As the Baltimore Ravens head into Week 4, the offense continues to be a work in progress with statistical rankings that aren’t all that impressive.
Through three games, the team currently rank 30th in total offense, 20th in passing, and 25th in rushing.
Despite the woeful rankings, there have been a few bright spots. Below are my thoughts on some of what has gone right, as well as some of what has gone wrong on offense heading into this week’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
What has gone right?
The offensive line is usually one of the first places I go when looking for culprits in a bad offensive performance. While the run blocking has been pretty terrible (more on that later), the pass blocking of the offensive line hasn’t been all that bad.
After giving up four sacks to Denver in a game where Joe Flacco threw the ball a whopping 62 times, the line has gotten better each week. They allowed two sacks to a pretty stout Browns defense and held the monster front seven of the Houston Texans to just two sacks and two QB hits.
Holding the Texans (and yes… the offensive line most likely was holding quite a bit) to just two sacks and two QB hits still amazes me. I expected that to be a key to how the Texans were going to come away with the win. This is basically the same defense that tore apart the Ravens last season with four sacks, nine QB hits, and forced two interceptions in a 43-13 rout.
John Harbaugh discussed the pass blocking this week telling reporters, “I would say the offensive line has been excellent with the pass blocking. I think [Flacco] feels very much protected back there.”
Mr. Smith is starting to fill Anquan Boldin’s shoes as the number one receiver for the Ravens. He leads the team with 16 receptions for 269 yards and really got into a groove with Joe Flacco in the second half of the game against Houston. Smith caught passes of 48 yards and 24 yards to key an 80-yard touchdown scoring drive to open the 3rd quarter, giving the Ravens a much needed lift on the offensive side of the ball.
To boot, Smith isn’t just running deep patterns so far in 2013. The Ravens are mixing in more crossing patterns to create mismatches for the defense and get the ball in Smith’s hands in space. Torrey Smith should continue to be fun to watch as the season progresses.
Despite being inconsistent, the Ravens have limited the turnovers. So far the offense has coughed it up just three times: two interceptions against Denver and a fumble against Cleveland. If the offense is going to be a work in progress, it is certainly better to have ball security as one of the strong points.
What has gone wrong?
The lack of any consistent running game has been the most egregious part of the Ravens’ offense. Whether you want to blame the offensive line, the running backs, or the formidable run defenses faced, this area needs to be fixed and quickly. The Ravens are averaging just 2.6 yards per rush, despite ranking 10th in the league in rushing attempts.
It’s no secret that not being able to run the ball and keep Peyton Manning and company off the field in Denver was a big reason for the loss in the opener. The defense was gassed early and Manning took advantage. Unless the offensive line can start taking charge and open up some holes for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, seeing the Baltimore defense wear down could repeat itself, especially with teams like Green Bay, Cincinnati (twice), and even upstart Miami remaining on the schedule.
Despite Dallas Clark currently being the second leading receiver for the Ravens (12 receptions for 141 yards) the tight end position has left a lot to be desired. There have been a number of missed opportunities when balls have been thrown in the direction of either Clark or Ed “Mr. Disappointment” Dickson (1 reception for 13 yards). Clark looked as if he may finally be getting on the same page with Joe Flacco after some nice grabs against the Texans, but for now this position will continue to be a major question mark until Dennis Pitta can get healthy.
So what’s the good news?
The Buffalo Bills are this week’s opponent. The Bills are allowing the second most rushing yards per game in the NFL and could be just what the doctor ordered for a Baltimore offense in need of a strong performance.
Let’s hope Joe Flacco and company can get into a groove this week and build some momentum for the rest of the season.