Bottom Line: Ravens Need To Block Better


Another week, another struggling run performance.

The Ravens' run game is still ranked last in the league in yards per carry and there are questions as to whether it will ever improve this season.

"We need to get better with our run game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "We're not as successful as we need to be. We're not even close."

The problem is still multi-dimensional, Harbaugh said. It's not one thing.

But last week, Harbaugh stuck up for the offensive line, saying it blocked better than the results showed.

On Monday, after the Ravens notched just 85 rushing yards (61 from its running backs) on 30 attempts against Cincinnati, Harbaugh primarily pointed to the offensive line.

"The bottom line is we've got to block better," Harbaugh said.  "We've got to get guys blocked better in terms of making sure that we get hats on hats all the time. We've got to continue to improve in that area."

The analysis from Pro Football Focus (PFF) backs that up.

The Ravens didn't have a single offensive lineman with a positive grade this week against the Bengals. The struggles have even reached Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, who had the worst grade (-4.3) of the unit. Left tackle Eugene Monroe had the best mark (-0.8).

Collectively this season, Monroe (7.0) and Yanda (2.1) have the only positive grades on the offensive line, and that is far below Yanda's usual standards. He finished with a grade of 31.2 for 2012, despite playing through a partially torn labrum (shoulder) for part of the year. He had offseason surgery.

Left guard A.Q. Shipley has the offensive line's lowest grade (-14.7) and center Gino Gradkowski is just behind (-13.3). Gradkowski, Shipley and Monroe are the new additions to last year's offensive line that largely received positive marks.

Here are a few examples of running breakdowns in Sunday's game.

The Ravens' first run of the game came out of the pistol formation, a tactic Baltimore began using in Cleveland to help jumpstart the running game. The only problem is the Ravens don't pick up linebacker Vincent Rey, who has a huge gap between Monroe and Shipley and stops Rice for no gain. That indicates they either did not recognizing the defense or a missed an assignment.

On the Ravens' first run of the second quarter, it appears Monroe doesn't hear the ball snapped and gets off the line late. He's easily beaten by defensive end Michael Johnson, who stops Rice for a 2-yard loss.

Trying to preserve a lead while moving the chains in the fourth quarter, the Ravens tried to run up the middle out of the pistol, using fullback Vonta Leach and Bernard Pierce. Baltimore had every Bengal accounted for, and for a second had a seam, but Gradkowski is pushed into the hole and Pierce runs into him and gets just a 2-yard gain.

Harbaugh indicated that the Ravens aren't afraid to call players out for poor blocking when going over the tape.

"There's individual accountability for that [blocking], and within these walls when we have our meetings, we look really hard at that," Harbaugh said.

"And guys probably take more blame than they should. But we are all going to be held accountable – every individual player and coach, as well as the collective. But, collectively it's got to improve."

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