Identity Crisis | Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have always been known as a physical, gritty football team with great defense and a good running game. From the Billick era to the current reign of John Harbaugh this has been the identity of the Ravens. This identity has been lost. The 3-5 2013 Ravens are known by horrible offensive line play, an inability to run the football and an inconsistent defense. The Ravens now get pushed around. The Ravens that Baltimore has been accustomed to is seemingly gone.
With the retirement of Ray Lewis, the departure of Ed Reed and the playoff magnificence of Joe Flacco we already knew it was the beginning of a new era in the short history of the team. Coming off a Super Bowl victory and improving the defense dramatically in the offseason, there was no reason to expect anything less than a third straight division title. The Ravens expected an offensive explosion under new coordinator Jim Caldwell and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco under center. The Ravens thought they would be a dominant team on both sides of the football. There is too much talent to fail, they thought.
Well as the great Bill Parcells would say “You are what your record says you are.” 3-5 is exactly what it sounds like: Mediocre. The Baltimore Ravens are mediocre. There is just no other way to put it. The mind boggling thing is that the talent is there. The Ravens have underachieved allowing a great pass rushing front seven, a pair of dynamic runningbacks and most importantly a great quarterback to fail. The Ravens 3-5 is the symbol of mediocrity. There is no excuse for wasting talent.
The Ravens biggest problems are the most basic aspects of football. The Ravens cannot block, the Ravens cannot tackle. The Ravens special teams are also a complete disappointment helping the Ravens lose the field position battle time and time again. The Ravens cannot do the very basic and very core things that must be done in football. Many of the big things they are doing right. Dean Pees for instance is dialing up some beautiful stunts and the Ravens pass rush has shined. Joe Flacco has played for the most part very well. If you take out the Buffalo game this has been an impressive season for Joe, who is doing everything he can to help us win. He is not the problem. Torrey Smith is leading the NFL in receiving. The big things the Ravens have done very well. It is the small things they have failed at.
The offensive line is incredibly pathetic. Even the veteran Marshall Yanda has been horrible. The offensive line is running out of excuses. First it was that they were playing hurt. Boo-hoo. Then it was the scheme. While the scheme does not fit the players we have this does not excuse the ridiculous penetration in the backfield on just about every play. There is just no excuse. Especially for first year starting center Gino Gradkowski. Gradkowski has gotten beat off the line consistently. There is no excuse for pathetic play in the NFL, the man must be benched. The scheme is a problem. We do not have zone blockers we have big brawling grizzly bears and a teddy bear at center). However as bad as the scheme fits our personnel there is absolutely no excuse to play pathetic football. That is what the offensive line has done. The whining session is over, play better.
The 2013 Offensive line is the single biggest problem I have seen a Ravens team have. This is worse than the constant quarterback shuffling before we found Flacco. It is worse than the injury plagued 2007 squad. This offensive line is a problem of epic proportions. The Ravens identity of physically dominant team cannot exist in a world without blocking.
Baltimore is without a clue on how to fix the situation. Their answer seems to be to spread teams out. This is not the answer. When 5 men cannot block 3 what makes you think they can block 6? The Ravens are not going to get less pressure. If I was a defensive coordinator I would want them to spread it out. I would feel comfortable sending double A gap blitzes and double covering Torrey Smith all day. The Ravens poor play on the offensive line makes it quite hard to find any answer. But I know that Vonta Leach has to play more than 2 snaps to help both run and pass block. The Ravens need to find their old identity. When in doubt, Baltimore should aim to be the toughest and most relentless team in football. That is what they used to be.