Ravens Roundtable: Looking ahead from behind
The Ravens have begun the 2015 season 0-2, which means the sky is falling in Baltimore. For some reason everyone and their brother now knows that 12% of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. I’m not buying that number at all. Every team has different circumstances. How many teams that went to the playoffs six of the last sevens years started 0-2? Of them who made the playoffs? Who knows? Who cares? Win the division. Beating Cincinnati at home this week would be a step in the right direction toward that goal which is mile away right now.
What we care about are the topics our Baltimore Sports and Life Ravens analysts discussed following the latest loss, on the road in Oakland, as we look at what’s happened, and what we can expect ahead.
Contributing are Mike Randall, Shawn Brubaker, and Will Stokes.
Discuss your thoughts on these topics we talked about on our message board.
1. Week 1 the offense was inept and the defense was stout. Week 2 the offense was near unstoppable and the defense was inept. What is the more accurate representation of the two units going forward?
Mike Randall – Somewhere in the middle for both but a little higher on the offensive side. The defense isn’t your dads, or even older brothers defense anymore. Sunday might be the worst showing here in a very long time considering the opponent and how few stops they made. On offense, Joe Flacco has a stinker like week one, once or twice a year. He also has an amazing game like week two a couple times a year. His games, and the running game, will be closer to good week in and week out than it will be bad. maybe another stinker in there, but not six or seven of them.
Shawn Brubaker – I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle for both the offense and the defense. The offensive line will probably never give up pressure on 64% of Joe Flacco’s dropbacks ever again, so just on that front, the offense will probably never be that bad again. That said, the receiving corps is a real issue. Steve Smith quit on the ball on Joe Flacco’s game-ending interception, the second time in two weeks Smith came up short in the biggest moment of a game. Kamar Aiken and Crockett Gillmore both made some noise against Oakland, but I think that was more the quality of the defense they played. The Ravens need Breshad Perriman to come up big.
The defense, on the other hand, feasted on a decrepit Peyton Manning. Against a quarterback with a live arm and a little bit of maneuverability, they struggled immensely. More on that in the next question, but if Jason Babin doesn’t come through, it could be a long season for this defense.
Will Stokes – I think the Broncos game will be more indicative of the Ravens true talent level going forward. Don’t get me wrong, the defense played awful, but a fair amount of the Raiders offensive success was based on glaring mistakes in the secondary (Smith and Webb both gave up deep touchdown passes). That’s not to say the Ravens won’t give up big passing mistakes in the future, but I feel as those plays will be as common in the future.
I am, however, worried that the Ravens offensive success was based on the specific weaknesses of the Raiders defense. Crockett Gilmore played fantastically, but the Bengals tight end also had similar levels of success against the Raiders last week, indicating the Gilmore’s success might not generalize to other teams. And even though Steve Smith is still an effective player, he is going to need more help to be get that kind of production week to week. I don’t think this offense has a chance to be anything more than average until Perriman comes back.
2. A lot of people calling out Dean Pees after the loss to the Raiders. Are you placing your blame there, or on the defensive players for not executing in Oakland?
MR – I’m going to go back and re-watch the tape (because unlike the players and coaches, its not just moving on to Cincy until I figure out what went wrong). At first glance, I do place a lot of blame on Pees. Week 1 they sent pressure on early downs and rattled Peyton Manning. On third downs it went soft and it felt like they converted 50 of them. Including allowing him to chew up over 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. They looked soft in coverage and lacked pass rush all day, and there is no way that Derek Carr should be allowed to have the day he had. He almost didn’t even play. Yes, the players need to execute, but when you as a coach don’t adjust for your players, or I’ll even say set them up for failure, that’s a problem.
SB – I’ve been blaming Dean Pees for years. I’m not going to stop now. Everything I dislike about Pees as a defensive coordinator can be summed up on the Ravens’ first third down on defense. It was third and four, the Ravens rushed three and played off coverage. Needless to say, the Raiders passed their way to a first down.
Pees is a problem. I can’t blame the talent when the Ravens constantly churn through new players and still struggle. They have struggled throughout Pees’ tenure as defensive coordinator, especially in the secondary. He’s a great front seven coach, but he is a huge liability in terms of coaching the secondary.
WS – Like Mike, I want to go back and watch the tape, but my gut reaction is equal blame lies in the planning and the execution. As I mentioned earlier, the Raiders scored two long touchdown passes on clear mistakes by Ravens cornerbacks, which is clearly an execution problems. But on the other hand, there seemed to be huge schematic mistakes by the Ravens. Why couldn’t we generate pressure? Why was the Raiders slot receiver often left totally uncovered? Why did the Ravens continually play soft coverage? All of these questions should be addressed going forward.
3. Has anyone stood out enough to be considered a true No. 2 target aside from Steve Smith?
SB – At times, it seemed like Joe Flacco was completely locked on to Steve Smith against the Raiders, so I’m going to say no. Kamar Aiken did some nice things with the ball, as did Crockett Gillmore. I have yet to see those two beat good coverage, though. Until they do, I’m saying no.
MR – I would like to say Crockett Gillmore. Which is fine that its a tight end. You could argue that in New England, Brady’s number one is Edelman and number two is Gronk. Jimmy Graham was probably Drew Brees’ number one before the trade. Gillmore looks like he’s on the verge of becoming a real special player. He had four catches and two TDs in the first half against Oakland, but then shut down, blanketed after that. Trestman should make it his top priority to scheme plays that involve getting Gillmore more targets, and moving the chains with him.
