By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have issues. They have been dealing with a lot on the injury front this season, and still have managed a 5-2 record. After a 41-17 loss to the Bengals, the problems are the clear focus of the fanbase. Let’s dive into the problems because they feel heavier than ever.
Problem 1: Offensive line is even more banged up
The Baltimore Ravens will probably be without Patrick Mekari for a while. He was holding down the fort at the right tackle position about as well as anybody could have hoped for. Now the Ravens are at their Plan C at offensive tackle. For the moment that means Tyre Phillips is back at right tackle. That’s not good. Ronnie Stanley is out for the season. The Ravens could use reinforcements on the offensive line but trades are hard to come by for linemen mid-season.
Problem 2: The defense is an enigma
The Ravens probably aren’t as good as they were defensively against the Chargers. That could easily look like an anomaly, a weird happening that nobody will ever complain about. The Ravens hopefully aren’t as bad as they were against the Bengals. Still, this defense makes no sense. How can this be the same defense that throttled Justin Herbert? The Ravens have no idea what to expect from their defense as a whole, which is the top concern for a defense with a lot of things to worry about.
Problem 3: Pursuit angles, open field coverage, inconsistent pass coverage
The Ravens give up more yards after the catch than I can bear; don’t make me look up that ugly statistic. The Ravens are taking bad angles to the football. In the passing game, their linebackers look lost and provide very little value. Currently, four of the top five leading tacklers are defensive backs. That means the front seven is letting a lot slip past them. If you watched the game against the Bengals you understand the defensive backs have a limited grasp on what a tackle should look like.
The Ravens have given up some big games in the air. In general, their pass defense is hard to count on. The Ravens couldn’t stop tight ends in the first two weeks of the season. Michael Pittman Jr. and Ja’Marr Chase have dominated them. The secondary either shows up or it doesn’t and when it hasn’t, it’s been ugly.
Problem 4: The run game is broken
The Ravens’ rushing yards are almost exclusively coming from Lamar Jackson at the moment. The running backs don’t have the burst to make it work. It’s not like the offensive line is creating much daylight, yet this running back group offers very little to be excited about. The Ravens don’t have an answer on their active roster. At this point, they may as well try Nate McCrary with the big boys.
Has the Ravens’ passing game grown leaps and bounds? You bet. Still, this is supposed to be the best running team in football and they are nowhere close to that. The Ravens lost their physical identity. They need Nick Boyle to come back for a much-needed blocking super booster. They need the line to block better. Adding a running back isn’t going to fix everything, but having somebody who can turn a two-yard run into a four or five-yard gain would add unspeakable value to this team.
Problem 5: Wide Receiver has become the top strength (And it’s not an elite unit)
What do the Ravens have going for them offensively? It’s a shortlist. The Ravens have an MVP quarterback and a good group of pass-catchers. All of a sudden the wide receiver position is the top position for the offense other than quarterback. Marquise Brown is a number one receiver. We can give him that after his strong start to the season. Rashod Bateman looks the part, it’s clear that he’s going to be good. James Proche and Devin Duvernay have stepped up this year and have become solid contributors.
While it’s good that the offense is getting more from the passing game (In particular their receivers) this is a troubling sign. The Ravens don’t have a top-tier group of receivers. Until proven otherwise, Marquise Brown is the only real game-changer the receiver position has. If you said at the beginning of the season that the Ravens’ offense would lean on its wide receivers, you may have become very nervous. That’s the point. It’s hard to have balance like this. This isn’t what the team was built for, even if it’s better than it was.
6. The defensive line has been relatively unimpactful
The Baltimore Ravens aren’t getting much from the defensive line. This has been Brandon Williams’s worst season. Justin Madubuike has been okay, yet with a larger sample size this season he’s underachieved. Calais Campbell is clearly the best defensive lineman the Baltimore Ravens have. Campbell isn’t the game destroyer he once was though, and the defensive line has been gashed several times this season.
7. Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison can’t be counted on:
The fact of the matter is that Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison had the opportunity to shine this season. L.J. Fort was lost to injury and the Baltimore Ravens desperately needed their young linebackers to play well. Patrick Queen has been not just underwhelming but frustrating. Malik Harrison isn’t showing to be a great athlete. Chris Board and Josh Bynes are the best linebackers the Ravens have. Queen has improved but in a situation where he’s losing snaps to Bynes, a player Baltimore had no choice but to bring into the fold.
8. Slow starts are getting old:
The Ravens can’t start games right this season. Other than the Chargers game, name one time the Ravens led a game wire to wire. Exactly, you can’t. The Ravens have won close games in which they needed to be an amazing fourth-quarter team. Doing things the hard way comes at a cost. The Bengals did not let the Ravens get away with it.
9. Baltimore can’t afford anything but an A effort from Lamar Jackson:
The Ravens are 5-2 because their quarterback has played like he wants his second MVP award. Jackson had two fumbles against the Las Vegas Raiders and was a bit off at times. Jackson was completely out of sync against the Bengals. They lost. If Jackson doesn’t amaze the Ravens can’t win unless they get a complete team win (It happened one time only: See Chargers game).
10. Injuries and general are adding up:
The Ravens have more players on injured reserve than you can count on your 10 fingers. The Ravens have lost star players for the season, players who were core to the whole plan this year. When you look at it the Ravens have very limited cap space and very limited options ahead of the trade deadline and they need fresh bodies on this roster. Injuries have been an incredibly bad problem.
NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens get dominated by Bengals: Nothing nice to say
The Ravens still have a chance to have a great season. They do have issues to work through though, and just about every problem feels heavy going into the bye week.