The Ravens sit at 6-4 heading into week 12 against the 10-0 red hot Pittsburgh Steelers, and are playing the worst football in the Lamar Jackson era. Following the win against the Colts, Lamar Jackson tied Dan Marino becoming the fastest quarterback to reach 25 wins in his first 30 starts, but has since lost 2 straight against the Patriots and Titans and has lost 3 of 4 overall including a home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes you can make excuses, such as the Ravens have only lost to teams who have a combined 4 losses plus New England in a game where the weather played a huge factor, but the bottom line is that this team is not very good right now. But why? The Ravens steamrolled everyone they played last year en route to a 14-2 regular season record putting up historically good rushing and efficient passing numbers with league MVP Lamar Jackson, and headed into 2020 with not much of a talent drop off, yet the results have been dissapointing.
Last year, the Ravens were simply unsustainably good offensively in 2019, and the question shouldn’t have been “would they regress” but more so “how much would they regress.” The Ravens offense returned 10 of their offensive starters, and their offensive coordinator from last season, however the one starter they lost was all pro guard Marshall Yanda who retired in the offseason. Another key loss on the offense that people have seemed to ignore is Hayden Hurst, who was traded to the Falcons in the offseason in exchange for a 2nd round pick, which later turned into JK Dobbins. The Ravens decided to roll the dice with just 2 tight ends this year and with one less playmaker on offense, and it has hurt this team with Nick Boyle going down for the season and the lack of receivers making plays in the passing game for Lamar Jackson. Building upon that, the lack of development from the Ravens receiving unit has really hurt this offense. Marquise Brown, who put on 20 pounds of muscle and had screws removed from his foot, seemed primed for a huge season after a big week one preformance, however since then has regressed throughout the rest of the season and has not played at a level even close to acceptable from a number 1 option. The Ravens also lost all pro tackle Ronnie Stanley against the Steelers, which when combined with the loss of Yanda, set the Ravens from an elite o line, to a well below average unit, especially when regarding pass protection.
These problems then have a direct effect on Lamar Jackson, who has received heavy criticism from analysts, coaches and players around the league for his play this season. If you watched Lamar last year compared to this year, you can see his comfort level in the offense is much lower in 2020, often feeling he needs to run too much in the pocket and second guessing his first reads because he doesn’t trust his receivers. Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator is not free of blame as well as the scheme and playcalling have been caught up to somewhat and have been too predictable. A year removed from being the one of the most dominant offenses in the league, the Ravens offense has been a huge area of concern with regression in pretty much every single aspect.
Defensively, I don’t worry as much, but the defense has seemed to lose a lot of steam in the last 2 weeks with some key pieces out, and has not been good enough to win games. Without their two best run defenders, Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell, opposing offenses have seen a lot of success running the ball against a thin defensive line. The Patriots and Titans each ran for over 170 yards and have worn down the Ravens defense in both games. While the Ravens secondary continues to be a strength of the team, Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey struggled in the second half against the Titans and were a big reason for the defensive collapse. Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen who has been thrusted into a three down linebacker role and has struggled for a lot of the season. While the defense definitely has some holes, I expect it to return to form as one of the leagues best.
So the question is as we head into the back end of the regular season, can the Ravens turn it around and contend for the superbowl? In my opinion, I do not see it very likely that they do, however they surely have the potential to do so. It would require a small midseason innovation spark from Greg Roman, this offensive line to play at least at an average level, the receivers to unlock part of their potential, and for Lamar to be confident and decisive within the structure. There is no doubt that the physical talent is there for the Ravens to succeed with Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and others, but more needs to be done by them to execute the offense at a high level. While all the things I mentioned need to occur for this team to win a superbowl this year, I am extremely optimistic that even if they aren’t able to reach it this year that they will next season. With both Stanley and Boyle set to return, a good amount of cap space to spend on a phenomenal receiver free agent class, an opportunity for the offense to look themselves in the mirror and work towards becoming the best players they can, and a more traditional off season, I think this team is built to compete with Mahomes for the superbowl in 2021.