Tag Archive | "Bernard Pierce"

Performance to determine carries for Ravens running backs

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Performance to determine carries for Ravens running backs

Posted on 11 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — What was once brushed off as a slow start can no longer be ignored by the Ravens as Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice averaged less than 2.0 yards per carry for the second straight week in Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win over the Bengals.

For the better part of a month, questions have persisted about Rice’s health after he suffered a hip flexor injury in Week 2 and have gone as far as wondering whether the sixth-year running back is reaching the end of the road as a productive player. Whatever the cause, coach John Harbaugh can no longer ignore Rice’s 2.5 yards per carry average in eight games this season after he gained only 30 yards on 18 carries against the Cincinnati defense on Sunday.

Three or four underwhelming games per season can be chalked up to playing strong front sevens, but Rice has gained only 289 yards on the ground and hasn’t shown elusiveness when catching passes in the open field, averaging a career-low 4.9 yards per reception. Certainly a porous offensive line has played an overwhelming role in limiting Rice’s running room, but the Baltimore coach acknowledged health still being a factor for Rice despite his claims since before the bye in late October that he was 100 percent physically.

“You’ve got to look at the numbers, and definitely, it’s not the same,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no doubt about that, so what is it? It’s injury or it’s not as much room to run, or it’s both. His health has been a factor. There’s no doubt about it. He’s working hard to become healthier; that’s important [to] get past that hip flexor. That’s a muscle injury, and it’s hard to predict exactly what impact that has, but you’ve got to assume it’s had an impact.”

Perhaps Rice’s biggest defense of his performance this season has been the underwhelming numbers of second-year running back Bernard Pierce, who is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry and has battled a nagging hamstring injury that now appears fully recovered. Though not posting numbers on Sunday that would be confused with all-world running back Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Pierce collected 31 yards on eight carries against the Bengals and displayed more explosiveness than seen from him in quite some time.

With the Ravens desperate to generate any production from a running game averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards per carry, Harbaugh was asked Monday whether he’d consider using Pierce as his feature back with Rice playing more of a secondary role. The coach’s answer was predictable in trying to protect his struggling No. 1 back, but he left the door open for altering how the workload is distributed in the coming weeks.

We can only wait to see how it plays out starting on Sunday in Chicago against a Bears defense ranked 31st against the run and giving up 4.5 yards per carry.

“Both of those guys are going to play,” Harbaugh said. “What would [making Pierce the starter] mean? One guy’s a feature back by definition? Both of those guys are going to get a large number of carries and I think whichever guy’s playing better should get more carries as we go forward. Bernard’s had his hamstring issues the last five weeks, which he seems to be coming out of. Ray’s had his hip issue since the second game, but he seems to be coming out of that. Both of those guys seem to be getting healthier. That’s a plus for us.”

Critics will interpret Harbaugh’s nonspecific answer as nothing more than coach speak, but there is precedent for an effective Pierce — and it’s important to remember his numbers have only been minimally better than Rice’s this season — receiving a larger number of carries that cuts into the veteran’s workload.

Late last season when Pierce began earning his reputation as a physical runner capable of gaining yards after contact, the Ravens fed him the ball 14 times for 123 yards in a Week 16 win over the New York Giants. However, Rice was also effective in that division-clinching win as he gained 107 yards on 24 carries.

The Ravens’ willingness to give Pierce the ball was more evident in the wild card playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts when the carry distribution was nearly even as Rice gained 68 yards on 15 attempts and Pierce rushed for a game-high 103 yards on 13 carries. However, the workload became unbalanced once again for the rest of the postseason as Pierce dealt with nagging injuries.

It’s easy to bury Rice by suggesting the Ravens give the ball to Pierce — who only outperformed Rice substantially in yards per carry for the second time this season on Sunday — and put the veteran on the back burner, but the 2012 third-round pick has been bothered by various ailments in his brief NFL career while Rice has remained durable for most of his six seasons and played four full seasons between missed games at the professional level until he was sidelined with the hip injury earlier this year.

“Both of those guys have to play for us and play well,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t have one back carrying the ball 35 times nowadays, and we don’t need to do that. We think we’ve got two very good backs.”

