5 Adjustments Baltimore Ravens Must Make in Week 2 Matchup with Oakland Raiders
There’s no time for the Baltimore Ravens to sit and lament their 19-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. They now set up shop in California for the week rather than go back to the comforts of home and begin preparation for their Week 2 showdown with the Oakland Raiders.
The loss to the Broncos was a comedy of errors for the Ravens offense, and there just wasn’t enough defense to make up for it. During this week, Baltimore has to consider what went wrong on offense, in addition to how to fix it. Most of the adjustments this team needs to make are chicken-or-egg situations; one causes the other and vice versa.
Additionally, the Ravens must take their week of preparation away from home and rally the defense after losing its heart and soul to injury. This unit is the strength of this team, and someone has to take up the torch.
So what adjustments must be made? Read on and find out.
Better Pass Protection
There is no denying that the Broncos have a stout defense. In fact, if you go down the line, there might not be a better defensive front in the AFC. Guys like outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller can make life absolutely miserable for an opposing quarterback. And that is exactly what they did to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on Sunday.
According to Mike Renners of Pro Football Focus, Flacco was pressured on 22 of his 34 dropbacks. This is a ridiculously high percentage, especially for a team with so much talent on the offensive line.
Joe Flacco was pressured on 22 of 34 dropbacks. 65%!!!!! No one can play QB behind that— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) September 14, 2015
The absence of left tackle Eugene Monroe hurt, as he left early in the game with an apparent concussion. And we will discuss some other changes that will help this situation, but that number is inexcusable.
On some level, when you have a man lined up in front of you, just block them. Scheme and other players aside, just do your job. How does this improve against the Raiders? Baltimore might need to commit more bodies to pass protection, meaning fewer in the pattern. This puts pressure on the skill players to make catches.
Get Aggressive in the Run Game
Maybe the biggest disappointment of the day for the Ravens was just how poorly the run game performed. Even if the offensive line struggled to protect Flacco, they had to be up to the challenge to open up some holes for running back Justin Forsett, right? Wrong.
Forsett was helpless to get any traction against the Broncos defense. His 14 carries for 43 yards is deceiving when you consider that one of his carries netted 20 yards. So 13 carries for 13 yards is much less encouraging.
After going back and watching the game again, it was clearly a comedy of errors for both the offensive line as well as Forsett.
At times the offensive line failed to give him even the smallest crease, and at other times, there were lanes that Forsett ignored, instead trying to get outside for the big gain. Everyone knew that offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was going to call a conservative game. However, it really seemed that he was intimidated by the Broncos defense to a point that any creativity he might have had in mind went out the window.
Better Decisions by Joe Flacco
The mark of a great quarterback isn’t what they do when things are going well. It is all about what they do when things are going wrong. On Sunday, in the face of tremendous pressure, Flacco didn’t elevate his game.
There is no doubt that the cast of characters Flacco is working with is subpar. However, when you are the $120 million face of the franchise, you have to make the players around you better.
Flacco was responsible for two interceptions, and both of them were throws that never should have been made. In particular, the interception by Denver cornerback Aqib Talib that he returned for a touchdown was a bad read and worse throw.
I understand that the choices of receivers that Flacco has to throw to aren't ideal. But that doesn’t matter. Teams have won Super Bowls with far less skill-position talent than Flacco has. If not having rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman is really the reason the passing offense struggled, then there are bigger concerns.
Focus More on the Tight Ends
Going forward, the Ravens are going to have to give serious consideration to using a copious amount of two-tight-end sets and keeping the number of wide receivers down.
With veteran Steve Smith as the most reliable option at wide receiver, Baltimore should play to its strengths. That means more of tight ends Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams and less of wide receivers Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro.
Why? Because having additional tight ends as opposed to wide receivers offers scheme versatility. The Ravens struggled to run the football, so why not have guys in there that can block and assist that part of the offense? And in terms of receiving threats, Gillmore and Williams both offer huge targets in the middle of the field.
Hopefully, if or when Perriman is able to return, the vertical passing attack will return. However, no matter how much fans want it, wide receiver Torrey Smith isn’t walking through those doors. When even the reliable Smith can’t hold on to catchable passes, it is time to look elsewhere for production.
Life Without Suggs
The Ravens defense was dealt a huge blow on Sunday as star linebacker Terrell Suggs suffered a torn Achilles and will miss the remainder of the season.
This is the sort of injury that could end Suggs’ career. The Ravens are going to have to find a way to not only replace the production of Suggs but also, perhaps more importantly, the emotional leadership that he brought to the defense.
The most likely scenario is that outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil will assume a more significant role on defense. In passing situations, this is no problem at all, as Dumervil is every bit the pass rusher Suggs was. Unfortunately, without Suggs across from him, Dumervil won’t see the clean looks he did before.
However, all the football stuff aside, it is going to be how he rallied the troops and really took up the mantle left open by Ray Lewis that will be missed. It will be interesting to see when this team huddles up before the game in Oakland who will be in the middle, getting the team fired up.