For the first time in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era, the Baltimore Ravens missed the postseason. The Super Bowl XLVII champions have much to improve on in 2014. Here are their New Year’s Resolutions for the year ahead:
The first resolution on my list would be to get the Ravens diminutive, dynamic running back, Ray Rice healthy and on track in 2014 in the same way he led the Ravens offenses of 2011 and 2012. Rice posted his lowest yardage per average (3.1) yards (660) and touchdowns (4) of his career in 2013. The hip flexor injury took a lot of his burst and the lack of blocking from the line took away his desire to run like a feature back that averaged 1,267 yards between 2009-2012. One thing is clear however; he shouldn’t carry the football 250+ times any longer because of his previous workload.
This is harder to put into context because a vocal leader doesn’t always translate into wins and performance on the field. The Ravens had that leader in Ray Lewis, but this is a different Ravens team now. This team was up and down all season and lacked that one true voice to help right the ship. Many thought it was Terrell Suggs but it doesn’t appear to be him. Joe Flacco isn’t that type of personality, though some will say it should be with a contract of $120 million. In 2014, who becomes that vocal leader? Someone currently on the active roster? Could it be a free agent?
The offensive line played below average all season, struggling to adapt to the zone-blocking scheme implemented by Juan Castillo. That falls partly on Castillo but he isn’t the one on the field blocking. This wasn’t the same group that gelled at the right time during the Super Bowl run of 2012. That was partly due to injuries to Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele and inconsistent play from Gino Gradkowski and Michael Oher. The Ravens should take a look at what Ryan Jensen and Ricky Wagner can do in ‘14 and bring veteran competition in for Gradkowski. The big question will be if John Harbaugh lets his friend Castillo go quietly this offseason.
Sometimes coach Harbaugh’s clock management makes you scratch your head. Other times, it makes you want to rip out any hair you have left on your head. It seems like every week when Harbaugh answers questions from the media regarding clock strategy or timeout usage, his response is “I’d really like to have that opportunity back again.”
One of the biggest head scratchers of the season was during the Week 10 matchup against the Bengals where the Ravens blew a lead late not using up enough time in the 4th quarter during a four-minute span. Harbs said milking the clock disrupts the rhythm of the offense, leading to penalties, mistakes.
It’s hard to understand where Harbaugh is coming from at times with coach speak, or whether its to toy with the media or confuse the fan base. In 2014, my resolution would be to eliminate the head scratching decisions made at times that cost the team timeouts, challenges, or potential wins and coach better in this area.
The final resolution would be for the Ravens to get back to the top and win the AFC North division in 2014. One of the first goals set as a team during training camp, its important to get back to winning ways, especially with Cincinnati looking to emerge as well. Of course, the final goal is to win the Super Bowl, but re-establishing their spot atop the division like they did from 2010 to 2012 will go a long way.
Image Credit: Keith Allison