Eisenberg: What One Thing Would You Change About Ravens?


The first weeks of the 2015 season have been a rough time in Ravenstown. Not much fun at 1-5. So to lighten the mood, as a public service, I'm offering everyone the chance to play out a fantasy.

Halloween season is here. The Great Pumpkin is coming to visit. He (or maybe she) is granting you one wish. You can use it to reverse one of the factors that have contributed to the Ravens' disappointing season.

What would you change?

It could be a specific play, for instance, not having a sink hole swallow Justin Tucker and lead to his missing a key field goal last weekend against San Francisco. The Ravens might have beaten the 49ers and started digging out of this hole if he makes that kick.

Another candidate is Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge's freak, between-the-thighs touchdown catch, which helped the Browns come from behind and win in Baltimore. Without that, maybe the Ravens don't lose to the Browns.

As Head Coach John Harbaugh noted this week, his team "has been on a little bit of a roll here as far as crazy things happening to us."

But if I could pick one play to reverse, it would be the un-crazy pick-six that quarterback Joe Flacco threw in the season opener in Denver. It came late in the third quarter. The Ravens had the lead and momentum, but suddenly lost both. I think they would have won if not for that turnover, and if so, would have played with more confidence in Oakland the next week and maybe won there, too. That interception changed a lot.

You get more bang for your one wish, though, if you reverse something weightier than just one play. A key injury, for instance. Which would you erase? There's no shortage of options.

I would be sorely tempted to go with the knee injury that has sidelined rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman since the first day of training camp. The Ravens drafted Perriman to be a game-changer, hopefully immediately. With his speed and just a couple of catches early in the season, he could have globally altered how opposing defenses approach the Ravens.

Without him, the receiving corps has lacked playmaking potential beyond Steve Smith Sr., and with the Ravens having lost five games by an average of 4.4 points, it's fair to speculate that just one extra play here or there could have significantly changed the narrative.

But the Ravens offense has held its own, as evidenced by the fact that it is ranked No. 9 in the league in yards per game and No. 11 in points per game. Yes, it has experienced some damaging outages, such as the one that occurred in the first half last Sunday, which left the Ravens too far behind. But the defense has been the bigger problem. That's no secret. And that's where I would spend my one wish.

I would take back the season-ending Achilles injury that outside linebacker Terrell Suggs suffered in the final minutes of the Denver loss.

Without Suggs, the Ravens have suffered from a lack of a leadership. They simply don't have another player of his caliber who is vocal enough to rally the forces. As his teammates said when he went down, you can't replace him.

And though the run defense has held up without his edge-setting skills, the thinned-out pass rush has suffered, which has led to trouble on the back end, a seemingly nonstop run of big plays.

Yes, I've seen the metrics that suggest the Ravens are still getting enough sacks and pressures, but watching them every week, I think their inability to corral quarterbacks is an issue.

Suggs couldn't have changed that by himself, not at 32, with his best years behind him. But his three-down presence on the right side would have allowed Elvis Dumervil to stay on the left side and split time with Courtney Upshaw – an alignment that worked well last year. It also would have lessened the weight of subtraction already dragging down the unit with Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee gone.

Simply put, with Suggs gone, the Ravens don't walk into a building with the same swagger. That would be my one wish, my Great Pumpkin reversal: Bring Suggs back.

Would everything be better? No.

But would things be different? You bet.

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