Just one month ago, the Baltimore Ravens sat atop the AFC. They were in great position to make their fourth playoff appearance in a row. The Ravens were a force to be reckoned with, with Baltimore fans excited for the future.
Until the Ravens proceeded to lose five straight, falling to 8-8 with marginal chances to make the NFL Playoffs heading into the final week of the season. They have, without a shred of doubt, been one of the worst teams in football over the past month. Some people were shocked that it happened, but the issues that have shown up during the worst losing streak John Harbaugh has endured have been there the entire season. The difference now? They don’t have elite quarterback play to bail them out, and other teams are doing a better job of exploiting huge flaws in the team.
Let’s start with the side of the ball which has received the most criticism, the offense. Ravens fans have made it no secret that they want Greg Roman gone. The offense has been dysfunctional all year with constant miscommunications, poor offensive line play and an underwhelming run game.
The Ravens rush EPA per play from 2018 to 2020 with Lamar Jackson was 0.038, 0.098, and 0.093 respectively, leading the league by a significant margin in 2019 and 2020, which were the first 2 seasons where Lamar Jackson was the full time starter. In 2021, the Ravens EPA per rush is -0.043, easily the worst mark during Greg Roman’s tenure and ranking 12th in the league.
As all things are, the blame doesn’t lie on a single person, but on a lack of cohesiveness from a lot of different people. You can point to coaching, line play or the runningbacks on any handful of plays and you could come up with a reasonable argument for the struggles. But the truth is that the Ravens have had very little explosive plays from the runningbacks and quaterbacks in the run game and the offensive line has been poor, both on the outside and inside. Defenses have done a good job countering a lot of the gap runs that Roman has made a name for himself with by using various forms of scrape exchange with their linebackers.
As of today, the Ravens have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but would need to win as well as a lot of other things to go their way. Even if they were to sneak in, this was not a playoff caliber team at all down the stretch.
Heading into 2022, the Ravens are in a very interesting situation in terms of their roster and coaching staff. First off, Harbaugh and Lamar aren’t going anywhere, despite some fans voicing displeasure. Mark Andrews, who will be a first team All-Pro, also is not going anywhere as he was extended last offseason. The young receiving core that includes Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay look very promising. However, there are massive questions at tackle. Alejandro Villanueva is a lock to be cut. Mekari, who played well at right tackle and can play anywhere on the offensive line, was extended on a three-year deal worth 15 million. They also signed Ja’Wuan James after he tore his Achilles in the offseason. Ronnie Stanley’s health is the biggest wildcard, as he is over a year removed from his gruesome injury. Inside, the Ravens have an established veteran in Kevin Zeitler, but the starting center Bradley Bozeman is a free agent. Questions remain at left guard with Ben Powers, Tyre Phillips and Ben Cleveland who have struggled for the most part. There’s No doubt the Ravens want to have an elite offensive line, but how the team addresses it given the current state will be very interesting.
Defensively, the Ravens have questions on all three levels. Up front, nose tackle Brandon Williams is set to hit the market, and Calais Campbell has contemplated retirement. Ravens have young pieces at the 3-tech position with Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington, and should get Derek Wolfe back. However, they could want to add more depth. At middle linebacker, Patrick Queen has played much better. Queen is in a more limited role that requires him to think less and play faster. However, he will need to take another step forward if he wants to be an elite linebacker. Josh Bynes was a nice placeholder, but at this point, he’s not a long term answer. Malik Harrison is an interesting player who was on the bench, and then subsquently hurt, but is someone the Ravens want to become the long term answer at LB. At cornerback, the Ravens are fine on starters, but the depth must be improved. Humphrey is a superstar and Peters is great, but Peters will be 29 next season. At the safety position, they will need to make a decision on Deshon Elliott, who missed most of the season with injury. Elliott is an upcoming free agent. S Brandon Stephens seems like a guy they like going forward but another veteran prescience may be beneficial short term.
There will be a lot of attention on the coaching staff, with an emphasis placed on the coordinators. The Ravens have a decision to make with Greg Roman, who has been the team’s coordinator for quite some time now, and may be someone the Ravens may feel inclined to move on from. I can’t say for sure what they’ll do, but if I had to guess I’d say they will part ways. I’d be surprised if Wink left unless it was to take up a head coaching position, which I think is unlikely. It was clear that this defense was not well coaching this year. The Ravens will have a lot of tough decisions to make in the offseason, but will have more draft capital then they’ve had in a long time, and will be relieved of the contracts of Earl Thomas and Brandon Williams.