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5 Ways Ravens Offense Can Improve

Posted Oct 4, 2017

Head Coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and left tackle Ronnie Stanley all talked about ways Baltimore can get its offense on track.


The Ravens offense clearly needs to improve.

It ranks 30th in the NFL overall (269.8 yards per game), last in the league in passing yards per game (142.5) and tied for 31st in points per game (15).

As is always the case, there’s not just one problem and not one solution. It’s a complex issue.

Head Coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and left tackle Ronnie Stanley were all asked about their solutions before Wednesday’s practice.

Here are five ways they said the Ravens offense can improve, in no particular order:

1) Start faster

The Ravens did a good job of this in their first two games. They built a 17-0 lead in Cincinnati and 21-7 lead against Cleveland. That’s essential because it enabled the Ravens to lean on their rushing game, which has been the brightest spot for the offense thus far, to run out the clock and win both games.

Conversely, the Ravens went into halftime trailing by 23 points against Jacksonville and 19 points versus Pittsburgh. That put more pressure on Baltimore’s passing game to make up the difference, adding more stress on the Ravens’ pass protection, which the team is still sorting out with new faces on the line.

Flacco threw two fourth-quarter interceptions against the Steelers as Baltimore was trying to claw its way back into the game.

“I think you have to avoid trying to do too much when you put yourself in big holes,” Flacco said.

“I think that’s where it falls back on us, just playing better early on in games, and being able to let the game come to us. I think that’s when we’re going to be our most successful, and that’s why playing a full 60 minutes is huge, and not getting behind the eight ball is huge.”

2) Make more big plays

It’s not only that the Ravens aren’t passing for many total yards. Their passing yards per attempt (5.0) is a league low, and it’s not even close. The Dolphins come in at 31st at 5.7 yards and it’s incremental jumps from there for the rest of the league.

Baltimore has one of the fastest trios of wide receivers in the league in Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman, yet they have one play of 20 or more yards between the three, and that was a simple slant that broke for a long Maclin touchdown in Week 1.

Harbaugh said hitting more big plays is something that’s important for the offense moving forward.

“We have speed. We need those guys making big plays for us,” he said. “When we have big plays, everything looks a lot better. We have to open that up a little bit, find a way to throw over the top of people and we need more catch-and-run plays.”

The Ravens had a couple chances for big plays against the Steelers, but Wallace dropped a slightly low, but very catchable pass down the sideline and Flacco left a pass to wide-open Perriman on the edge of the end zone too high and Perriman didn’t adjust well enough to haul it in.

“We’re not having a ton of chances [for big plays], but we’re having a couple chances and we’re not making them,” Flacco said. “I think when some of those big plays are presented to us – they’re there, they’ve been pretty easy, you can make them in your sleep – and we haven’t made them.”

3) Pass protection can improve … but Flacco has to trust the pocket

When six-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda went down, it was a huge loss for the offense considering the offensive line was already a sore spot. That has left Matt Skura and rookie Jermaine Eluemunor learning on the fly and trying to gel with the teammates at the same time.

Opposing defenses haven’t had to commit extra pass rushers and are still getting decent pressure, which leaves linebackers free to roam the middle of the field and crash down on the Ravens’ short-to-intermediate passing attack.

The offensive line troubles have been a combination of one-on-one battles being lost and miscommunications that should improve with more time spent playing the game and spent practicing together. The Ravens shuffled their line throughout the summer and it hasn’t stopped.

“A lot of things would easily be fixed with communication and being on the same page, just chemistry-wise, knowing that the guy next to you is going to be where he’s supposed to be and you can trust that he’s going to be there,” Stanley said. “We’re going to continue improving.”

At the same time, the pressure on Flacco hasn’t been all that bad. He’s been sacked nine times, which is tied for 17th in the NFL. He’s been hit 16 times, which is the fifth-fewest times in the league.

“I think I’ve been a little bit quick to get the ball out of my hands, at times,” Flacco said. “I think if I just hang in there and trust the process, trust the pocket … I might have to step up and make some plays here and there.”

Flacco said his preseason back injury isn’t contributing to him getting rid of the ball quickly, often to underneath routes, check-downs or his running backs.

“It has nothing to do with injuries and all that,” he said. “I think it’s just me rushing myself in the pocket, for whatever reason. I think the big thing is that I’m aware of it, and just have to make those changes, and go into the game ready to roll.”

4) Remove the negative plays, both on runs and turnovers

The bright spot in the Ravens offense has been the rushing attack. It ranks ninth in the league with 127.3 yards per game, which is a huge improvement from its No. 28 ranking from a year ago.

Running back Alex Collins leads the NFL with 8.2 yards per attempt and the Ravens got strong contributions from Javorius Allen and Terrance West in the first two games.

However, the Ravens have gone backwards on too many instances recently. In Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, for example, West had four carries for minus-7 yards. Those kinds of runs are just as bad as a sack allowed.

“I think we’re running the ball really well,” Flacco said. “I think if we take away those negative runs ... If we’re not going to get the 10 yards we’ve been getting, if we can stop ourselves from getting negative 3, negative 4, negative 5 [yards] – we’re good.”

The even bigger mistakes are turnovers. Collins has fumbled twice in 25 carries and now has a “short leash,” according to Harbaugh. The Ravens need his dynamic playmaking, but can’t have him shooting them in the foot.

Flacco also admitted that he has made poor decisions at times, which have played a big part in his league-leading streak of 10 consecutive games with at least one interception thrown. He said he should have thrown the ball away instead of trying to squeeze a pass to tight end Benjamin Watson and being picked off by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier.

5) Play with more confidence

The offense has been a work-in-progress throughout the offseason, training camp and beginning of the regular season. Baltimore invested a lot of money and draft capital into the defense, boosting that unit’s morale and setting the expectations high to be the best unit in the league.

The offense was bolstered by the additions of running back Danny Woodhead and Maclin, but Woodhead went down to an injury on the first offensive series of the season and is now on injured reserve. Flacco spent all of training camp on the sideline because of a back injury.

Combine those question marks with a sluggish start, and it’s not surprising to hear Flacco say Wednesday that the unit needs to play with more confidence.

Flacco said the Ravens need to “play fast,” which he defines as playing without thinking too much. More thinking happens when a player is trying not to screw up instead of going out and playing free.

“Everyone plays best when their head is free and they can go out there and let it all loose,” Flacco said. “Offensively, I don’t think we’ve been doing that. I think our confidence level can be higher, and I think the way we’ve played the last couple weeks can definitely creep in and hurt that.

“We have to do the best we can to make sure we continue to believe in who we are as players, and who we are as a football team, so that we can go out there and play free, and play the game come Sunday. The time to work out all the kinks, and stuff, is during the week, getting the gameplan nailed down, and all those things. But once Sunday comes around, the team that usually wins is the team that can go out there and just let it loose. We have to do a better job of doing that.”

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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