 

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Is Ray Rice done?

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Is Ray Rice done?

Posted on 11 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

No one around town wants to say it.

A lot of people have been thinking it, but no one wants to actually come out and write it, tweet it or say it.

But, there’s no sense in burying the story any longer.

It’s simple, really.

If Ray Rice ISN’T hurt — and he continues to pledge to anyone who will listen that he isn’t — then his days as a contributor in the NFL are over.

I have no idea how that happened, but it apparently has, right before our very eyes over the last nine games.

Anyone who has followed the NFL knows this is precisely how it happens.  A running back just shows up one day and it’s not there anymore.  There appears to be no explanation for it.  He ran the ball like a demon last year.  This year, his legs don’t work.  How?  Why?  Who knows…it just happens that way with running backs for some reason.

It would appear, unless Rice is hiding a lingering issue, that he’s facing the same sort of abrupt end to his useful days in Baltimore and, perhaps, the league as a whole.

Yes, yes, yes, the Ravens offensive line is horrible.  That’s a certainty.  Bernard Pierce isn’t exactly lighting it up either, as anyone who has watched the games will remind me.

But, even when he gets some breathing room or catches a ball in the open field, Rice just doesn’t have it.  He can’t make tacklers miss with those elusive jukes and dodgy moves we saw from him a few years ago.  Did you see Giovani Bernard run the ball yesterday for the Bengals?  That’s precisely what Ray Rice looked like in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  He hit the hole, quickly, got to the second level, made linebackers miss, and was good for 100 yards of per-game offense with his eyes closed.

I hope I’m wrong, because Rice has been an outstanding contributor to the Ravens both on and off the field.  Few players in purple have embraced the community like he has and his “anti-bullying” efforts with the Baltimore school system is a much-needed message to send from one of Baltimore’s premier athletes.

But…if you can’t run the ball and help the team’s offense, you’re no longer valuable.

Everyone’s been thinking it…

Yesterday’s performance against the Bengals was the moment I went from thinking it to saying it.

Unless he’s hurt, Ray Rice looks finished.

I hope I’m wrong.

 

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 10 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 20-17 (OT) win over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Ed Dickson

 

4. Justin Tucker

3. Torrey Smith

 

2. Elvis Dumervil

1. Lardarius Webb (Pat on Both Cheeks)

 

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Flacco will get the blame, but only if you don’t actually watch the games…

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Flacco will get the blame, but only if you don’t actually watch the games…

Posted on 04 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

The Ravens are 3-5 now after a loss to the NFL’s equivalent of Charlie Brown and, per the usual standards of everyone, it’s time to find a scapegoat.

It’s ALWAYS someone, of course.

I have a feeling this week it’s gonna be Joe Flacco.

I heard a couple of national talking heads blabbering as I was driving in on Monday morning, and they’re already on the “ever since they paid Flacco, he’s stunk” theory.  It’s quite obvious those two goofs do the show from another planet or they simply haven’t watched the Ravens play this season.

Yet, in fairness, there will be people in Baltimore this week who will blame Flacco for the club’s 2013 woes and they actually DO watch the games.

Losing to Cleveland stinks.  No doubt about that.  I called Sunday’s loss in Cleveland “the worst of the Harbaugh-Flacco era”.  I can recall a few games along the way where they’ve played as poorly — road losses in Jacksonville, Seattle and Buffalo, this season, among them — but none of those came after a bye-week, none of those came against a division team you had owned for five years and none of those featured the completely inept performance of the Baltimore running game.

Look, there’s nothing wrong, really, with having “the worst loss…” or anything like that.  Bad games happen.  The other team tries, too, as I always remind all of you.  If you coach for five years or quarterback for five years, you’re bound to have a game that goes immediately to your “worst ever” list.

Sunday, though, was much more than just about Flacco, who clearly had another listless first half before kicking it into gear for a decent final 30 minutes.

It was about Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce not doing anything. Vonta Leach didn’t do anything, either, but he didn’t really play at all because they don’t have  a role for him for some odd reason.

It was about Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher both looking like they thought the game started at 8:25 instead of 4:25.

