The 2016 campaign for the Baltimore Ravens was disappointing to say the least. Although they finished with an 8-8 record a season after a terrible 5-11 season, the Ravens still did not make it back in the playoffs where they normally are. For three of the last four seasons since the Ravens won the Super Bowl, they have missed the playoffs. For fans, and sometimes analysts alike, it is easy to point fingers at a scapegoat for the team. Fingers so far have been pointed at the Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens John Harbaugh, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees, and Quarterback Joe Flacco. The truth is, however, the blame cannot be put solely on any of them. All of these people are intricate parts of the Ravens organization, especially Harbaugh and Flacco. Since Harbaugh has taken over the organization, he has made the playoffs 6 times and won a Super Bowl, and has been one of the best coaches in the NFL. Joe Flacco has been the best quarterback in Ravens franchise history, bringing the offense to new heights. Unfortunately for both Harbaugh and Flacco, the last couple of years have not been their years. These things happen in the NFL, and football in general. You can only be dominant for so long until you have a few off years. Just look at the Steelers, who after winning a Super Bowl with Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger were in a similar situation. The team stuck with Tomlin, and they have been in the playoffs for the last three years. It is also unfair to criticize both Marty Mornhinweg and Dean Pees. Mornhinweg is only now able to build an offense, as he replaced Marc Trestman at Offensive Coordinator during the season, and Pees has had a good defense the last few years, but it has been inconsistent. If the Ravens want to get back into the playoffs this next season, they should focus on building with these pieces in place, and bring back a winning culture to Baltimore. Here is what they need to do this offseason to achieve this goal.
Build an Offense
Perhaps the most important aspect of this offseason, the Ravens need to find an identity on offense. Under Marc Trestman, the Ravens had drifted away from the running game that has always benefited them for years. Flacco is best when he has a run game to rely on to booster his play action passing attack. Without the run game, the Ravens have become a one dimensional offense, and Flacco and the receivers currently on the roster cannot carry an offense in just the passing attack. Marty Mornhinweg’s past offenses have been very successful, and he can build an offense that runs the ball well. He has a good working relationship with Flacco, and together they should be able to reinvigorate the offense this season.
Find Feature Backs and Receivers
The Ravens this past year were absent of some key components on offense. The days of Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin leading the offense are over. The Ravens need to find a running back and a wide receiver or tight end they can rely on on the offense. The Ravens already have some players on the team that could fit these roles. Running backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon could be the future at the position, but neither of them right now seem to be the sole answer to the problem. At wide receiver, the Ravens have two potential game changers in Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Mike Wallace in the 2016 season had over 1,000 yards receiving, while Breshad Perriman made huge steps coming off of an injury that prevented him from playing his whole rookie season last year. If the Ravens believe they need to bring in new talent, their best bet is the draft.
Provide Consistency on Defense
The Ravens last season had one of the best statistical defenses for much of the year, however, when it really counted, the defense seemed to be nonexistent. Ravens fans watched in horror as their Christmas celebration was abruptly ended when with nine seconds left in the game, the Steelers capped off a long drive to score a touchdown and win the game, allowing them to win the AFC North title. The Ravens need to play well on defense, and did for most of the season, however, they cannot afford to fall apart when it really counts. If the Ravens had tackled Antonio Brown short of the goal line, they very may have well won the game, and went to the playoffs. This season the Ravens need to continue their defensive tradition, and play their best when it counts.
If the Ravens can do all of these things this offseason, expect them to be very competitive in the 2017 season. The Ravens going into 2017 have a lot of promise, and look like they can begin to contend again, but only time will tell if they will be able to do it.