Eisenberg: Ravens Can't Let 2021 Bleed Into 2022

DT Brandon WIlliams

I'm a word guy, so my ears perked up when Calais Campbell delivered a clever turn-of-phrase after the Ravens lost to the Bengals for the first time this season.

"We can't let this game beat us twice," said Campbell, the veteran defensive lineman.

In other words, whatever went wrong, don't let it bleed into the next game and cost you that one, too.

It's a simple and wise concept that's perfect on a macro level for the Ravens' current moment as they emerge from one of their most disappointing seasons and start looking ahead.

A lot went wrong in 2021. No secret there. The Ravens began the season as Super Bowl contenders and finished out of the playoffs after their first six-game losing streak under Head Coach John Harbaugh.

They deserve credit for never blinking and giving themselves a chance to win almost every week despite mounting adversity, but in the end, the season became a brutal gauntlet of what-ifs and bitter defeats. It was exhausting for the players and coaches, and not easy on the fans, either. You aren't alone if you feel like you need some down time to step back and process everything.

But anyway, my point is the Ravens' challenge going forward is to keep what went wrong in 2021 from bleeding into 2022.

Don't let it all beat them twice.

It's easier said than done with injuries, which shaped the Ravens' season more than any factor.

They're counting on the return of running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, cornerbacks Marcus Peter and Marlon Humphrey, tackle Ronnie Stanley and several others who went down for all or part of the season. It's exciting to think about seeing them all back on the field at full strength.

But nothing is assured. The Ravens were counting on Stanley and tight end Nick Boyle returning this year, and even though both rehabbed hard, they weren't healthy enough to have the desired impact. Stanley played in one game. Boyle caught one pass.

These are humans, not machines. The body rules. Be careful with those best-case-scenario timelines you're counting on.

When linebacker Tyus Bowser was helped off the field Sunday, reportedly having suffered a torn Achilles, it guaranteed that the injury narrative won't come to a halt just because the Ravens' 2021 season did.

As for what else went wrong in 2021, coming up one or two plays short in multiple games shouldn't be dismissed as pure happenstance. Here's what I think happened:

The Ravens finished with a minus-11 turnover ratio and a minus-7 touchdown ratio (scored to allowed), so for a variety of reasons, they absorbed far more haymaker punches than they delivered. They needed to make plays to catch up, and the demand exceeded what they could deliver.

The return of injured playmakers should help, but there's more to it. Their thousand-yard wide receiver (Marquise Brown) went nine straight games without a touchdown catch to end the season. How does that happen?

The Ravens aren't going anywhere until they reverse or at least level out that playmaking deficit, i.e., get more explosive and dynamic.

The roster will be tweaked accordingly, and as frustrating as the season was, it gives the Ravens a chance to add an immediate difference-maker with the No. 14 pick in the draft. My priority list: 1) offensive tackle, 2) defensive line, 3) cornerback.

The offensive and defensive blueprints also surely will be scrutinized as the coaches study what went wrong beyond just injuries. There's plenty to chew on. Slow starts, poor tackling, red-zone struggles, and the offense's inability to handle heavy pressure were all issues at different points in the season.

A lot needs to go right, but players expressed confidence Monday.

"It's not like some crazy rebuilding has to happen. We've just got to get some guys healthy and add some new pieces to the puzzle, like we're going to do," said veteran nose tackle Brandon Williams, a pending free agent.

Williams continued: "We're the Baltimore Ravens. We're always in the talk, unless something crazy happens. So we're always going to be there. This was just a different year."

That's the sound of an organization confident it can keep the events of 2021 from bleeding into 2022. Which is a good place to start.

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