Ravens Want More Punch From Rushing Attack
Ravens lead running back Alex Collins has carried the ball just 16 times for 48 yards in two games, and the Ravens are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.
Falling behind, 21-0, to the Bengals forced the Ravens to pass more than they had planned in Thursday night's loss in Cincinnati, but Harbaugh did not deny the running game needed to improve.
“We just need to get the running game going,” Harbaugh said.
“It’s only the second game. The Bills made it a point to stop the run. The Bengals didn’t have to because they jumped out to a big lead. We’re not in any way pleased with the numbers, and we are very determined to run the ball well, because we think it helps our offense. We’ve got to get that going.”
Last season, Collins rushed for almost 1,000 yards and the hope was that he would exceed that number this season. For that to happen, the Ravens will have to establish him earlier in games and stick with him more consistently.
Collins has still shown ability to gain yards after contact and break tackles. But the Ravens have not found a consistent rhythm with their ground attack, and their offensive balance is not where they want it to be. Even before they fall behind, penalties have put them in passing situations more often than they hoped.
With 14 games left to play, there is plenty of time for the Ravens’ running game to pick up the pace. However, Harbaugh would like to see improvement sooner rather than later. Baltimore ranked 11th in the league in rushing last year (116 yards per game), and very much hangs its hat on a strong rushing attack.
“We need to pop some runs – that’s the biggest concern,” Harbaugh said. “I think when you hit some long runs, that average goes to where you want it to be. We’ve had some steadiness to it. I don’t think we’ve been hit in the backfield too many times. We didn’t have nearly as many runs as we wanted on Thursday night.”
Without C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle Is No. 1 in Pecking Order to Call Defensive Signals
Until inside linebacker C.J. Mosley returns from a knee bone bruise, another defensive player must take over relaying defensive signals from the sideline.
Ravens safety Eric Weddle handled that responsibility during the second half Thursday. However, immediately after Mosley was injured, inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor wore the helmet with the headset during the first and second quarters until that role was transferred to Weddle at halftime.
Harbaugh made it clear Monday that he prefers Weddle over Onwuasor to relay defensive signals. Weddle did it in San Diego and has veteran experience and a broad understanding of the defense.
“Patrick had it for I think a short period of time, but then we went to Eric, which is who we want,” Harbaugh said. “There’s an order, a pecking order. In my mind it’s Eric, that’s the No. 2 guy, and that’s who we got to.”
The Bengals scored on four consecutive touchdown drives in the first half, but the Ravens’ defense seemed better organized in the second half, allowing just six points with Weddle relaying signals. However, Harbaugh said the Ravens’ first-half defensive issues went deeper than who was making the calls.
“We didn’t have too many communication problems as far as getting calls in,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t play things the way we wanted to play them all the time. When you lose a player like C.J. that’s a factor as well.”
Janarion Grant’s Fumbles Are a Concern
While rookie receiver/returner Janarion Grant has returned punts aggressively, he muffed a punt in Week 1, then fumbled on a return in Week 2. Neither loose ball was recovered by the opposing team, but the Ravens want to see Grant’s ball security improve.
“Twice in two games, you just don’t want to see that,” Harbaugh said. “He did secure it well a number of times, high hangers, people buzzing around him. But anytime the ball’s on the ground, it’s not a good situation. He knows that. We’ll kind of monitor that.”
Ravens Will Face Record-Setting Broncos Rookie RB Phillip Lindsay
On Sunday, Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay became the first undrafted free agent in NFL history to produce over 100 yards of total offense in his first two games. Now he’ll try to make it a third in Baltimore this week.
Harbaugh was not happy to see Bengals running back Joe Mixon (84 yards rushing) run the ball effectively against Baltimore last week. He wants the Ravens to re-establish their run defense against Denver. If the Ravens are going to be one of the NFL’s top defenses, it will start with containing the run.
“I thought it was okay, not great, needs to be better,” Harbaugh said of the Ravens’ run defense against the Bengals. “Not to our standards. We have a very high standard. It might be good enough for other teams around the league, but it’s not going to be good enough for us.”
Harbaugh said the Ravens, who brought in three undrafted running backs this summer, considered Lindsay, who came out of Colorado.
“It’s incredible, these free agent running backs around the league,” Harbaugh said. “He’s fast – that’s what stands out about him. He’s quick, he’s kind of fearless.”