I think the excitement from Marlon Brown’s rookie year is long gone. Aiken needs to have some more decent days like today (sans the fumble) for me to appreciate him more. Get Gillmore the ball often, and try working Maxx Williams in more with him. Dare I say the Williams is the third best option on this team?
WS – No. Gillmore might end up as the number two target, but I need to see him succeed against better defenses than the Raiders. I never thought that Aiken was a number two wideout heading into the season, and I certainly don’t think so now.
4. At what point should the Ravens give up on Lardarius Webb?
SB – Lardarius Webb struggled mightily yet again, and as soon as Rashaan Melvin is healthy, I want to see what he can do. Melvin impressed me every time he took the field last year save the playoff game against New England.
MR – Webb is a shell of his former self. I think I’m starting to believe that the reason Dean Pees draws up so many off coverage, soft zone plays, is because Webb can’t handle man coverage on the outside anymore. With that said, I don’t think I’m ready to give up on him completely. I think he’s done at CB on the outside. Maybe he can be a slot corner where he really excelled a few years back. But can Kyle Arrington handle outside duties? Does Rashaan Melvin have it in him or was 2014 an aberration? I think Webb has the skills to move to safety as well in dime packages. He still got great hands and he’s a solid tackler in the last line of defense. But the options of trotting him out there on the outside to get picked apart, or cutting him at seasons end and eating $6M in dead money, are not easy to swallow.
WS – The Ravens can’t give up on Webb because they simply don’t have enough corners on the roster. That said, Rashaan Melvin should probably take Webb’s place when he is healthy. Even if Melvin isn’t as good as last year, he won’t stop running with his receiver mid route that ends in a long touchdown pass.
5. What performance is more representative of the Ravens offensive line: the Denver game or the Oakland game?
WS – I hate to say it, but I really have no idea at this point. The Denver defense and pass rush is one of the best in the NFL, while the Oakland pass rush is decidedly not. The large skill gap between the Denver and Oakland makes it hard to figure out how good this iteration of the Ravens line truly is. If I had to guess, I would say the Oakland game is more representative of how the line will play from here on out, but I don’t feel comfortable guessing one way or the other.
SB – I’m going to have to go back to the All-22 for the Raiders game to see how they handled Khalil Mack. I saw Rick Wagner get beat a few times, but all in all, I think they held their own against a very good player. I don’t think the Ravens’ offensive line will ever be as bad as they were against the Broncos again. I also don’t know that we’ll see the same quality of play we saw last year. somewhere between last year’s dominance and Week 1’s futility is probably a more likely scenario. That equals the line’s performance against the Raiders, so I guess I will say their performance in Oakland is pretty indicative of what to expect.
MR – The Oakland game. Eugene Monroe leaving in Denver with the concussion put James Hurst in a tough spot. Not to mention the DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller maybe the best edge rushing tandem in football. Hurst, and the whole line had a better day in Oakland. Last year it appeared that Hust had games where he really stepped up, and other games where he was a turnstile. Not much of a middle ground. I have zero worries when it comes to Kelechi Osemele, Marshal Yanda, and Rick Wagner didn’t just forget how to play RT. He’ll be fine coming off a pro bowl caliber year. O-Line is the most reliable position when you have a good player there. Even Jeremy Zuttah is playing better, after dealing with hip issues that slowed him some in 2014. This unit will be fine.
6. Who is a player you would like to see featured more in Ravens schemes in the coming weeks?
WS – The obvious choice here is Crocket Gillmore. The Ravens desperately need a second option on offense, and even if he’s not up to the task, he’s the closest thing Baltimore has to a number two pass catcher with Perriman out. The team should try and run designated plays to get him involved in the offense.
SB – I’ve got several. Start with Maxx Williams, who is the most dynamic Ravens target with the ball in his hands.Yes, even more dynamic than Steve Smith. The Ravens also threw a bunch of fades Sunday, and Williams excelled at catching those in college.
Next up, Lorenzo Taliaferro. By the end of the season, I see Taliaferro getting as many or more carries than Justin Forsett due to his power and ability to gain yards after contact. I like the idea of Taliaferro wearing defenses down, then Forsett gashing them in the fourth quarter.
Finally, when he’s healthy, I’m anxious to see Rashaan Melvin get back on the field.
MR – Maxx Williams may be the third best receiver on the team. I’d like to see more of he and Gillmore on the field together. If you place one in the slot, you are likely to get a mismatch somewhere with a LB likely being tasked to cover one of them. More of a mismatch than Marlon Brown or Kamar AIken is against anyone. Call me crazy, but down in the redzone, I’d like to see Gillmore, Williams, Brown, and Darren Waller. Steve Smith is just too small to make plays in the endzone on jump balls, on in those tight spaces where Flacco has to put it up high where it won’t get picked off. Two weeks in a row he had to make a tough catch to essentially win a game. Both times the catch was too tough to make, but easily would have been grabbed easily by guys that are six or nine inches taller than him, and the DBs covering them. If Smith isn’t going to used on underneath routes inside the 10, don’t use him at all down there.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]