By: Matt Jergensen (@MattJergs)
In an off-season that has been defined by defense for the Ravens, it is the offense that must produce consistently if the team is to return to the post-season. That's why so many, myself included, have been unsure about the franchise investing so heavily on the defensive side of the ball with free agent signings and draft picks. The offense has lacked difference makers for several years and its been one of many reasons why it has been ranked near the bottom of the league. I was pleased to see the team be able to go out and get a capable receiver in Jeremy Maclin but he isn't a marquee talent like Antonio Brown or A.J. Green that plays for our division rivals. He won't scare defensive coordinators or put fear into corners. So the Ravens will need to out coach the opposition. Easier said than done.
A large issue has been how the team game plans from week to week and how effective they are able to execute that plan. Last season the team was extremely pass-happy on first down throwing it 55% of the time, on second down they were even more predictable tossing it at almost a 70% clip. These percentages were close to tops in the NFL.
So a team that had few star pass catchers threw the ball the majority of the time while often implementing a predictable, and unimaginative scheme. It's easy to see where I'm going here. The team must get back to some semblance of balance and unpredictability that we haven't seen around here since Gary Kubiak left Mobtown.
There is cause for optimism and it comes in the form of Greg Roman. Roman brings past success as a coach who understands blocking schemes and should be able to inject some new ideas into Baltimore's stagnant run game. This isn't just about saying "run the ball more", it's about being unpredictable and keeping offenses on their toes. Joe Flacco still has one the league's strongest arms yet too often he checked down short and rarely looked to stretch the field. Now imagine if the Ravens were able to use play-action and actually have it mean something because there's been more of an effort to pound the football.
My hope is that as Roman, Marty Mornhinweg and John Harbaugh have gotten on the same page about their philosophy and vision this Spring and that things will be more consistent on the offensive end. I feel that if the Ravens return to a more balanced attack then it can only help Joe Flacco who while he threw for a career high in Yards (4,317) in 2016 still had consistency issues coming off knee surgery. There will be no such excuses to fall back on this season though. Flacco must step up and perform like the veteran that he is. I also expect Morinhinweg to do a better job with play-calling now that he's starting the season with the job. I should note that the team scored 22.6 points a game when he took over for Marc Trestman so there are several positive signs heading into this season.
The real question for me is will the Ravens be held back by their lack of offensive star-power or will the coaching staff be able to exploit mismatches and be able to put the talent we do have in a position to succeed?