10 Things We Learned About The Baltimore Ravens This Season

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here are 10 things we learned about the Baltimore Ravens this season:

The Baltimore Ravens will have a chance to get a winning season in the books on Sunday. It isn’t the prize that they wanted, but that’s what they get. The Baltimore Ravens fell short against the Steelers on Christmas. They fell short a handful of crucial times this season, that’s why they are going into a meaningless week 17 game. This is the time to reflect on the team. Learning from mistakes is the biggest way to prevent them in the future. So let’s get right down to it, with the ten things we learned about the Ravens.

10. Dennis Pitta isn’t done:

The purple and black must give Dennis Pitta a standing ovation. After back to back hip injuries took down the veteran tight end, he made a shocking comeback. In the beginning of the season it seemed like we were waiting for something to go wrong every time he got hit. Pitta has always been a fan favorite; many fans wanted him to hang up the cleats to prevent another horrible injury. Pitta had a strong season and he looks better than ever.

If you would have told Ravens fans that Pitta would have 75 receptions for 638 yards and two touchdowns at the beginning of the season, we would have called you overly optimistic. Pitta showed the Ravens that he is far from being done.

The Ravens have some interesting decisions to make now. Ben Watson is coming back next season. Crockett Gillmore and Darren Waller are also talented tight ends. It looked like this would be Pitta’s last season, but now he could be a pivotal part of the offense moving forward.

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon (30) runs after a catch against Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle L.T. Walton (96) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon (30) runs after a catch against Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle L.T. Walton (96) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

9. Kenneth Dixon Has Potential To Be Special:

The stats don’t tell the story for Dixon. Dixon missed the first several games this season and the Ravens didn’t run the ball nearly enough. The Ravens were a pass happy team, who under utilized Dixon as well as Terrance West. The Ravens finally showed off the run game against the Steelers. Dixon had 12 carries for 57 yards in the heartbreaking loss.

Dixon has a set of skills that wows you. He has thick legs that don’t quit and a low center of gravity. Dixon is quick and shifty and he helps out in the passing game. If there is one young player on the Ravens to keep an eye on, it’s Dixon. The Ravens need to commit to the rushing attack. It’s what has always worked in Baltimore. Dixon could be the next great Ravens running back.

Dixon was a star at Louisiana Tech. He was second in NCAA history in touchdowns. In the pros, you see that talent. Dixon’s biggest problem right now is helping in pass protection. However with the ball in his hands, he can do some pretty exciting things.

Dec 12, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a pass during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 12, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a pass during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

8. This Offense Has No Identity

The Ravens do not have a clue on offense. They just don’t know what they’re doing. They have talented players and they completely waste them. Watching Marty Mornhinweg call plays is like watching somebody drive a sports car like a school bus. It just isn’t working. Joe Flacco throwing it 45 times or more a game isn’t a great formula. The Ravens have two good running backs and they seldom pound the rock. It makes no sense.

The Ravens cannot decide if they want Flacco to nickel and dime opponents the way Tom Brady does, or sling it all over the field like Drew Brees. When Steve Smith Sr. is not on the field, it isn’t a pretty picture. His impending retirement makes wide receiver a huge need for the purple and black. Every time the offense finds a groove, they go right back to stopping themselves.

There is no rhyme or reason to what the Ravens are doing offensively. It does not take in depth analysis to see this. The Ravens continually do things that drive us nuts. We can see it from the stands. It’s crystal clear on television. However the Ravens have no clue what they want to do on offense. Having another offensive coordinator and a new offense is less than ideal, but what choice does John Harbaugh have?

Sep 11, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zach Orr (54) reacts after Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter (not pictured) missed a field goal during the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens won 13-7. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 11, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zach Orr (54) reacts after Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter (not pictured) missed a field goal during the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens won 13-7. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

7. Zach Orr And C.J. Mosley Are Awesome:

The only consistent thing the Ravens had this season was a good defense. Sure, the Ravens defense had some bad days, but the unit kept the team in just about every game. I really cannot say enough about how good the Ravens two inside linebackers were. They were fantastic. Zach Orr took the starting job and didn’t look back. The fact that a top 10 tackler in the NFL is not in the Pro Bowl is mind boggling to me.

Mosley did make the Pro Bowl. Mosley and Orr are the perfect combination. They are both very aggressive and they have a high football IQ. Both linebackers read their cues, trust what they see and fly on the football field. They have accounted for seven of the Ravens 18 interceptions. In a pass happy NFL. it is so awesome to have linebackers who can do it all.

The Ravens run defense has been one of the teams strengths. The front seven in general has been terrific. The leaders of this are Orr and Mosley. The Ravens may have the fastest and most versatile combo of interior linebackers in the NFL.

Sep 11, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) looks on prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 11, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) looks on prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

6. The Secondary Is Improved But Still Thin:

When Jimmy Smith was not on the field, you could feel it. The Ravens allowed Odell Beckham to take over the game, after controlling the Giants’ star all game long. When Smith left the game with a concussion, it changed the game. The Ravens started strong against the Cowboys. With no Jimmy Smith though, Shareece Wright was a crippling weak link. Dak Prescott attacked this weak link mercilessly.

