I was originally going to single out the passing defense – not the offense – in this week’s W.I.N. However, upon further review, I’m actually more concerned about the Ravens’ inability to move the ball through the air, and especially the complete absence of wide receivers from their game plans.
Sure, the passing defense was bad on Sunday – Matt Hasselbeck dropped back 42 times and was never sacked, and put up 358 yards through the air.
Pass defense, though, is a lost art in the NFL in 2011. The league has done pretty much all that it can to encourage gobs and gobs of yards via aerial assault, stopping just short of tying defensive backs’ hands behind their backs. Look around the league – the top seven quarterbacks in terms of passing yards are AVERAGING over 300 yards per game. Tom Brady and rookie Cam Newton are putting up regular 400 and 500 yard performances.
What is most concerning at the moment is not the Ravens’ inability to stop the pass, but the fact that they are so far behind the times in their offensive strategy, and their inability to hop aboard the pass-happy train that has stormed through the league.
Joe Flacco has averaged 210.5 yards passing through two games, good for 25th in the NFL, and ahead of only such gunslingers as Andy Dalton, Kerry Collins, Tarvaris Jackson, Alex Smith, Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel, and Luke McCown.
Ravens wide receivers have caught a total of nine passes through two games – seven by Anquan Boldin and two by Lee Evans.
To put that in perspective, Titans’ wide receiver Kenny Britt caught nine passes by himself on Sunday. Titans wideouts hauled in a total of 21 balls against the Ravens.
There are 22 wide receivers in the NFL who have caught more passes through two games than every WR on the Ravens’ roster combined.
What the hell is going on here?
Sure, the Ravens fancy themselves a run-first, smashmouth type of squad, but with NO threat coming from the wideouts whatsoever, teams will be quick to take that away.
One of the problems on Sunday was protection. Flacco was sacked three times and harassed all afternoon, despite the fact that the Titans blitzed only three times all day. They consistently generated pressure with only four pass rushers (sometimes only three).
Unfortunately, things may get worse before they get better. Evans, who has been dealing with a sore ankle since game 3 of the preseason, and is obviously playing at less than 100%, may get a few games off in the near future, according to Coach John Harbaugh.
Without Evans, the Ravens will be pretty much forced to line up rookie Torrey Smith (0 catches, 1 target in 2011) on every down. Fellow rookie Tandon Doss has been inactive through the first two weeks, which needs to change. The focus in practice for B’More this week should be getting Smith and Doss integrated in the offense ASAP. There is no reason they can’t start contributing sooner rather than later.
The Ravens have tossed around the excuse that Boldin is only in his second year in Baltimore, while Evans, Smith, and Doss are in their respective firsts, as to why there isn’t more chemistry between them and Flacco.
To counter that argument, I would simply again point to the gaudy numbers put up by Hasselbeck on Sunday. Matt is in his first year with any of those Titan receivers, but they seemed to be a well-oiled machine here after just two weeks.
To borrow a line from Ray Lewis, bottom line, it’s time to start getting the guys with jersey numbers in the 80s involved in the offense. That’s What’s Important Now.