brown, Duvernay, Snead, or even the newly acquired Dez Bryant, can contribute to this role.
Tight Ends: B+
It’s too bad the Ravens didn’t have a week seven game on National Tight End’s Day, because Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle might be the best tight end duo in the NFL. The only reason why their grade isn't higher is because Boyle recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. Andrews consistently is able to get open in the red-zone, and has made several improbable catches. Boyle has been a valuable blocker for the run game and for Lamar Jackson, and will be missed in future games.
Offensive Line: C-
Without future hall-of-famer guard Marshal Yanda to secure the line, it seems like the group has collapsed from their elite level last season. There have been far too many penalties on the line, including false starts and illegal formations. First team All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley is out for the year with a left ankle injury, and his replacement DJ Fluker has struggled. Matt Skura has had troubles snapping the ball. The Ravens have had five different starting offensive line groups which doesn't help.
Offensive Coaching: F
While the offense has been successful in accumulating points in the first half, the group repeatedly slows down in the second, allowing for closer games. Also, the scheming often doesn't make sense, as offensive coordinator Greg Roman calls plays that consistently don’t work, (e.g. the same roll-out play they run a few times each game) rarely shows new plays beyond halftime, and goes away from what has worked well (e.g. going away from the run when it has been strong leading to turnovers and punts). The offense is so predictable that Lamar Jackson said that defenses call out his plays at the line of scrimmage. In order to use all of the offense’s potential, Roman needs to be more creative and consistent in his play calling.
Defensive Backs: A-
Baltimore’s DBs have arguably been the best unit on the team. The safety duo has been lights out featuring DeShon Elliott who has been better than Earl Thomas, and Chuck Clark who continues to be a great leader and signal-caller. The corners have also played well, as Marlon Humphrey is proving that he can play at an All-Pro level again as he accounts for many of the team’s turnovers and has played well in coverage. Also, veteran corner Jimmy Smith has been impressive after missing most of last season to injury.
Defensive Line: B+
Despite losing Michael Pierce in the offseason, the defensive line looks better than it did a year ago. The Ravens acquired Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe to play alongside Brandon Williams, and all three have been impressive in run-defense. When Campbell and Williams were not able to play due to injury, the Patriots and Titans were able to run the ball effectively. The Ravens need Cambpell and Williams back in the lineup to be successful in future games.
Newly drafted Patrick Queen has had a good start to his year and has played well in most of his games so far, leading the team in tackles. Also, he has put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, forcing incompletions and turnovers. However, Baltimore’s outside linebackers have not lived up to expectations. They have not been able to pressure quarterbacks and record sacks. Newly acquired Yannick Ngakoue has been quiet, but the team needs the whole unit to improve.
Defensive Coaching: A-
Don “Wink” Martindale is a genius when it comes to drawing up creative blitzes and zone coverages. These plays allow defensive backs to pressure and sack the quarterback often. The one area where coaching can improve is in penalties. There have been too many, and they have cost the Ravens too much yardage. Martindale needs to step up to fix these persistent issues.
Special Teams: A+
As always, Justin Tucker has been strong, only missing one field goal which was over 50 yards. Baltimore revamped its returners by drafting Devin Duvernay and James Proche, who have played well so far this season. Duvernay is averaging nearly 33 yards per return and has one of the league's only kick return touchdowns.