Last year, the Ravens went 14-2, Lamar Jackson was NFL MVP, and the Baltimore offense was unstoppable. This year, however, has been a different story.
A much different story.
The Ravens (6-5) have lost three in a row and four of five and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. The offense? Well, it’s been very stoppable.
But are teams stopping the Ravens, or are the Ravens stopping themselves?
“It’s a team that’s struggling for identity,” Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan host Rob Long said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “As a team, they were looking to be one of the stronger teams in the AFC. Remember we started the season [saying], ‘Is it KC or Baltimore?’ Now it’s, ‘Is it KC or Pittsburgh? Or maybe even Tennessee?’ But [the Ravens are] a game above .500 largely because it’s an identity crisis.”
The Ravens, depleted by COVID-19, fell to the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Despite playing without Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards had just nine carries. He finished with 10 yards and a touchdown in the 19-14 loss.
“Gus Edwards still didn’t run the ball as much as I thought he would have with two running backs out,” Long said. “He’s a guy that’s all he’s done his entire career was average over 5.0 yards a carry. But for some reason, it’s tough for him to get [carries]. They seemed to be married to Mark Ingram from the beginning of the season, and J.K. Dobbins is a guy that I think needs to get the ball a little bit more as well. They went into the season with three running backs, and I said before they played a game, ‘When you have three running backs, you don’t have a running back.’ Because eventually you’re going to have a problem. Two running backs is fine, but no one has three running backs.”
Last year, the Ravens averaged a league-high 33.2 points per game and were second in total offense. This year, they rank 15th with 25.6 points per game and are 23rd in total offense.
Why such a drastic decline?
“Because offensive coordinators get cute,” Long said. “Offensive coordinators try to get jobs. Offensive coordinators feel like they can’t get jobs if they have the all-time leading rushing team for one year. Last year, Greg Roman didn’t get a job. Offensive coordinators feel like they have to be able to throw the ball and turn quarterbacks into prolific passers in order to get jobs, and sometimes they forget about what their real current job is and they try to get their next job. And yes, I’m accusing Greg Roman of that.”
Roman, 48, was named AP Assistant Coach of the Year last season. Long believes Roman is trying too hard this season to force a square peg into a round hole.
“I think he got too cute this year,” Long said. “I do. They came out and they tried to make a quarterback into something [he isn’t]. You can’t make a quarterback special who’s already special. Do what makes him special. He is a good passer. He is an above average passer and a phenomenal athlete. Use that. Be that guy. He is who he is.”
Lamar Jackson ran for over 1,200 yards last season and finished with 43 touchdowns (36 pass, 7 rush). This season, he has 18 touchdowns (15 pass, 3 rush) in 10 games.
“I don’t know whether it’s Lamar not accepting his role. I don’t know if it’s Greg Roman trying to get another role,” Long said. “But that’s the identity crisis. It starts with No. 8.”