It was about Tandon Doss coughing up a punt at the absolute worst possible time, with the team trailing only 14-10 and looking like they were going to pull out one of those “a win is a win” kind of victories. As far as individual plays in the game go, that was the biggest one of the game.

It was about the Ravens defense — for the third straight loss now — not being able to get the other team’s offense off the field, regardless of whether it’s 3rd and 4, 4th and 1 or 3rd and 10.  Jason Campbell made a helluva play, granted, on that 4th-and-one throw that effectively sealed the game, but that’s been the Ravens’ defensive M.O. nearly all season.  They’re just not good enough.  They’re not horrible.  But they’re just as much of a liability “under the gun” as the team’s running attack on the offensive side of the ball.

And, lastly, it’s about a team that won the Super Bowl a year ago and the very-much expected “market correction” that comes along with it, no matter what the Head Coach said back in August and anyone else assumed over the last eight weeks.

The margin for error is now slimmer-than-slim for the Ravens, who likely have to go 6-2 at a minimum to qualify for the playoffs.  I can’t see that happening based on the first eight games of the campaign, but stranger things have happened — like the Jets losing by 40 points in Cincinnati one week and beating New Orleans the following Sunday.

Based on what I’ve seen, I’d call a 6-2 run from the club virtually impossible.

They don’t do anything well.

They do a bunch of stuff “OK”, but nothing stands out at all.

They’re just not that good.

Their record proves that.

 

Tomorrow: I’ll share some thoughts on John Harbaugh and his role in this 2013 team.

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After post-bye clunker, “What now?” becomes Ravens’ biggest question

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After post-bye clunker, “What now?” becomes Ravens’ biggest question

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Coming off the Week 8 bye was supposed to be a chance for the Ravens to start anew after a rocky 3-4 start to the 2013 season.

With the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals losing on Thursday night and most of the AFC wild-card contenders looking mortal, the Ravens simply needed a win — no matter how it looked — to get back to .500 and begin the second half of the season on a positive note. A week off not only gave players a chance to rest but provided head coach John Harbaugh and his staff the time to make much-needed corrections in all phases of the game.

Instead, the Ravens responded with an ugly 24-18 loss to the Cleveland Browns, snapping an 11-game winning streak over their AFC North foe and digging an even bigger hole in their quest to advance to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. Expecting the bye week to provide a much-needed tuneup, the Ravens instead stalled getting out of their driveway as they’re now off to their worst start since the 2005 season.

And the question echoing over and over in the closing seconds as the Browns finished a scoring drive lasting more than six minutes was a frightening one.

What now?

A running game averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards per carry entering Sunday produced only 55 yards on 21 carries with quarterback Joe Flacco accounting for 25 of those on three scrambles. The offensive line was once again dominated at the point of attack and Ray Rice finished with 17 yards on 11 carries, not looking any more explosive or elusive despite claims that he was once again 100 percent.

Though once again plagued with a running game that was a non-factor and suspect pass protection for much of the day, Flacco played poorly through much of the first half, missing several open receivers and throwing a head-scratching interception late in the second quarter. To his credit, the sixth-year signal caller rebounded over the game’s final 30 minutes, but his poor first-half showing was disappointing coming off the bye and was a major factor in the Ravens offense once again getting off to a slow start.

The defense allowed veteran Jason Campbell to throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns and, even worse, wasn’t able to get a stop at a crucial point in the second half for the third straight game — all losses. Dean Pees’ unit hasn’t been the biggest problem this season, but the Ravens defense simply hasn’t been able to come up with a big play when it needs it late in games unlike stellar units of the past that often carried inferior offenses.

Not to be outdone by the first two phases, the special teams were a major problem as well as normally sure-handed punt returner Tandon Doss muffed a punt at his own 11-yard line, setting up the Browns’ third touchdown of the game in the third quarter and putting the Ravens behind 21-10. And punter Sam Koch continued his rough season, failing to pin the Browns inside the 20 on three separate opportunities kicking inside Cleveland territory in a game in which field position loomed large.

Hoping for the light to come on after the bye, the Ravens looked like they did in the first seven games of the season — appearing to be a below-average football team.

