Ravens Problems Support The Importance Of Playcalling
The 2013 Baltimore Ravens are an example of the importance of play calling. This is not for good reasons but for the crippling of the Ravens all ready problematic offense. Jim Caldwell’s lack of creativity, surplus of predictability and seemingly a lack of knowledge of the offensive line took a shaky situation even worse.
The Ravens had a relatively low ceiling for 2013, offensively. The offensive line was a disaster and quarterback Joe Flacco had a depleted group of pass catchers. When you add the fact that Ray Rice was playing hurt most of the season, it was evident that Baltimore had a lot of issues.
The personnel issues aside the play calling was uninspiring and abysmal. It would not be hyperbolic to say that Jim Caldwell poured kerosene onto the fire with every Ravens possession. First downs were bullets laced in inevitability as the same call got the same sad result. Good play calling could have diffused the problems.
The Ravens offense was predictable, just ask the New England Patriots who jumped on every tendency in the Caldwell book. The Ravens had 1 go to guy in Torrey Smith. When defenses took him away they usually won. Nearly all sets of downs began with that demented draw play out of the shotgun. The Ravens did nothing to get receivers open down the field but had Joe throw deep bomb after deep bomb.
Good play calling is not transparent. The offense naturally has the advantage of knowing where they are going and when the ball will be snapped. When the defense knows this pre-snap, this advantage disappears. Everyone has tendencies, it is unavoidable. The best play-callers track their tendencies and even take advantage of them to fool the defense. Jim Caldwell must have not been an Einstein fan because he clearly fits Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Good offenses use good route spacing. There is a point to the routes, a proven concept that works. For example a “smash” concept has a corner route over a curl or a hitch. The cornerback is put into a bit of a pickle. Jim Caldwell showed little evidence of concepts as an aspect of the Ravens offense. It was like he told his receivers just go deep. Routes being clumped together was a problem and there was too much traffic in the middle of the field. Nobody was open.
Pass protection is the key to any passing game. Protection is always an aspect of calling a passing play. How many people are blocking, how many are running routes et cetera. These are important things to think about.
Jim Caldwell did not think about these things. So often he gave a horrible offensive line no help in the passing game. He would give Joe Flacco an empty backfield or have his back freely release into a route. On obvious passing downs, when your line can’t block 4 what makes you think they can pick up a blitz?
I thought the answer should have been 20 personnel (2 backs, 0 TE, 3WR). Take out the tight end and have two backs in the backfield. This gives you more protection options. Without Pitta the Ravens were getting no production from their tight ends so why have one on the field at all. With 20 personnel you would be able to always have 6-7 man protections. You also would have a lead blocker for your running back. My point is that if the Ravens wanted to spread defenses out, this would be a great compromise to help out the line.
Play calling is so important and the Ravens troubles show this. The Ravens had issues with the talent and health of their offensive roster. The play calling exasperated these issues into paralyzing problems. The Ravens offense had enough talent that with sufficient play calling it could have been functional instead of dysfunctional.