Eisenberg: Offense's Revolving Door Needed

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They've retained their top quarterback, rusher and pass receiver from 2010, but otherwise, among the skill players, they're turning to new guys that are, for the most part, younger.

If you're questioning whether the Ravens were right to break up a veteran unit in a year when continuity could be helpful, or if you're harboring doubts about whether they'll be better on offense after these changes, don't worry, you're not alone. A lot of experience, leadership and productivity have spun out the door, and some of the players spinning in don't have the same track records. Such changes breed unease.

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?John Eisenberg

But I'm guessing that, oddly enough, there would have been just as many doubts and just as much unease if the Ravens had done absolutely nothing, made no changes, brought back their 2010 offense in its entirety and locked that darn revolving door to keep out strangers.

Let's face it, the Ravens weren't very good on offense last season. Just look at the numbers. Their running game was the NFL's 14th best, its lowest ranking since 2007. Their passing game was ranked 20th. Overall, they finished 22nd in the league's offensive rankings, which is in the bottom third. Only two of the 11 other playoff qualifiers were ranked lower.

Would it have been wise of the Ravens to make no changes to their offense after such as unproductive season? I think not.

It's after seasons like that that you're supposed to change, hopefully a lot. And the Ravens have, giving that revolving door a good, strong push.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is still around, to the chagrin of the segment of fans who hold him responsible for everything from the debt crisis on down. But the front office elected to bring him back with him knowing his unit had to improve, or else. "We like Cam under pressure," Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said last winter.

Now he's going to have a whole new set of toys to play with. Players who have spun out of the revolving door accounted for more than half of the team's pass receptions (55 percent) and more than a quarter (27 percent) of the rushing carries in 2010.

It's pretty easy to see the new plan hatching. The signings of guard Marshal Yanda, fullback Vonta Leach and running back Ricky Williams make it clear that the Ravens intend to revive their smash-mouth running game, which used to be their signature offensive asset. It fell off in 2010, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said last winter that restoring it was his top priority.

It remains to be seen whether uncertainties along the line such as a rookie (Jah Reid) penciled in at right tackle, center Matt Birk's knees acting up and a second-year tight end (Ed Dickson) taking over impede their plan to any degree.

As for the passing game, a major torch is being passed.

In Joe Flacco's first three seasons, he relied on go-to veterans such as Derrick Mason and Todd Heap to help make him a viable NFL quarterback. Now Flacco is a veteran himself, a four-year guy, trusted by the Ravens to get them where they want to go, and they're saying it's time for him to make some young receivers into viable players, not the other way around - as all top quarterbacks do.

Are there risks? Absolutely. Big ones. A new chemistry needs to brew, which can take time, and there's no telling which young players will flourish and which might struggle.

But the Ravens simply weren't explosive on offense in 2010, as the numbers indicate, and they're trying to get more explosive. And while change and risk are unsettling, standing pat was the worst idea of all.

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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