Smith, Passing Game, Won’t Solve Ravens Problems
by Roy G Edwards
The Baltimore Ravens have an above average passing game, a Super Bowl MVP quarterback, and arguably one of the league’s top wide receiving corps. The addition of Owen Daniels should add another underneath option for Flacco and company and should open up more deep routes for Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. The problem isn’t the passing game, and hasn’t been the passing game. The offensive problems are because Baltimore is built to run the football.
The Baltimore Ravens ranked 16th in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2013 on their road to bringing home Baltimore it’s second Lombardi Trophy since the franchise became the Ravens in 1996. While the passing game flourished in the postseason that year, it was on the back of Ray Rice where Baltimore made it’s name. From a 4th and a 29 pick up to steal a win against the Chargers, to the nearly 120 yards rushing per game (118.8), the Baltimore Ravens number 11 ranked rushing attack opened up the offense and allowed Flacco to stand a little taller.
In 2013 the rushing attack dropped to worst in the league, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, and Rice was able to stay healthy behind a make shift line. The inability to run the ball made the passing game one dimensional virtually removing the play-action pass from the play book. They Ravens dropped from the nearly 120 rushing yards per game to a diminished 83.
In an attempt to revamp the offensive attack Baltimore brought in and interviewed coordinators who had one identity, running the football. Both top candidates, Kyle Shanahan and Gary Kubiak, stemmed from the zone read offense of Mike Shanahan, a similar offense to what the Ravens strived at during their 2012 postseason run. Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the number one rushing attack in football and Kubiak helped develop some of the top rushing offenses in football throughout his career. While Shanahan would ultimately move on to other places, the Ravens front office made it clear before they even named an offensive coordinator that rushing the football is a priority.
The Ravens will now lean on Kubiak and newly acquired Jeremy Zuttah to help rebuild the rushing attack. Zuttah, who played his college days at Rutgers with Rice, is very familiar with the zone blocking scheme and the identity the Ravens are looking for. Should Rice not face legal penalty, or penalty from the league, he should have pieces in place to return to his 2012 form.
Another interior name to look out for is second year offensive tackle Ricky Wagner. The 6’6” 308 lb offensive tackle from Wisconsin knows what it takes to run the football. Wisconsin had one of the best rushing attacks in college football while Wagner was on board, and their blocking scheme helped propel the badgers to a Rose Bowl appearance. With Oher now a member of the Tennessee Titans it is Wagner’s time to step up and cement himself as a viable member of this new vamped offensive line.
With a thought to be improved offensive line, a top of the league- when healthy- rushing attack and an above average passing attack the Ravens should be one of the favorites to take home the AFC North. While questions surround the team and their rushing attack, the biggest question may be out of their hands and in the court room.