How does it get fixed? Can it be fixed this season?

The Ravens are as healthy as they’re going to be until the expected return of Dennis Pitta later this month, but the talented tight end isn’t going to remedy all of the team’s problems. At this rate, the Ravens may not be in a position for Pitta’s return to matter in terms of their playoff hopes for 2013.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh have already trimmed fat on the roster with the jettisoning of veterans Michael Huff, Marcus Spears, and Bryant McKinnie. Many are clamoring for the ax to fall on run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, but there have already been murmurs that his influence has waned since the bye week with offensive line coach Andy Moeller now having a louder voice.

If Castillo were to be fired — a move that would be very difficult to challenge at this point — do the likes of Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher suddenly start winning one-on-one battles that they’ve lost too often this season?

The answers aren’t simple when you have issues all over the place and that’s where the Ravens find themselves as they began the month of November with their third loss in the last four games. There’s a certain amount of understanding that comes with the struggles of unproven players like Gino Gradkowski and veteran newcomers who simply don’t fit, but a number of veterans who have been counted on year in and year out have been even bigger disappointments, which brings greater concern for the future.

Even with the problems along the offensive line, it’s getting more difficult every week to dispute the growing notion that Rice’s best days are behind him. He continues to struggle to break any tackles in the open field and no longer looks like the home-run hitter on which the Ravens relied for years. Rice has three years remaining on his current contract and is scheduled to account for $8.75 million on next year’s cap.

Oher and Yanda have appeared to be shells of their former selves, which might not be as problematic with the former scheduled to become a free agent, but the Pro Bowl right guard has a cap figure of $8.45 million next year and is under contract through the 2015 season.

Top cornerback Lardarius Webb was faked out of his shoes by Browns receiver Davone Bess on a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter Sunday and has struggled to find his pre-injury form coming back from ACL surgery, but he certainly deserves some benefit of the doubt and should get stronger in the second half of the season. Still, he carries a $10.5 million cap figure in 2014 and is being paid as one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

Having arguably the worst season of his career, Koch carries a $2.8 million cap figure next year, which is a high number for a punter not getting the job done.

And perhaps the most disappointing and concerning of the group of standouts failing to deliver in 2013 is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who holds a $16 million cap number next season and no longer looks like the game-wrecker he was before the Ravens signed him to a five-year, $61 million contract in 2011. For the third straight season, nagging injuries are limiting his impact in games.

Regardless of what happens over the final eight games in terms of the Ravens trying to rebound to extend their run of five consecutive playoff appearances to a sixth, Newsome and Harbaugh must be in evaluation mode when it comes to the aforementioned players. Some contracts have bigger cap ramifications than others, but it’s a scary proposition to be forced to reconsider your thinking on players who previously weren’t of any concern — and carry huge price tags.

The debate went on through much of the offseason whether the Ravens were rebuilding or simply reloading after a slew of personnel changes. The result to this point has been a flawed roster that will need to go 6-2 in the second half of the season just to give the Ravens a chance at 9-7.

And barring a drastic turnaround in the final eight games, the Ravens will be forced to start thinking about their offseason much sooner than anyone anticipated.

And they’ll definitely have their work cut out for them.

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Oher only Ravens player to sit out Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 30 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens took full advantage of their bye week from a health standpoint as all but one player on the 53-man roster took part in Wednesday’s practice.

Despite being dressed out in full gear and appearing to take part in individual drills during the viewing portion of the workout, right tackle Michael Oher (knee) was listed as a non-participant on the first injury report of the week.

Continuing preparations for Sunday’s trip to Cleveland to take on the 3-5 Browns, coach John Harbaugh painted a positive picture from an injury standpoint as the Ravens battled a slew of injuries in the first half of the season. Left guard Kelechi Osemele (back), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), linebackers Josh Bynes (finger) and Albert McClellan (shoulder), and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) were all present and working after sitting out the last practice of the bye week before players were given four straight days off.

“When you start losing guys to injury, it has a domino effect throughout your team,” Harbaugh said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “This will be the healthiest we’ve been. We have all 53 guys practicing today for the first time all season. That’s a good thing.”

