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Ravens Run Scheme Changes May Be Coming

Posted Oct 14, 2013

John Harbaugh said the Ravens aren’t 'stuck' and that frustration is a good thing.

The Ravens had a familiar site when studying tape of Sunday’s game. They saw their run game stumbling.

The offense rushed for just 47 yards against the Packers, and have now fallen into a tie for the lowest average yards per carry in the NFL (2.7) with Jacksonville.

Talking about the run game troubles and what needs to be done to improve it dominated Monday’s press conference with Head Coach John Harbaugh. He broke down some of the issues, shared the blame and said things are going to change.

“It’s collective. We all have to do a better job. We have to game-plan it better, we have to structure it better, we have to call it better,” Harbaugh said. “Let’s look at ourselves first as coaches and then as players.”

Two weeks ago, the Ravens pulled the trigger on an unprecedented midseason trade for left tackle Eugene Monroe, replacing Bryant McKinnie. Monroe played in his first game in purple and black Sunday, but that didn’t change things in the run game.

At this point, Harbaugh said schematic changes are more likely than personnel moves.

“I really feel strongly about our offensive line. I think we’ve got the men for the job, coaches and players,” he said. “We’ve got too many situations where we don’t have a hat on a hat. When you don’t have a hat on a hat, that’s a problem. That’s just not acceptable.”

For example, on one run of negative three yards by Ray Rice in the second quarter, the Ravens appeared to have the play blocked up well but left inside linebacker A.J. Hawk was totally unaccounted for. There wasn’t a missed block, there was just nobody to block him.

The Ravens had five runs of negative five yards and five rushes for no gain against the Packers.

“You can’t have negative yard plays in the run game,” Harbaugh said, attributing some to mental mistakes and other errors. “They’ve got to be at least a gain of some kind moving forward. We’ve got to get a lot better with that.”

Besides Monroe and new center Gino Gradkowski, who got Pro Football Focus’ highest grade of any Ravens offensive lineman Sunday, the other change to the run game has been the addition of Run Game Coordinator Juan Castillo.

Harbaugh said Castillo’s alterations aren’t that drastic. But at this point, the way the Ravens have structured their run game and taught it could be changed.

“We’re not stuck on any particular scheme or any particular technique or any particular way of doing something,” Harbaugh said. “We want to find the best way to do it. We work hard at that and we’ll continue to do that.”

The Ravens have already been tweaking their run game, trying to find the right combination to get on track. The difficulty is not necessarily fixing the problems from the previous game, but trying to predict how the next opponent will shift what they’re doing to cause more confusion.

“We’re definitely making changes. We’re not going to sit there and stand pat with what we’re doing,” Harbaugh said. “It may not be visible from the outside looking in, but they’re visible to the people we play against and they’re definitely visible to us.

“Whether there is personnel changes, or more likely scheme changes, [it’s] not major things. [It’s] just things that will give our guys a better chance to be on the same page. That’s what we need to do.”

After Sunday’s game, Rice and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda expressed frustration about the run game woes. Harbaugh didn’t downplay their statements a day later.

“Frustration can be a great motivator,” he said. “I like that. Let’s be frustrated and let’s go to work and see if we can get better.”

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