Why Baltimore's Offense Will Be Well Improved
Not too many good things come up when we talk about the Ravens' offense of this previous season. Their running game was near the very bottom, and the passing game flaunted on the the hinges of Joe Flacco's worst statistical season the year after winning the Super Bowl. It was clear from the very beginning that the Ravens would yet again have to heavily rely on the defense to win ball games for them. They finished 8-8, a very disappointing follow-up from the year before.
This offseason, free agency and the acquisition of Gary Kubiak may end up being the pieces to this jigsaw that is Baltimore's ariel and running attack.
Steve Smith is without any question nearing the end of his days in a football uniform, but that does not in any way diminish his potential to be Baltimore's top tier threat. Steve Smith is a spirited player, the likes of which rival Ray Lewis, he is a very good blocking receiver, and can provide that deceptive burst of speed when needed.
Gary Kubiak was left jobless after the Texans started the season off 2-0 and finished 2-14. His tendency to favor running and play action over shotgun and spread systems may very well be what Baltimore needs. For the time Kubiak was at Houston, their running game was superb and their bootleg system complimented it marvelously.
This of course, depends upon the offensive line. Gino Gradkowksi has yet to play a legit game, Eugene Monroe and Jah Reid are high potential tackles, along with Rick Wagner. The best of these big men are of course Marshal Yanda, who has been one of the best at his position for years. The absence of Oher should only affect the running game, as his ability to pass protect the majority of the time was less than remarkable. This offensive line for the time being is a toss up, but should begin to solidify well before the regular season begins.
If I'm Kubiak, I keep balancing carries between Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, as Pierce will most likely be the one receiving most of the carries the first few weeks should Goodell follow through with his plan to suspend Rice for the Revel Casino incident. If anything, the running game should be an improvement from last year, given at this point it could not be much worse.
As we look again to the receivers, spear-headed by Steve Smith, speed is becoming a large part of this Ravens passing game. Torrey Smith is establishing a reputation of beating some of the best man-cover corners in this league with his afterburn. Jacoby Jones should predominantly remain a return specialist but his speed gives Kubiak the option to use him at the slot position where he will more often than not be paired against corners or linebackers slower than him. Then there is Marlon Brown from Georgia. He was impressive last season, and his pass catching was stellar given that it was his rookie season. He is only going to get better.
The tight ends are among the most talented, Owen Daniels has had that merit for awhile now, and Dennis Pitta is getting closer every year to that same tier of top pass-catching tight ends. What Kubiak needs to focus on here is making sure they are coincided in the running game and can provide good blocking in that regard.
Then there is the curious case of one Joe Flacco. And again Ravens fans alike are left questioning his consistency and clutch factor. He won the Super Bowl. The front office paid him his money. He did not have a good season and took a step closer to making the front office feel that they overpaid him. That has to change this season. Given that it was his worst statistical season this past year, Joe Flacco cannot afford to have another lackluster outing.
I would expect nothing less than a very good year in which we see that his Ravens offense will begin to make an identity for themselves. It surely seems that what was already a good defense will be even better, and that now places the spotlight on this team’s offense that has since this organization was first created has been undermined by the spectacular defense. The time has come for the offense to make amends.