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Late For Work 10/16: Jamal Lewis Diagnoses Run Problems

Posted Oct 16, 2013

Watching McKinnie and Stokley's status this week. Powerful video with Ray Lewis. Power rankings.

Jamal Lewis Diagnoses Run Problems

Hesitation.

It’s “lethal,” says former Ravens head coach Brian Billick. It’s lethal across the board – in running backs, quarterbacks or play callers.

But hesitation is exactly what Jamal Lewis sees when he watches the Ravens run game.

The former Ravens’ back, who rumbled for more than 2,000 yards in 2003 and helped establish the smash-mouth running style in Baltimore, admitted that he had a few different years when he played with hesitation.

 So he knows it when he sees it. But he also knows what it takes to correct it, and believes the Ravens are capable of doing so.

“I’ve watched [Ray] Rice and I’ve watched [Bernard] Pierce and you can [see] their hesitation,” Lewis told WNST. “It’s more of one of those things, do you have confidence in the system? Do you have confidence in your offensive line? Do you have confidence in yourself that you know where everyone is supposed to be?”

Lewis said that during the times he hesitated when he got the ball, it was a result of not trusting that a hole would open up where it was supposed to.  But when a back starts to hesitate, he starts to hurt himself because he’ll miss holes even when they are open.

It became a mental hurdle that is difficult to overcome.

“You’re not sure in your line’s capability in blocking the scheme,” he said. “Is your line too light for the scheme that you’re running? When you do that and let it sink in, it’s a mental thing and it can really hurt you and you’ll never get on track. … You just can’t have that hesitation because, hey, you’re going to have hesitation and the hole’s going to be wide open and you’re going to miss it by the time you get there and it’s going to be closed.”

Billick reiterated the same point, saying, “There’s no upside to not trusting my line. I have to trust them and run where I’m supposed to run.”

Because Lewis has overcome hesitancy issues, he offered tips for how to get past it.

 It starts in practice, implementing continuous repetition so the backs and the offensive line can get in sync. He said there is a specific spot where a hole is designed to open up.  But in the NFL, those holes aren’t gaping, which is why a back has to hit it full steam ahead without a stutter step or any sort of indecision.

“The holes won’t be huge. There are cracks that you have to hit,” Lewis said.

Coaches and scouts put in a considerable amount of time drawing up plays where they believe a “crack” will open up.  They specifically outline for the players where to run and draw a line on paper exactly where the hole is supposed to be. Lewis said that the backs have to trust the work that was put into the designed plays.

“The hole is already there. … So you should hit it with a head of steam in practice. And it will be there. It will be there,” Lewis emphasized. “That’s what these coaches and scouts get paid for.”

Practice. Practice. Practice. That was Lewis’ main point, especially in the stretch-run scheme that the Ravens use. In the stretch, the back has to make one read and go. You can’t think about it.

He said it’s not an option to work around the run game, even if it only garnered 47 yards against the Packers, or even if it hasn’t been successful throughout the season. He said if there is a weak part of a game, the team has to emphasize it even more in practice.

Guard Kelechi Osemele said that for the offensive line’s part, the unit has to earn trust. “We’ve got to do a better job of giving our coaches and running backs more confidence in us,” Osemele said. “They don’t really have too much confidence in us right now.”

From a play-caller’s perspective, Billick said there is an opportunity to change the scheme based on the skills of your personnel.

“If [players] don’t have the physical skills to do what you’re trying to do within the scheme, then you need to change the scheme,” he said.

That looks to be the direction the Ravens are already headed.

Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated Monday that there will be some run scheme changes in the coming weeks.

The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec predicted that those changes will mean less zone blocking concepts and more straight-ahead, man-on-man blocking.

“I would think any offensive lineman would rather just line up, blast the guy in front of him and play old-school football,” Zrebiec wrote. “It will be interesting to watch Sunday to see what the Ravens do differently.”

While the Ravens work to figure out the issues plaguing the run game, Lewis was asked if you have to worry about finger pointing.

“No, you don’t have to worry about that,” Lewis confidently said. “In that locker room, I doubt you have to worry about that.

“When you’re great at something, guess what? Somebody’s going to try to figure out how to stop you. And Ray Rice is great. They’ll get it together. It’s just pulling together and making it happen.”

Power Rankings: Week 7

After losing at home to the Green Bay Packers and dropping to 3-3, the Ravens fell in all the power rankings below.

Their average ranking is about No. 13.

