Who are the real Ravens? Are they the team that came into Monday Night’s game with the Jacksonville Jaguars touted as one of the best teams in the NFL – possibly the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl because of how well-rounded they are on both sides of the ball? Or is this the Ravens team of old, where the defense, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, is top-notch but must have a heroic effort week-to-week to win games? On Monday, the defense had to sit back and watch as the Ravens offense failed to get a 1st down until late in the 3rd quarter and only scored 7 points against a 1-5 Jaguars team (though the Jacksonville defense was 8th in the NFL coming in).
After watching the game from the sidelines Monday night, I don’t see Baltimore as anything more than a Wild Card team once again this year – unless Joe Flacco greatly improves his game. I don’t care how good your defense is, you are not going anywhere in today’s pass-happy NFL if your quarterback is barely completing 50% of his passes.
But let’s get this straight: this is not all on Joe Flacco. His offensive line was porous Monday night, allowing him to be hit and harassed throughout the game, and his receivers are not winning on the outside. While Jacksonville’s defense is good and Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox are good coverage corners, rarely did I see any real separation created by the Ravens wide receivers. There weren’t many easy completions for Flacco against the Jags and that’s not good when you are struggling with your accuracy.
On top of all of this, for some reason Ray Rice, the best offensive player on the Ravens, only touched the ball 13 times. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has to do a better job of getting the ball in Rice’s hands, both in the running game and with the pass. If they don’t utilize Rice, they aren’t going to be an effective offense.
It will be interesting to see if Baltimore’s offense can pull it together and round out a Ravens team that once again features a terrific defense. Then again, it could be just as interesting for neutral observers if they don’t.
– Tony Boselli
Tony Boselli is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of the NFL. He’ll see the Ravens up close again this weekend. Coverage of Ravens-Cardinals from M&T Bank Stadium begins at 12:30 PM Eastern Sunday on Westwood One Sports.