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Eisenberg: Regardless Of Who Is Coordinator, Ravens' Offensive Philosophy Needs A Makeover


I'm pretty sure a decent percentage of fans are underwhelmed about the news that the Ravens are retaining Marty Mornhinweg as their offensive coordinator.

How else are they supposed to react? It's not as if Mornhinweg's 11-game tenure offered irrefutable evidence that he should stay.

Some good things happened, but many of the same issues that plagued the offense under former OC Marc Trestman continued to crop up. The lack of a running game. The inability to finish drives. A passing game that moved the chains but seldom popped.

The Ravens went 3-2 with Trestman as OC (8-13 including last season) and 5-6 with Mornhinweg.

Nonetheless, I get why Head Coach John Harbaugh elected to stand pat. Another new OC would have been the fourth in 24 months for the Ravens. Fans want change when a team's results don't live up to expectations, but at some point, you have to stop thinking the revolving door is going to spin salvation into your lap.

Mornhinweg gets along well with quarterback Joe Flacco, and he's steeped in the principles of the West Coast offense, which the Ravens have run since Gary Kubiak was around in 2014. Those are solid enough reasons to stick with him as opposed to undertaking yet another regime change.

But honestly, I'm not even that focused on WHO the OC is so much as WHAT he does going forward. Regardless of who is in charge, the Ravens' offensive philosophy needs a makeover.

They set a franchise record for fewest rushing attempts in a season in 2016, literally eschewing the run like never before. Meanwhile, Flacco attempted more passes than every NFL quarterback except New Orleans' Drew Brees.

If you had told me before the season that those events would occur, I would have predicted a non-playoff campaign. That's just not the Ravens.

Oh, like any team with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, they're going to put the ball in his hands and ask him to carry them. But Flacco has always played his best in an offense with a relatively equitable run-pass balance – certainly a more even distribution than this year's.

A consistent rushing game makes play-action work better, which bolsters the passing game, and also takes pressure off Flacco, keeps opposing offenses off the field and gives the Ravens a chance to establish the physical style that has long defined them and still serves them best.

But they got away from that in 2016, finishing No. 28 in the league in rushing offense.

The list of issues that combined to keep them out of the playoffs includes shaky cornerback play, a late-season defensive meltdown and too many penalties, just to name a few, but no issue was more detrimental than the run-pass imbalance.

Quite simply, it can't happen again.

Trestman was let go partially because he was a little too enamored of the passing game. (The previous franchise record for fewest rushes in a season came when he was the OC in 2015.) Mornhinweg also is an aggressive type who likes to air it out, but he's supposedly more malleable in his thinking. Harbaugh isn't going to get in his way, but the head coach needs to emphasize to the OC the critical importance of re-establishing the run.

The Ravens have talked about doing it for several years without following through, but it's time now. If they're still flinging the ball 40 times a game and bypassing the run in 2017, the same kind of season could unfold.

Harbaugh and Mornhinweg have explained that the 2016 imbalance was partly attributable to getting nowhere on the ground at times, to being behind too often and to ending up in an unusually high number of two-minute situations, all of which was true. But there also were plenty of times when the situation called for a run and the Ravens passed.

In the end, backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon still combined for 1,156 rushing yards, digging hard after contact. "I like those guys," Harbaugh said. Between those two and an offensive line anchored by Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley, the fundamentals of a solid running game are in place.

Yes, there are other offensive issues to deal with, starting with how to reload the receiving corps now that Steve Smith Sr. is gone. No doubt, the front office has lots of work to do.

But to get more production from their offense in 2017, the Ravens need to start by going back to the basics.

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