Tavon Young showed great promise. The rookie cornerback from Temple, has the potential to be a really good player. Still, he is undersized and sometimes that can be an issue. The Ravens need to get more quality depth in the secondary. We don’t know how long we can count on Lardarius Webb at the free safety spot, and Jimmy Smith’s hurt a lot. When all healthy, the Ravens secondary is a very competent unit. Without one or two of the pieces it all fell apart.

Eric Weddle was a huge signing. He prevented a lot of big plays this season. The secondary is heading in the right direction. That doesn’t mean the Ravens should be satisfied with it yet.

Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Alex Lewis (72) against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens defeated the Browns 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

5. Ronnie Stanley And Alex Lewis Have Potential

Like the Ravens, Ronnie Stanley’s season was a roller coaster. Stanley performed beyond my expectations in the first three weeks. Then Stanley missed several games with an injury. He struggled horribly for a couple games. Stanley has since played really strong football. The left tackle of the future looks the part. Stanley has done a great job in pass protection for the most part. It is important to remember two things. First, he was a rookie this year. Secondly, the injury accounts for much of his struggles.

Alex Lewis was a fourth round pick. I would argue that before his injury against the Browns, he had been the Ravens most consistent offensive lineman this season. Lewis got some time at left guard and left tackle. He showed that he was capable of both spots. Lewis especially impressed as a pass blocker. I knew he could run block but was pleasantly surprised with his ability to protect the QB.

The Ravens found two fixtures of their offensive line in the same draft class. That is one heck of an accomplishment. This will help the Ravens big time as we move forward.

Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) reacts during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) reacts during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

4. Ravens Need More Pass Rush:

Going into the final game of the season the Ravens had 30 sacks which ranked 22nd in the NFL. The Ravens were expecting big things from Za’Darius Smith this season but he ended up with only one sack this season. Smith struggled to set the edge in run defense and his playing time was hurt because of it. Terrell Suggs had eight sacks going into the final game of the season, which led the team. It is clear the Ravens need more people who can hunt down the quarterback.

Elvis Dumervil missed much of the season with a foot injury and that didn’t help. Matt Judon showed some promise, with four sacks in his rookie campaign. Timmy Jernigan took the quarterback down a handful of times. The Ravens clearly have some talent in the pass rushing department, but they need more of it.

The Ravens defense really didn’t have a lot of explosive plays. They had a top tier unit because they got teams off the field and out of the end zone. They didn’t have a really flashy season as good as they were. The Ravens need a difference maker. Whether it comes in free agency or the draft, Baltimore needs a guy that an offensive line just can’t stop.

Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace (17) runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace (17) runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

3. Mike Wallace And Breshad Perriman Have Big Play Capability:

Mike Wallace was a really strong signing. It looked like Wallace didn’t have it anymore when he was with the Vikings. Last season he didn’t even catch 40 passes. This season Wallace had over 60 receptions for about 1,000 yards and four touchdowns. Wallace averaged 14.5 yards per reception. The Ravens stuck some big plays to Wallace this season.

Breshad Perriman may have been worth the wait. This was his first real season, after being hurt in his rookie year. Perriman averaged 15.1 yards per carry. When Perriman got the ball in the open field, nobody could catch him. Whomever the next offensive coordinator is, he certainly has two speedy weapons to work with.

If the Ravens could have made the other components of their offense work, these two players could have been important game changers. They could have been x-factors. Imagine the play-action pass opportunities the Ravens would have had if they had consistently ran the football.

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (left) shakes hands with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after their game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (left) shakes hands with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after their game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2. The Ravens Make Everything Hard:

The Ravens lost to the Washington Redskins at home, in a game where their defense gave up only one touchdown. Baltimore lost a game against the Jets, a team many thought to be the worst in the NFL. The Ravens have surrendered double digit leads multiple times this season. There are countless examples of the Ravens making everything difficult.

The heartbreak came on Christmas day, but it could have come sooner. The Ravens almost lost to the Philadelphia Eagles the week before. The Eagles failed to convert on a last second two point conversion. If the Ravens had allowed them to get that score, the Christmas battle with the Steelers would have been meaningless. Baltimore had a 10 point lead with just over four minutes remaining and they let the Eagles put them in that tense situation.

If you take out the dominant wins against the Browns and the Dolphins, every Ravens game was the same. Week after week, the Ravens either squeezed by their opponent or lost in a nail biting finish. John Harbaugh and company have to figure out how to do the little things that good teams do. Good teams don’t make it hard on themselves, the Ravens do.

Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) kicks a 53 yard field goal in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) kicks a 53 yard field goal in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Ravens Lean On Justin Tucker Too Much:

It is impossible not to love Justin Tucker, but Baltimore is getting tired of field goals. Going into the final game of the season the Ravens have scored 31 touchdowns and kicked 36 field goals. The Ravens have had seven games where they had to have Tucker kick three or more field goals. Tucker is the best field goal kicker in the NFL but settling for three all the time is never good.

The Ravens lost several games because they settled for three points too many times. The Ravens had two golden chances in the first half of the Steelers game and they ended up with six points. Getting into the end zone should not be this hard.

The Ravens have a lot to look forward to next season. They have a young nucleus of talent and some core veteran talent that isn’t going anywhere. They have a coach and a quarterback that have won before. However the Ravens should be kicking themselves. For the third time in four years the Ravens will not be in the playoffs. This season it was well within their reach.

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