Many Ravens fans got what they considered to be the answer to their prayers on Monday when after a difficult loss to the Washington Redskins, the club elected to part company with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
The offense has failed to live up to the expectations of the fans, and by firing Cameron the team seemed to echo that sentiment. Before getting too carried away with the celebration however, it’s worth acknowledging that the new hope many are feeling today, s a result of the change, an only continue if now, in the aftermath of Cameron’s regime, Jim Caldwell is able to pick up the pieces and bring about the improvements that many have both expected and demanded.
There are lots of questions still to be answered and not a whole lot of time to find those answers before the playoffs begin. Here’s what we should be looking to find out as the Ravens move forward under Caldwell in the coming weeks:
How will the offense look to impose tempo?
The fans seem split on what the ideal answer to this question might be. The Ravens began the season, and seemingly chose their offensive personnel, with a notion to pick up the offensive pace. Their ability to move quickly, particularly on the road with the crowd working against them has been stagnated at times and at other times the team just seemed compelled not to use their up-tempo brand of offense.
With the defense struggling with injuries, age and at time ineffectiveness it may no longer be in the Ravens best interest to move their offense in such a hurry. Time of possession has not often fallen in the Ravens favor, and perhaps a more deliberate and methodical approach to offense, while not as glamorous, might be in the best interest of the defense and the overall goals of the team as a whole. It’ll be interesting to see if or how often the Jim Caldwell offense is willing to push the pace.
More Rice or more Flacco?
The 25-touch gauge for Ray Rice is often the first place that fans look to cast judgment on the performance of the play caller, particularly after a Ravens loss. Many operate under the belief that Rice is far and away the Ravens best offensive weapon and that a failure to use him enough can be blamed for most of what ails the offense.
At the same time, bell cow running backs aren’t exactly a part of the blueprint of most upper echelon NFL offenses these days and if the Ravens aspire to be one they’ll likely have to do it on the arm of Joe Flacco. The 25-touch barometer should be interesting as it’s been an overall down year for Rice in terms of touches and production. We’ll see if that leaves him with more in his tank than usual as they head down the stretch.
Will the Ravens use the middle of the field and/or be aggressive with a lead?
There have been legitimate questions raised as to just how much the Ravens have prioritized ball control and field position versus scoring. Bad play calling falls at the feet of the offensive coordinator, but conservative philosophy likely at the feet of the head coach. It’ll certainly be interesting in the coming weeks to see if the Ravens show a greater willingness to use the middle of the field in their passing game and whether they’re willing to stay aggressive if and when they’re able to attain narrow leads. This may also increase the potential for turnovers a risk they’ll have to be willing to accept if they’re going to be a top-flight offense.
How will the offensive line look?
Lots of observers are as frustrated with the performance of Michael Oher at right tackle as much as with any other component of the offense. You could certainly argue that in flipping Oher back and forth to each side of the line hasn’t exactly set him up to be as successful as he could be. You could also make the argument that Oher on the left side this year hasn’t set the Ravens up to be as successful as they could be. Whether or not Bryant McKinnie finds his way into the lineup at some point soon will be quite interesting to see, and greatly debated over one way or the other. If he does, then where Oher and likewise Kelechi Osemele end up as a result will be equally interesting.
How much control will Joe Flacco get?
Although he’s never called plays at the NFL level, the Jim Caldwell claim to fame has been the work that he put in refining and developing Peyton Manning. Interestingly enough, fans have complained for years about Joe Flacco’s inability or lack of permission to assess and change things at the line of scrimmage, which has obviously been a hallmark of the Peyton Manning experience. I wouldn’t expect Flacco to open up and do Manning’s “chicken dance” any time soon, but we should probably expect at least to see him exhibit a bit more control and decision making at the line of scrimmage.