Bynes, Osemele, and Stokley were all limited participants during Wednesday’s practice.

Newly-signed running back Bernard Scott was present and participating after being signed to the active roster on Monday. With Pierce and starter Ray Rice both dealing with nagging injuries in the first half of the season, Scott was viewed as both an insurance policy and a change-of-pace back who could potentially see some opportunities on third down depending on how quickly he absorbs the offense.

However, any linger concerns over Pierce’s sore hamstring during the bye seemed to be put to rest with the second-year back practicing on Wednesday. Pierce said both he and Rice are as healthy as they’ve been since the start of the regular season.

“I’m feeling good. I’m ready to go,” said Pierce, who acknowledged the hamstring injury being an issue at different times over the last two months. “I came in and did everything with the team on Monday. I’m feeling great.”

Safeties Omar Brown and Brynden Trawick were both taking part in their first practice since being promoted from the practice squad.

Trawick was on the 53-man roster for the first three games of the season while Brown has been with the organization since last year and was active for three games during the 2012 season.

Meanwhile, Cleveland is also in excellent shape from a health standpoint as only two players were listed as limited participants and no one missed Wednesday’s practice. Former Ravens running back Willis McGahee was listed as a full participant.

Here is Wednesday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: T Michael Oher (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Josh Bynes (finger/thigh), G Kelechi Osemele (back/knee), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

CLEVELAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Quentin Groves (ankle), DL Billy Winn (Quad)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Willis McGahee (knee), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (ribs), DB Chris Owens (finger), LB Jabaal Sheard (wrist)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Steelers

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Steelers

Posted on 22 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 19-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Bernard Pierce tackled by Lawrence Timmons and Steve McLendon for one yard loss on 3rd & 1 (1st quarter)

You cannot start a 3rd & 1 run five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Oy.

4. Lamar Woodley sacks Joe Flacco for 10 yard loss on 3rd & 8 from Pittsburgh 34 (2nd quarter)

It would have been a long field goal attempt, but I’d rather that than a punt.

3. William Gay breaks up Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones on 3rd & 12 (3rd quarter)

Man did that one really bother me watching the film again Monday. Very close to six.

2. Elvis Dumervil called for unnecessary roughness after Jerricho Cotchery 7 yard catch from Ben Roethlisberger (3rd quarter)

From 2nd & 17 to an eight minute drive.

1. Vince Williams recovers Justin Tucker onside kick attempt, Tucker flagged for illegal touching (4th quarter)

The decision was questionable. The execution was putrid.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 20 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-16 Sunday at Heinz Field, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Joe Flacco

4. Jeromy Miles

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Haloti Ngata

1. Elvis Dumervil (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Packers

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Packers

Posted on 15 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Eddie Lacy 4 yard run on 3rd & 2 (4th quarter)

This “ended” the game, but Ravens would have needed a miracle even if they stopped the run.

4. Sam Koch punts for 37 yards, touchback on 4th & 9 (1st quarter)

An exchange of 17 yards of field position instead of a field goal try? Or going for it? Or taking a penalty?

3. Datone Jones recovers Joe Flacco fumble forced by Nick Perry at Ravens’ 13 (2nd quarter)

Just an absolute disaster that lead to free points.

2. Jermichael Finley 52 yard catch from Aaron Rodgers on 3rd & 3 (4th quarter)

The play that really ended things.

1. Jordy Nelson 64 yard TD catch from Aaron Rodgers (3rd quarter)

In watching film, no play seemed to turn things more dramatically. Ravens had made it one possession again only to fall behind by two TD’s. 

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Changes coming to Ravens’ struggling offensive line

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Changes coming to Ravens’ struggling offensive line

Posted on 14 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh didn’t offer a specific list of adjustments to be made to an anemic running game, but the head coach isn’t shying away from the biggest problem that plagues his 3-3 team, either.

