Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For the Baltimore Ravens a Healthy Team Doesn't Add up to Healthy Offense

So the Ravens hit their bye week at 4-3. Things haven’t exactly gone as planned and I don’t know too many Ravens fans who are smiling right now.

Since late Sunday, I have been hearing people beat to death that the injuries are the cause for the Ravens not meeting expectations. People are saying, things will get better after the bye week when everyone comes back, especially on offense. I am going to disagree.

I don’t think the injuries are the sole reason for this team’s ineptness on offense. There is something deeper and more organizational that is the cause. What exactly that is, might still be open to debate.

First off, the Ravens injuries have been several, but not impossible to overcome. The St. Louis Rams have missed running back Steven Jackson since week 3. They lost quarterback Marc Bulger for the passed two weeks. The Dolphins lost quarterback Trent Green and running back Ronnie Brown for the season and oh by the way, they traded Chris Chambers. Those are teams with injuries.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost offensive tackle Luke Pettitgout and running back Cadillac Williams for the season and running back Michael Pittman for eight weeks and somehow they are 4-3. The Ravens have missed certain, albeit key, players for two/three week stretches. Last time I looked, I saw Jonathan Ogden playing in Sunday’s game. So I really don’t see the Ravens “loaded” with injuries as many claim.

Getting a healthy Steve McNair, J.O., Mark Clayton, Todd Heap doesn’t add up to an offense that will compete with Cleveland Browns (who average just under 29 points a game) let alone the Colts or the Patriots! This offense has problems that are much harder to fix that just health. Let’s clarify … unless you are bringing a bonafide passing quarterback like Drew Brees or Marc Bulger (you can forget Brady, Manning and Palmer) into this offense, I don’t see a QB that makes a difference. The Ravens have never had a quarterback worth shaking a stick at, so McNair or Boller … there’s no difference.

The play-calling is suspect at best. Brian Billick has out-thought himself on way too many occasions and almost actually admitted to it this week in his press conference. The execution is nothing to get excited about either. My math may be off, but bad play-call plus poor execution should equal three and out … or if you are in the red zone, Matt Stover field goal, maybe.

This offense needs an overhaul – Period! The system is flawed and does not scheme to the talents of the players in it. Just ask Rex Ryan how his defense is number two in the league without Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas. It’s called adjustments, things Brian Billick doesn’t do well … see playoff loss to Colts for further evidence.

It will be great to see the Ravens healthy, but it would be even better to see a new offensive system.

Unfortunately, the latter won’t happen anytime this season.

Mark Zinno, ESPN 1300

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