Monday, November 16, 2009

Fixing the Baltimore Ravens: News, notes & innuendo

Lardarius Webb was clearly one of the Ravens’ few bright spots against the Bengals. Given the team’s lack of tight coverage, attitude and aggressive play in the secondary, the rookie is deserving of more time on the field. Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington have frequently been the object of fan angst but sources close to the team more frequently point at the lack of a consistent pass rush and the poor play of the safeties as bigger contributors to the team’s defensive woes.

Look for Webb to see more action as the nickel or even in place of the oft-injured Washington but don’t be shocked if he ends up playing some safety. Dawan Landry has had a very poor season and apparently Greg Mattison lacks confidence in Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. Webb played significant minutes as a safety at Southern Miss and Nicholls State. If groomed properly he could be the heir apparent to Ed Reed and given the All World’s ongoing issues with the neck and shoulder nerve impingement, the passing of the torch could come sooner than later.

Speaking of Ed Reed, the blood of a playmaker runs rampant in his veins and when the team’s defense or offense struggles, Reed presses to make a game changing play almost to the point of desperation. He’ll push the risk taking a little more hoping for big dividends. Sometimes it pays but more times than not it leaves his defensive mates vulnerable, particularly Dawan Landry who isn’t built to pick up the slack in coverage.

The Ravens are the No. 12 ranked defense heading into Week 10 meaning of course that there are 20 other defenses playing worse than Greg Mattison’s unit. That is a bit mind boggling when you consider just how poorly the group has played relative to the tradition of defensive excellence we’ve grown accustomed to here in Baltimore. That said, look around the league and you will be hard pressed to identify a stud defense. The league is so geared to promote offense by protecting quarterbacks and looking the other way when offensive linemen have defenders in a near bear hug that we may never again see a dominant defense in the mold of the 2000 Ravens. Come to think of it, that team would have never won Super Bowl XXXV if officials enforced rules to aide offenses and protect quarterbacks the way they do today.

The Ravens after 8 games have failed to develop a team identity. What was once a squad that featured a defensive juggernaut and challenged offense now is a team with a burgeoning offense and a rapidly aging defense. The transformation has seemingly arrived at the speed of light and the borderline identity crisis appears to be challenging the team when taking on more difficult opponents in pressure situations. The swagger is gone.

Until Steve Hauschka hits a few meaningful field goals the debate will rage on as to whether or not the Ravens should have retained future Ring of Honor inductee Matt Stover. The young kicker appears to have the support of his head coach – or so he says.

"Steve is our kicker,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be our kicker Monday night and going forward. We said it all along. Steve is a talented kicker. His percentage is actually way above what some guys have had who have gone on to become very good kickers in this league, but we want him to make kicks right now.

“For the most part, he’s kicked well. He’s had a couple of misses that we’d like to have had back, but that’s part of the process."

If true coach, why is it that the last couple of weeks you’ve ushered in the likes of free agent kickers Billy Cundiff and Mike Nugent for a look-see?

Looking ahead, it would appear that the Ravens will need to at least pull out one of the three games against the Steelers and Colts. If not, they can finish no better than 9-7 and if that is in fact the team’s final record and the club is on the outside looking in come playoff time, how many will look back to that kick in Minnesota and ask, “What if?”


Jerry B said...

The Ravens need more than just a "tweeking". Agree that Webb deserves to start in place of Washington and either Nakimura or Szbikowski should replace Landry. But, the coaching philosophy also has to change because without pressuring QBs in the "pass happy" NFL, no secondary stands a chance! On that subject, where's Paul Kruger, who was drafted because of his pass rushing skills, which are sorely needed? The offense, too, needs a change in philosophy because it has become very predictable. Either Demetrius Wiliams or Kelly Washington would be an improvement over Clayton, who has proven to be a disappointment. Unless the running game improves, which is doubtful, defenses will merely take Mason "away" and just pressure Flacco. Interesting to note that Indianapolis has two placekickers, with one handling kickoffs and Stover the place kicks. And we couldn't afford that luxury because we needed roster space for D. Williams and LJ Smith, who don't play and Chris Carr who can't play? Please..............

ravcolt said...

The Ravens D is ranked 12th in total yardage given up, just one of many measures of the 'quality' of a defense. More importantly the Ravens made a conscious decision to alter their swagger by: 1) jettisoning the best FG kicker in football for no reason except salary, 2) not re-signing Lorenzo Neal to continue their smash mouth ways, and 3) assuming Flacco was ready to handle the reigns without a running game. What brilliant strategist made these decisions?