Rebuilding a Culture
The Baltimore Ravens were established in 1996, by 2000 they were World Champs. The Ravens were always known for their stonewall defense led by General Ray Lewis. The team fit our city, tough, gritty, and blue-collar. Never was it pretty but no matter what, they got the job done. The offense was never top tier, our best years included Vinny Testaverde and Michael Jackson. Ever since the league has been crowned "A Passing League", the didn't buy into it until 2013 when Joe Flacco went 11-0 (TDs-INTs) in the postseason. Since then, building the offense has been the main focus, which may be the issue with the team right now. Remodeling a franchise from a defensive team to an offensive team is a hard transition, mainly because you're changing the culture, which is always hard.
The Ravens right now are 5-4, last place in the AFC North. If I had to blame it on something, it will probably be their inconsistency. The Ravens are the true definition of a week-to-week. They defeated the Bucs 48-17, Flacco throwing 5 TDs and 0 INTs in week 6, followed by a 29-7 victory over the Falcons in week 7. Three weeks later, going into week 9, the Ravens are on a two-game losing streak, both losses coming against division foes.
Ravens are doing what they're supposed to when it comes to inferior teams, trashing them, but when matched against quality opponents, they struggle. All 4 of the Ravens losses have been against potential playoff squads, 3 of which were division opponents. Joe Flacco's numbers in those game; 1,078 yards, 3 TDs, 5 INTs, with a 67.6 QB rating. That is not going to get the job done Joe Fleezy. You also have to point out that his receivers have dropped passes in those games, along with some sub-par protection.
Steve Smith has been a good pickup for the Ravens this year but it has effected Flacco's chemistry with the other receivers. Torrey Smith is probably having his worst season since he been in Baltimore. Jacoby Jones hasn't made big plays this season like how he did in 2012-13. Pitta injured his hip again on no-contact and Ray Rice is no longer apart of the team, his former safety blanket. You also have to account that Greg Kubiak is the 3rd offensive coordinator since 2013, which can also affect chemistry.
The run game has been better than what I thought it would be but the production isn't top tier. Justin Forsett leads the team with 609 yards, but as a team, they have only gained 1,090 yards.on the ground. The running game hasn't been right since 2013, last year struggles being because of poor performance on the offensive line.
With Ray Rice, this rushing attack could have been better, but without him, they have shown spurts. The 3-headed monster of Forsett, Pierce, and Taliaferro has the Ravens ranked 10th in rushing, averaging 121 yards a game. Kubiak's stretch attack has been effective but it has been times where for some reason, he strays away from it.
Overall, the offense has to find the chemistry soon. Inconsistent football from Flacco and this offense will keep this team out of the playoffs.
The defensive side of the ball hasn't played bad, except for against the pass. The Ravens are ranked 4th in the league in points allowed but 24th in passing defense. The secondary has been this team's Achilles heel and has been since 2013. It won't get any better anytime soon, with Jimmy Smith, who was playing at a pro-bowl level, being sidelined for the rest of the season because of his foot injury. Chykie Brown and and Dominique Franks were cut after the Steelers loss, both not playing good ball. The safeties don't make the corners' job easier because one has a ton of miss tackles (Matt Elam) and the others struggle with covering (Terrence Brooks and Darian Stewart).
The front 7 is probably the strongest unit on this team. Suggs and Dumervil cause damage at the ends whether its with a sack or QB hurry. Ngata actually leads the team in interceptions with 2, which shows how awful the secondary has been. The star of this defense for me though has been CJ Mosley. Mosley so far in his rookie season has lived up to the expectations. He has leads the team in tackles and is tied with Ngata with 2 INTs. Mosely is a true ball-hawk at the middle linebacker position, always being around the ball. People love trying to compare him to Ray Lewis, which is natural, but this is a different player and we should treat him as such. Mosley's play lets me know that he understands what it takes to play linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens but he is building his own name and legacy.
In 2013 the Ravens had issues going into the postseason, mainly injuries, but when it came time for everyone to ball, they did. Their were a different culture with this team and at that time they still relied on their defense. Once the offense played perfect football, things changed. Ngta and Suggs are the two players left from that Super Bowl defense. A total of 5 players were let go, one of which being Ed Reed.
Getting rid of those 9 players that off-season was when the Ravens lost their identity. All the vocal leaders of this team were now gone. The Ravens for the past two seasons have lost in transit, reason why they have been inconsistent. Instead of playing like a Raven by playing defense and pounding the rock, they're trying to become a passing team. It's supposed to be balanced but some games it is some games it's not.
I blame John Harbaugh for the identity crisis because since he doesn't have track record as an offensive or defensive coach, it will reflect on the team and it has. I think the Ravens must find a way to keep the culture of the Ravens intact. When the Ravens set up shop in 1996, former Baltimore Colts like Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore, and Art Donovan were still apart of the community and team, even though the Colts darted to Indy. I do think bringing back Ed Reed as a coach or secondary consultant would be smart because our secondary has never been this bad. A defensive lineman should never lead a team in interceptions, no disrespect to Ngata, but that isn't his job.
With 7 games left, the Ravens will have to step it up if they plan on making to the playoff. Wild-Card is the Ravens best option because in order for them to win the division, they will need some help and a lot of it. Consistency will have to be the Ravens best friend for the remainder of the season and during this culture change.