Fri, 27 Nov 2020

Ravens' Biggest Questions Over the Bye

Baltimore Ravens
22 Oct 2020, 22:25 GMT+10

Clifton Brown

After 16 games, the Ravens will be very interested in what their record looks like. But after six games, the Ravens are more focused on continuing to improve, getting rejuvenated during their bye week, and playing more consistent football when they return.

The Ravens are 5-1, yet they know they haven't played their best football. That's an enviable place to be, one that Head Coach John Harbaugh doesn't take for granted.

"How you do it over the long haul is what really counts," Harbaugh said. "It's not too often that we've been 5-1, so I never want to discount that. I never want to discount that with the players. They deserve credit for winning the games, because that's the goal and that's what you judge by."

Here are some important questions for the Ravens over their bye, with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 1 on the horizon.

Are the Ravens ready for their toughest stretch of the regular season?

After the bye, the Ravens host Pittsburgh (5-0), visit New England (2-3), host Tennessee (5-0) and visit Pittsburgh on a Thursday night. We'll learn a lot about the Ravens in their next four games. The Ravens will be the clear favorite to win the AFC North if they lead the division following the Thanksgiving night showdown in Pittsburgh. But this isn't like last season, when Baltimore rolled to the best record in the AFC and won the division by six games. You could make a case that Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Kansas City (5-0) have all improved since last season. For the Ravens to secure a third-straight division title, not to mention a first-round bye, they will need to play excellent football during the four weeks following the bye.

Will the offensive line hit its stride?

The offensive line was flagged for seven penalties in Philadelphia led by All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley with three. Stanley and right guard Tyre Phillips have both missed a game due to injury. The cohesion the offensive line enjoyed last year, when it dominated many games and allowed Baltimore to gain yards at a record-setting pace, has been missing. That's not a surprise after losing Marshal Yanda to retirement. The Ravens are still third in the league in rushing, averaging 164.3 yards per game. The line has enjoyed some stellar moments, like when it provided excellent blocking for Gus Edwards on his 7-yard touchdown run Sunday.

However, to become more consistent offensively, the Ravens will have to eliminate some of the penalties, negative runs, sacks, and throws under pressure that have been prevalent during the first six games.

"We've just got to do a better job executing [and] making sure we're not shooting ourselves in the foot," Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. "We're looking at it as an opportunity to get better this week [and] get ready for Pittsburgh - who's got an amazing defensive front. We're not where we want to be. So, I wouldn't say there's any content in our room."

Will the Ravens make a trade before the Nov. 3 deadline?

General Manager Eric DeCosta is always looking to improve, regardless of the team's record. The in-season trade that delivered Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters last season was huge and few people saw it coming.

There are already rumors that the Ravens may be in the market for a wide receiver, pass rusher, offensive lineman or tight end to help them down the stretch. The Ravens are clearly one of the NFL's most talented teams. But if DeCosta sees an opportunity, he has shown a willingness to seize the moment.

Will the Ravens' passing attack become more consistent?

Baltimore ranks next-to-last in the NFL in passing offense, averaging 171.3 yards per game. Nobody expected that through six games. Not with Lamar Jackson coming off an MVP season, tight end Mark Andrews coming off a Pro Bowl season and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown expected to have a breakout season.

Brown (26 catches, 376 yards) is on pace to have a 1,000-yard season and Andrews leads the team with five touchdown catches. But Jackson has missed several opportunities to hit Brown with deep balls, and he is averaging just 7.0 yards per completion. The Ravens haven't made defenses pay enough for crowding the line of scrimmage and taking running lanes away from Jackson and the running backs. Meanwhile, Andrews has had three games with fewer than 30 yards receiving, and a consistent No. 3 receiver has not emerged. As a result, the Ravens can be hot or cold from series to series, like in Philadelphia when Baltimore had five drives that were three-and-out, the most in a game since Jackson became the starting quarterback in 2018.

Brown says the Ravens have been frustrated at times by their lack of offensive consistency, but they believe the issues can be fixed. It's not like Brown isn't getting behind defenders. He and Jackson just need to connect on a few more deep shots.

"Last year early in the year, we took those shots and we hit a couple," said David Culley, Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach. "We've taken those same shots this year and we've missed a few times. We're going to continue to take those shots. We just have been a little bit off the mark. We're going to keep taking those shots, they're there. We feel like we're going to end up hitting those."

Is Devin Duvernay about to become a bigger part of the offense?

The rookie wide receiver from Texas (10 catches, 90 yards) has only been targeted 12 times, but he has gotten production out of those opportunities, showing breakaway speed and the ability to break tackles after the catch. Duvernay's snap count has increased each week, up to a season-high 26 on Sunday.

If Duvernay's role increases in the second half, he could provide the spark the offense is seeking.

"He's starting to feel comfortable with what we're doing, and we've done some special things with him," said David Culler, Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach. "You've seen with some reverses and some quick passes that he's done very well, because he's very good with the ball in his hands. At this point, he's getting to the point where that's going to expand."

Can the defense continue to take over games?

Baltimore's defense has forced 11 turnovers, including at least one turnover in 19 straight games. It's not an accident, with Peters the master of the interception, Marlon Humphrey the master of the "Fruit Punch", and now safety DeShon Elliott getting in on the act by forcing two fumbles against Philadelphia.

The Ravens have allowed the fewest points in the league (17.3 per game), and Calais Campbell had his most dominant game as a Raven against the Eagles with three sacks and quarterback hit. In back-to-back weeks, the Ravens have had the AFC Defensive Player of the Week - Campbell in Week 6 and rookie inside linebacker Patrick Queen in Week 5.

Over the next month, we'll see how the Ravens deal with a Steelers offense led by Ben Roethlisberger and a Titans offense led by Derrick Henry. The second half against the Eagles was a wakeup call for the Ravens, who gave up 28 points. But with their ability to blitz quarterbacks and force turnovers, the Ravens have a defense with big-play potential, which will help their chances to keep winning even when the offense isn't rolling.

More Fort Worth News

Access More

Sign up for Fort Worth News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!