Eisenberg: It's Still Eaaarly


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The players and coaches aren't, and I don't think many fans are, either, other than those in the sky-is-falling sect who dash through the countryside like Paul Revere, hollering danger, after every setback.

The Ravens have turned in one great game and one lousy game. They're a bit banged-up with injuries and obviously are still working out kinks in places, especially the offensive line. They have 14 games to go.

It's eaaarrrly.

The most troubling aspect of Sunday's defeat was the sight of old issues bubbling back to the surface to cause problems – the very issues the Ravens spent the offseason trying to eradicate.

Their primary goals for 2011 were to 1) get their running game going, 2) make their passing game more explosive, 3) amp up their pass rush and 4) plug holes in their secondary.

They tailored their personnel moves to that blueprint, adding Vonta Leach and Bryant McKinnie (and bringing back Marshal Yanda) to bolster the running game, bringing in Lee Evans and Torrey Smith to electrify the passing game and drafting Jimmy Smith for the pass defense. They thought new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano's more aggressive approach would help the pass rush.

The various pieces came together magnificently in the season-opening rout of the Steelers but turned problematic in Tennessee. The Ravens couldn't run the ball, posed little threat with their passing game, couldn't get to Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and watched him pick apart their secondary.

There are rational explanations for a lot of it. The offensive line needs more time to gel. Evans' foot injury (and Torrey Smith's slow development) has left the team without a deep passing threat. Jimmy Smith is out with an ankle injury. Hasselbeck is adept at releasing passes before a rush consumes him.

But while Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was not a happy camper around the training facility Monday, he practically pleaded for time when he met with reporters.

"As good as we felt about our team last week, we don't feel so good right now," he conceded. "But you can't let that affect how you see your guys and how you see your team and overreact and those kinds of things. Because I really believe everybody in the National Football League, especially this year, is a work in progress.

"There have probably been more surprises this year than any year as far as who's winning and who's not winning, and some of these scores. It's a work in progress, and our job is to do the best job of anybody in the first four or five weeks to establish what kind of team we're going to be going forward. This is the lockout-shortened year, and we haven't had all the time to figure out who we are as a team and who everybody else is."

There you go. An unusual offseason has led to an unusual early regular season. Like a lot of teams, the Ravens are still trying to get their pieces to work, trying to sort things out and find a rhythm.

If they're still struggling a month from now, you can go ahead and hit the panic button, or at least dig it out of the closet and get it ready.

But it's too soon for that now.

John Eisenberg *covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.*

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