SB Nation, Ryan Van Bibber: No. 11 (dropped three spots)
“Just how far can a defense take a team by itself nowadays? Not all that far apparently. Baltimore's offense is a wreck. Ray Rice is struggling. The offensive line is hurting the running game and the passing game. Despite having a cadre of second- and third-string players to throw the ball to, Jim Caldwell is having Joe Flacco throw it almost 40 times per game.”

ProFootballTalk.com, Mike Florio: No. 11 (dropped four spots)
“They may need to fire a coordinator in December again.”

ESPN, Panel of six voters: No. 12 (dropped three spots)
“Ravens rushers were hit in the backfield on nine of 21 designed runs Sunday, their most since Week 1 of the 2010 season against the Jets. The Steelers are up next.”

CBSSports.com, Pete Prisco: No. 12 (dropped three spots)
“Where is the running game? At some point, they have to get Ray Rice [on track]. Can they do it at Pittsburgh?”

SportingNews.com, Vinnie Iyer: No. 13 (dropped four spots)
“The Ravens continue to go on a roller coaster in their post-Super Bowl season. The defense has remained steady, but the offense has been hampered by mistakes, limited firepower and slow starts. See the Packers loss.”

MMQB.com, Peter King: No. 15 (dropped five spots)
“I don’t know what the stranger stat line is. Ray Rice rushing (71 carries, 197 yards, 2.8 per carry) or Ray Rice receiving (20 catches, 87 yards, 4.4 yards per catch).”

The Baltimore Sun, Matt Vensel: N/A
This is a top-12 list, and the Ravens fell off the list altogether after being ranked No. 11 last week.

NFL.com, Elliot Harrison: No. 15 (dropped three spots)
“The play-calling leaves something to be desired in Baltimore, where Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are mired in a full-blown committee that has neither producing. The Ravens were a pitiful 2 for 14 on third down Sunday. This team clearly misses Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.”

Fox Sports, Brian Billick: No. 13 (no movement) 
“The Ravens lost at home for just the fourth time in their last 30 games while Ray Rice posted his fourth game of the year with fewer than 40 rushing yards.”

Watching McKinnie, Stokley’s Status This Week

There doesn’t appear to be any major roster moves on the horizon, but Zrebiec wouldn’t be surprised if there was a move made with either left tackle Bryant McKinnie or receiver Brandon Stokley.

Stokley wasn’t activated Sunday with the return of Jacoby Jones. And Marlon Brown and Tandon Doss have both stepped up.

“It’s hard to foresee where Stokley gets his snaps,” Zrebiec wrote.

“As for McKinnie, Harbaugh said that he was healthy enough to play and he was not left inactive for injury reasons. If nothing else, McKinnie is a good insurance policy, but him being inactive on the same day new left tackle Eugene Monroe was getting his first start with the Ravens certainly spurs some questions about his future with the organization.”     

Powerful Ray Lewis Video

I can’t imagine the powerful emotions that would take over when a person’s hearing is restored.

And for many in Tanzania, Ray Lewis’ voice was the first sound they heard.

The future Hall of Fame linebacker is working with Operation Change, and when he traveled to Tanzania this summer to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (a foot injury ended up preventing him from doing so) he volunteered to help fit local community members with hearing aids.

Check out this video.

Quick Hits

  • What are the stats behind going for a touchdown on fourth-and-1? According to ESPN Stats & Information, teams were 3-for-10 in that situation so far this season. During the last five seasons, it’s about a 41 percent success rate. As for attempting a pass from inside a team’s own 35-yard line with 15-20 seconds left before halftime, there has been a two percent success rate for scoring points in that situation since 2001. [ESPN]
  • @packers: WR Randall Cobb on IR-return [Twitter]
  • @jamisonhensley: Days of @Jamal31Lewis and Jerome Bettis are gone. #Ravens have NFL's 27th-ranked run game and #Steelers have the 31st. [Twitter]
  • @gdowning14: The Steelers do not have any player on their team with 100 total rushing yards this season. [Twitter]
  • @ProFootballTalk: With one sack in six games, Paul Kruger admits he needs to do a better job of getting to the passer [Twitter]
  • @NFLfootballinfo: NFL games averaging 45.90 points per game. If this average is maintained, would rank 2nd in NFL history (46.48 in 1948) [Twitter]
  • Acquired in a trade with the Cardinals 10 days ago, tackle Levi Brown was placed on injured reserve. [Pittsburgh-Post Gazette]
  • If the Steelers score a touchdown on the Ravens this week, don’t expect any more flips into the end zone like this one (GIF below) from wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Why? Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin banned flips, calling them “silly” and risks injury. [Steelers Depot] 

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