Do the Baltimore Ravens Need to Consider Another Offensive Coordinator Change?
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Baltimore Ravens made a change at offensive coordinator last season that helped propel the team in the playoffs to an eventual Super Bowl championship.
The change from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell was seen as a surprise by many, especially with the Ravens posting a record of 9-4 up until that point.
But the move helped increase Baltimore's average yards per game by over 60 yards in the regular season and by more than 80 yards in the playoffs leading up to Super Bowl XLVII.
Unfortunately, this season has not maintained the level of momentum from the spark initiated by general manager Ozzie Newsome on Dec. 10 of last year.
The Ravens are 3-4 so far this season, coming off back-to-back losses to the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. The team only managed to score 17 and 16 points in both contests, respectively, and averaged 323.5 net yards per game.
Baltimore currently ranks 20th in the NFL with 328.7 net yards per game. This is less than the mark of 344.4 yards last season when Cameron was dismissed by the team.
If the Ravens were willing to make a change last season with six more wins and better productivity, what does that say about the future of the offense?
Remember, Caldwell had no play-call experience prior to being promoted as coordinator by the Ravens. He had joined the team as quarterbacks coach following his exodus from the 2-14 Indianapolis Colts in 2011.
Even head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the change to Caldwell when asked whether the move was "bold," as the team prepared for the Super Bowl, via the Los Angeles Times:
I don't know. It was a move that was the best move at the time, we felt. That's what we said at the time. ... It was an important move. But, Joe [Flacco] made some bold throws, Anquan [Boldin] made bold catches. The defense made bold plays. There were bold hits. Look at [safety] Bernard Pollard, for instance. There were bold coverage plays on special teams. There were bold kicks.
To me, that's the boldness of football. That's what really matters, and the credit goes to the players.
Harbaugh makes a good point when evaluating a team's success in relation to coaching and player execution. The performance by the Ravens last season from Week 15 forward may be less a product of Caldwell as an excellent play-caller than a reflection of the overall team chemistry.
Still, if that was entirely the case, there would be no reason to fire Cameron. Caldwell helped to shake up a stale offense that was overly conservative, with Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense excelling as a result.
And the start of this season has been riddled with player injuries, forcing Caldwell to adjust the style of play to accommodate new player personnel. With the team beginning to come back to health, the Raven's second-year coordinator should continue to open up his playbook.
The game against the Steelers two weeks ago was a good indication of the team's direction, despite the losing effort. When asked about the Ravens' revised game plan, which featured more three-receiver sets and a faster tempo, tight end Ed Dickson discussed the approach moving forward, via The Baltimore Sun:
I just think we're comfortable with it. If that's what it takes, we're going to move as fast as we can...We talked about it at the beginning of the season, using that fast-paced tempo. Then Dennis Pitta went down and we had to adjust to guys that didn't know the plays. If that's what our quarterback is comfortable in, that's what we're going to do.
First-down play calls by Caldwell were also less predictable against the Steelers, as the first seven plays on first down for the Ravens were passing attempts. This helped set up the run for Ray Rice on the following fresh set of downs, as he scampered for a 13-yard run.
Should the Baltimore Ravens make another change at offensive coordinator?
Rice indicated he was at full strength heading into the Pittsburgh matchup, another key element critical for success in the Ravens offense. After averaging 4.4 rushing yards per carry in 2012, he has only managed a meager 2.8 yards this season.
So while a lot of attention has been placed on Caldwell with the dip in production this season, there are several other factors at work here. Player execution and injuries have both played a part in the revised approach this season, with a clear call for action in the upcoming weeks.
With that said, there's little reason to overreact to Baltimore's midseason performance and 3-4 record with yet another change at offensive coordinator.
The game against the Cleveland Browns this week will be another opportunity for the Ravens to rebound in a division game on the road.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com, unless otherwise noted.
Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.
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