The Main Culprit for the Ravens' Dip on Offense Is ...
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak on the Ravens, the biggest question regarding the team was why the offense was not performing at the elite level it did last season. A popular opinion among pundits is that the root of the Ravens' issues on offense is Lamar Jackson's struggles.
However, ESPN dove into the analytics and came up with a different answer: Don't blame Jackson. Blame Marshal Yanda.
ESPN's research showed that the eight-time Pro Bowl guard's retirement this offseason is the biggest factor in the offense going from leading the league in scoring in 2019 to 24th in yards per game in 2020.
Yanda's absence has played a significant role in the Ravens having less success in the run game and on early downs, which has made it more difficult to sustain drives and win the time of possession battle.
"Now, it's hard to lay all of this on one event or one person, but it's hard to ignore the impact the offseason retirement of longtime guard Marshal Yanda has had on this offense," ESPN's Dan Graziano wrote. "Last season, the Ravens averaged a league-high 56.6 yards per game on runs up the middle. It's 35.6 this season, which ranks 17th. Their average yards per rush on those runs is also down from 4.5 to 3.6. The difference between second-and-five and second-and-seven, stretched out over 10 games, is significant."
Graziano said the data simply doesn't support the notion that Jackson's weakness throwing outside the numbers and the offense's lack of explosive plays have significantly contributed to the unit's decline.
"Explosive plays? The 2020 Ravens are actually a little bit better at those. Their explosive play rate last season was 6.2%, good for 18th in the NFL. This year, they're up to 6.4%, which ranks ninth," Graziano wrote. "Jackson outside the numbers? About the same. He's averaging 6.4 yards per attempt on throws outside the numbers, same as he did last season. His yards per completion on those throws is actually up from 9.5 to 10.8.
"Jackson might need more development as a passer, which is fair, since he's still only 23 years old. He might need better weapons at wide receiver. But those things were true last year, too, and the Ravens' offense set records. This year, the foundational things on which many of those records were set have crumbled a bit — just enough to take their offense from otherworldly to ordinary, and possibly out of the playoff picture."
Mike Tirico: Coaching Continuity Adds Fuel to Ravens-Steelers Rivalry
NBC's "Football Night in America" host Mike Tirico said the fact that Harbaugh and Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin have been with their teams for more than a decade has made the rivalry between the franchises even more special.
This is Harbaugh's 13th season with the Ravens and Tomlin's 14th with the Steelers.
"It's hard to find, in this era of football, two head coaches in the same division that have run for more than a decade," Tirico told The Baltimore Sun. "Guys don't stay all that long in one place, because usually, you have to win the division to stay around, right? But these two guys have stayed for more than a decade in the most changeover era coaching in the NFL has ever seen. I think that has given this rivalry the personality. Even though the players come and go, the coaches, the staffs, the front offices, the people who are at the core of this, they let everybody who comes in the building know how important Ravens-Steelers matchups are."
Tirico said the rivalry between the two teams is extraordinarily intense but built on a foundation of mutual respect.
"When Pittsburgh and Cincinnati was a rivalry, there were a lot of cheap shots and dirty stuff. You didn't have that with Pittsburgh and Baltimore," Tirico said. "You just had some of the most intense, hard-hitting games that you'd see year in and year out. So, I've just always had phenomenal interest as a fan and as a broadcaster to watch these games, because of that respect."