Addressing the media a day after a disappointing 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers in which the Ravens gained just 47 yards on 22 carries to continue a season-long inability to run the football, Harbaugh acknowledged that he and his coaching staff aren’t standing pat with a struggling offensive line. While most fingers are pointed in the direction of new run-game coordinator Juan Castillo and second-year center Gino Gradkowski, the head coach repeatedly said all individuals invested in the running game — coaches, offensive linemen, and running backs — need to make improvements as the Ravens rank 31st in the league with their 2.7 yards per carry average.

“We’re definitely making changes. We’re not going to sit there and just stand pat with what we’re doing,” Harbaugh said. “It may not be visible from the outside looking in, but they’re visible to the people we play against, and they’re definitely visible to us. We know what changes we’re making, whether it’s personnel changes or, more likely, scheme changes. Not major things, just things that will give our guys a better chance to be on the same page. That’s what we need to do.

“We’ve got too many situations where we don’t have a hat on a hat. When you don’t have a hat on a hat, that’s a problem. That’s just not acceptable.”

Harbaugh mentioning the inability to simply find one-on-one matchups suggests the Ravens could be moving away from Castillo’s zone blocking scheme that relies on lateral movement, timing, and finding the proper positioning and angles and moving toward a man-power approach that involves more physicality and simply identifying a defender to block based on how the defense is lined up before the snap.

The Ravens have repeatedly been dominated at the line of scrimmage this season, with many observers seeing too much hesitation and a lack of proper communication in identifying blitzes and stunts. Harbaugh has repeatedly downplayed the changes made by Castillo this season, but the acknowledgement of scheme adjustments being made suggests what the former Eagles offensive line coach has tried to implement hasn’t worked well with the personnel up front.

“We’re not stuck on any particular scheme or any particular technique or any particular way of doing something,” Harbaugh said. “We want to find the best way to do it, and we work hard at that, and we’ll continue to do that. We’re going to find our way into our run game.”

It remains to be seen whether there are any noticeable changes such as the possibility of A.Q. Shipley taking Gradkowski’s place in the starting lineup, but an attempt to simplify their overall strategy could at least provide short-term relief for a running game struggling to simply get back to the line of scrimmage far too often.

Of the Ravens’ 22 rushing attempts in Sunday’s loss to the Packers, five went for negative yardage and six netted no gain as quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game were constantly faced with third-and-long situations because of such little success on first and second down. There were a few occasions where a delayed blitzer came untouched to blow up ballcarriers in the backfield.

“We had some mental mistakes, some errors that just cost us,” Harbaugh said. “You need no runs for negative yards. There has got to be at least a gain of some kind moving forward. We’ve got to get a lot better at that.”

Even if a simplified man-power approach doesn’t provide as high of a ceiling in terms of explosive plays, increasing the yards-per-carry average to a respectable level — say even an underwhelming 3.5 yards per carry — would alleviate pressure on a passing game still evolving in its own right.

Whether the results improve this Sunday in Pittsburgh or we see much of the same from a running game that’s yet to get in gear as the bye week approaches, the Ravens need to change things up. All parties involved with the running game continue to say the right things, but it’s now clear that what was once thought as an early-season aberration is threatening to become a year-altering crisis with each week of ineffective rushing.

“Frustration can be a great motivator,” Harbaugh said. “I like that. Let’s be frustrated, and let’s go to work and see if we can get better.”

Jensen’s role moving forward

With Gradkowski not performing well and Shipley not drawing an opportunity at the center position to this point, many have turned their attention to sixth-round rookie Ryan Jensen and what role he might serve along the offensive line.

The Colorado State-Pueblo product finally returned to the practice field last week after breaking his foot in the first week of training camp in late July, but it’s unlikely the 6-foot-4, 318-pound lineman will be a factor on game days until after the bye. It’s clear the Ravens wanted to keep Jensen around as an option for 2013 since they refrained from placing him on season-ending injured reserve, but Harbaugh’s vision for Jensen — at least publicly — doesn’t suggest a move to the starting lineup anytime soon.

“He’ll be a backup to start with, and then we’ll see what he does from there,” Harbaugh said. “We haven’t seen much of him yet. Developmental backup — that will be his role.”

Truthfully, the Ravens are unsure what they really have with Jensen who only played at the Div. II level, but they like his upside as an interior lineman.

Harbaugh defends Elam

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