With their new offense a work in progress, the Ravens are trying to stay patient as they seek more production.
During their 22-19 overtime loss to Indianapolis in Week 3, the Ravens were held scoreless on their final four possessions. Now they're preparing for a Week 4 matchup against the Browns, who have the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense allowing just 163.7 yards and 10.7 points per game.
Facing Cleveland should give the Ravens a solid indicator of where their offense stands as they continue to evolve in Todd Monken's first season as offensive coordinator. Monken sees things that he likes, like the Ravens putting together touchdown drives on their opening possession in two straight games. However, he's looking for fewer turnovers and more consistency as the Ravens chase improvement.
"You don't want to overreact, but you don't want to just scrub it under the rug," Monken said. "It was just a week ago we went to the Bengals and played really well and functioned at a really high level on the road.
"We have it in us. How do we carry that week to week? How do we install it, gameplan it the right way so our guys understand what to expect? Two weeks in a row we've taken the opening drive and gone down and scored. We just never got that mojo back."
The Ravens didn't take care of the football well enough against the Colts, fumbling four times and losing two of them. That's been a point of emphasis this week.
Cleveland has given up the fewest first downs in the NFL, so sustaining drives against the Browns will take detailed execution. Monken said staying out of long-yardage situations will be key against Cleveland.
"[We're] just calming down, not listening to too much of the outside noise and knowing who we are and that we have to grow," tight end Mark Andrews said Wednesday. "As an offense, we know what we can be and should be, so that's the exciting part. We haven't reached our full potential yet. We're still working on that. It's going to be a dangerous group, and we never lose sight of that."
Monken Has No Extra Motivation in Return to Cleveland
It will be Monken's first time back to Cleveland since he was the Browns' offensive coordinator for one year in 2019. Monken didn't call plays, as first-year Head Coach Freddie Kitchens retained those duties.
The Browns ranked 22nd in the league in yards per game (340.9) and points per game (20.9) that season and finished 6-10. Cleveland turned over the coaching staff the following offseason and Monken went to Georgia, where he won back-to-back national championships.
Monken badly wanted to get back into the NFL, and promised himself he’d do the job differently if he got another chance.
Now Monken wants to take his Baltimore offense back to Cleveland Browns Stadium and have a winning performance against the league's No. 1-ranked defense. Asked about the emotions of going back, Monken reflected on his time in Cleveland but said there's no extra personal motivation.
"In some ways, [I] wish I would've done it better; there's some of that," Monken said. "[The] front office was great. We just didn't do it well enough. I didn't do it well enough; that's part of it. But I'm excited to go back. I'm a Raven, and that was four years ago.
"[The] motivation is to play better on offense and to execute at a higher level and stack plays. You can't go score, fumble and then you go four straight possessions putting the ball in the ground. That's what motivates me. It's not going back to Cleveland."
Mark Andrews Is Back to Full Speed
Mark Andrews ended up missing just one game because of the quad injury that sidelined him for a couple weeks before the start of the regular season, but that doesn't mean he was 100 percent.
"Mark Andrews, I think for the first time in three or four weeks, is feeling better. I think he's moving better," Monken said. "Really, this is the first week I've seen – in probably four or five – that I feel like he's at full speed. So, that's a positive. That's a plus going into this week."
Andrews has been a menace for the Browns. In 10 games against them, Andrews has posted 43 catches for 541 yards seven touchdowns.
Andrews led the Ravens with eight targets in Week 2 in Cincinnati and he could have a large role in another key divisional road game, especially if wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Rashod Bateman (hamstring) are out.
Monken was asked about the difficulty of having a pass-heavy gameplan if two of his top receivers are out Sunday.
"First off, that's why Nelson Agholor is here as a player," Monken said. "Devin Duvernay has made plenty of plays here in the past, and Zay [Flowers] is a fantastic rookie and only going to get better."
Ravens Are Blitzing at a Higher Rate
Browns Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz said Thursday that the Browns are "gonna try to take the fight to" Jackson, who was blitzed at a high rate (40%) by the Colts.
He won't be the only one applying extra pressure. Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald is dialing up more blitzes so far this season.
The Ravens blitzed at the 12th-lowest rate (21.3%) last season in Macdonald's first year. Through the first three games this season, they're blitzing at the NFL's eighth-highest rate (34.5%).
Macdonald was asked Thursday about whether that's a function of personnel – the Ravens have been short-handed at outside linebacker with ankle injuries to Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo – or a schematic shift.
"It's something we want the ability to do at any given point," Macdonald said. "To have the threat of a blitz on either side or up the middle or double edge, you always want that threat to an offense. That's just part of our identity.
"I think you might not have seen it last year for several reasons, probably what we felt like our team strengths were and how healthy we were and different pressure packages we were able to. It's still a game-plan idea, but it's something we're definitely going to carry and have the ability to get to at any point and time."