What’s happened to the Baltimore Ravens?
By Shaun Ranft
In 2012, the Baltimore Ravens finished the regular season 10-6, was gifted an opportunity by Denver’s defense in the postseason, and Joe Flacco went on an incredible four-game streak to secure a championship in Baltimore.
They regressed to 8-8 the following season, rebounded to make the playoffs in 2014—despite an early exit—but have crashed to Earth with a 1-5 start out of the gates in 2015.
What happened? It’s not uncommon for a handful of players to be elsewhere a few years down the road, but it’s rare to see the Ravens struggle this badly. The last time they finished with a losing record was 2007 (5-11).
While many can rationally make the case that Flacco is overpaid, even perhaps overrated, it’s important to keep in mind what he has to work with. We’ll get to that.
Still, he’s never truly set the world ablaze statistically; he’s not that kind of quarterback. He’s serviceable, gets the job done, and so on.
His worst season came in 2013, after securing a contract worth $120 million on the heels of a Super Bowl victory. He wound up completing just 59 percent of his passes for a minuscule 6.4 yards per attempt, and only threw 19 touchdowns to a career-high 22 interceptions.
Though he already has seven interceptions this season, it’s worth noting that aside from ’13, he’s never thrown more than 12 in a season.
2014 was promising, as Flacco’s completion rate rose to 62.1 percent, while he threw for 27 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. His passer rating came in at 91, nearly 18 full points higher than his 2013 effort (73.1).
This season is looking more like 2013, just not quite as bad. The passer rating is back down to 80.1, and he’s thrown eight touchdowns as opposed to seven interceptions. His completion rate is up, however—albeit marginally—to 62.3 percent.
To the surprise of nobody, the Ravens want to rework that contract of his, but how much will that help? And, the case has been made that this isn’t all Flacco’s fault—a case that is presented well. The thing with Flacco is, though: when you get paid that kind of money, people are going to expect you to be better than you are.
Flacco has never been anything more than a good, not great QB—aside from that magical run during the 2012 postseason. Now, he’s left to deal with an almost non-existent offense.
Lack of Consistency on Offense
These are the weapons Joe Flacco has at his disposal:
When they traded wideout Anquan Boldin after their championship run, Flacco’s production immediately took a hit. Not only that, but they didn’t do a whole lot (read: nothing) to replace him.
Then they let Torrey Smith walk, leaving just Smith, Sr. to carry the load.
Baltimore let Torrey Smith walk and personnel source says their skill level on offense is poor. Take away Steve Smith? no speed.
— Dianna Marie Russini (@diannaESPN) September 27, 2015
He’s 36 years old and will likely call it quits after the 2015 season. He’s also currently playing with multiple microfractures in his back. Despite that, he’s caught 36 passes for 510 yards and three touchdowns.
Again, he can’t do it all on his own. Throw in the fact that Baltimore has had four different offensive coordinators in the last four years, and you can start to understand why the offense looks as disjointed as they have.
Yet, it’s time to pin some blame on the defensive unit, or lack thereof.
The Diminishing Defense
The defense has taken quite a hit since 2012 as well. Ray Lewis retired, Terrell Suggs is injured again, nose tackle Haloti Ngata was traded back in March for a fourth, fifth, and seventh-round draft pick; you get the idea.
On paper and in play thus far, there’s nobody who truly stands out in this unit. There’s nobody to fear, a la Lewis or Suggs.
Baltimore’s defense ranks 26th in total yards allowed, 25th in yards per game, 27th against the pass, 27th in points per game, and 10th against the run. Sprinkle in a turnover differential of (-5)—which ties them for 27th—and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Baltimore’s offense actually ranks 9th and 11th in yards and points per game, respectively, but it’s been the lack of playmakers on that side of the ball coupled with a non-existent defense that has the Ravens reeling.
What used to be a team with an almost-unstoppable defense and serviceable offense has sputtered—in regards to the former, at least.
Joe Flacco undoubtedly needs more help, but with Baltimore it’s always been about the defense. If that’s not there, then what? The 1-5 start looks all the more accurate, but is still staggering when you remember that this team just won the Super Bowl in February of 2013.
Is this just a down year, or is it time to consider a rebuild in some capacity?
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference
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