The Baltimore Ravens are on the back end of their season, but the team is fighting an uphill battle. After falling short to division rival Cleveland Browns in a 24-18 loss on Sunday, the Ravens have a lot of kinks in their game to work out if they want to have a shot at the playoffs.
And unfortunately for Ravens fans, it’s not just one aspect of game that the Ravens need to focus on fixing.
Here’s a look at the the Ravens’ midseason struggles broken down by position from best to worst
The Ravens’ linebackers are a main reason why the team hasn’t lost more games than they already have. Many people were wary of the Ravens defense this season after having lost powerhouse linebacker Ray Lewis. But the team quickly found a suitable replacement for Lewis in Daryl Smith. Smith has recorded 71 tackles, 35 of which were solo tackles, two interceptions, and one touchdown.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs has also stepped up on the Ravens’ defense this season, especially after missing part of last season with a torn Achilles. Between Suggs and his counterpart pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, the two have put on quite a performance on defense. Suggs has 9 sacks so far this season and Dumervil has notched 5.5 sacks, which leads the team by a landslide.
The Ravens wide receivers have turned the season around after getting off to a shaky start. The shock factor on the Ravens offense has been undrafted rookie wideout Marlon Brown. Brown is leading the Ravens receivers in total touchdowns so far this season with five. Tight end Dallas Clark has the second highest number for the Ravens with two touchdowns.
Torrey Smith has emerged as the Ravens top receiver, however. While Smith only has one touchdown on the season so far, he has had 36 receptions for 707 yards through eight games. Opposing teams have limited Smith in the past few weeks, but if the Ravens can find a way to get him more involved, the team could be seeing big numbers from the third-year wideout.
Quarterback Joe Flacco has been average this season. Nothing terrible, but nothing spectacular at the same time. Despite the struggles from the offense, Flacco should be able to make something work with the talent surrounding him. He has had some noteworthy moments this season where he was able to make a play after being rushed in the pocket. But on the other hand, Flacco has thrown nine interceptions so far this season, which is just one shy of his total interceptions on the season last year.
The Ravens took one of their biggest hits this season before it even began. The team lost tight end Dennis Pitta to a dislocated hip within the first few days of training camp. Pitta is one of Flacco’s most reliable receivers and he has felt most comfortable throwing to the tight end in the past.
While Pitta’s return may come sooner than the team originally anticipated, the team is still struggling to fill his position in the meantime. Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson have been the replacements for Pitta this season, but neither have had standout performances. The two have struggled to put up numbers, with only 32 catches for 375 yards between the them and only two touchdowns, both by Clark.
The Ravens were looking toward defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to lead the defensive line this season, but so far, the veteran has yet to step up in a big way.
Instead, the go-to guy for the Ravens defensive line has been Arthur Jones. Jones has led the defensive line and has helped the rush by recording three sacks so far this season.
Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker has been a glimmer of hope on the special teams unit. Apart from his Week 2 performance against the Cleveland Browns where Tucker missed 2 field goals, he has been extremely consistent.
But the Ravens have received an uncharacteristic amount of penalties on special teams this season. Mistakes in the back have led to the team giving up unnecessary yards and giving the opposing teams better field position at the start of a drive.
Here’s where things start to get really bad for the Ravens. The secondary has had a hard time getting into the swing of things, even this far into the season. Between the cornerbacks and the safeties, the unit is struggling in more areas than one.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb has been subpar since returning from a season-ending ACL tear in 2012. Before his injury, Webb was putting up Pro Bowl-worthy numbers. But he hasn’t quite gotten back to form this season.
As for the safeties, James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam have had their share of problems, as well. Ihedigbo has been impressive for the Ravens on anticipating the tackle, but when he is forced to backtrack for coverage, he lets up a lot of yardage. Elam has been decent, but as a rookie starting in a struggling area for the Ravens, he has had to learn on the fly.
The Ravens offensive line has been failing this season. The team’s blocking and pass protection needs a lot of work. The Ravens made some moves by trading left tackle Bryant McKinnie and acquiring Eugene Monroe. In addition, left guard Kelechi Osmele is out for the season after learning that he needs back surgery for a lingering injury. Veteran right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Michael Oher are both recovering from injuries and have yet to make any big plays.
The offensive line is dealing with both injured players as well as new players and need to focus on making the adjustment.
The most disappointing area of the Ravens play has been the run game. With a three-time Pro Bowl running back in Ray Rice, the Ravens were expecting big things from him this season. Rice and backup running back Bernard Pierce are both averaging 2.7 yards per attempt. Rice has carried for 259 yards and Pierce has carried for 230 yards this season.
The Ravens have always relied heavily on the run game and this season has been very disappointing in that aspect. Rice and Pierce are two of three running backs in the NFL averaging less than three yards per carry.