Ravens offense at the quarter mark

Around this time of the week, I usually take a look back at the stats and grades from the previous game. In this case, all you need to know is that you won’t win many games when you throw five interceptions, and you rush the ball just nine times; Plain and simple. The Ravens certainly placed the lotion in basket at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, and somehow managed to only lose by three, 23-20. So what better time than now to take a look at the Ravens season up to this point with the help of Pro Football Focus.

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The folks at PFF grade every player on every snap. The grades are cumulative for each area of the game, and each area is added together to make up an overall grade for the offense and the defense. So what is the 2-2 Ravens offensive grade at 25% season completion? It’s not as good as their record suggests. It is for lack of better terms, offensive. (0.0 is average)

1. Broncos: +53.8
2. Chargers: +45.8
30. Ravens: – 43.3
31. Giants: – 46.6
32. Jaguars: – 55

A large portion of that abysmal number is thanks to a -23.3 grade in run blocking. The Ravens run game ranks 27th according to PFF (-5.3) and their pass game ranks 26th (-8.2).  Pretty alarming that overall, the offense has performed as well as a couple winless teams in New York and Jacksonville. Even the presence of a Jacoby Jones, or a Dennis Pitta, wouldn’t bring this offense up at least to the average range. It would be better, but not +43.3 grade points better.

When it comes to offense, the first place you look, good or bad, is the quarterback. Where does Joe Flacco stand as far as quarterback rating? A rating to encompass all the things a QB does, but PFF takes it a step further. Their QB rating doesn’t penalize a QB for dropped passes, throw aways, spikes, and takes into account yards in the air rather than including the yards after the catch. It’s a more accurate representation of a quarterback’s performance.

PFF QB Rating 

1. Peyton Manning: 115.12
2. Phillip Rivers: 106.06
16. Matthew Stafford: 85.55
17. Tom Brady: 85.20
30. Joe Flacco: 75.35
31. Christian Ponder: 74.13
32. Josh Freeman: 71.23

That’s funny. The only two quarterbacks with worse QB Ratings than Joe Flacco have been benched by their teams. A lot of blame has been directed at the fact that most of Joe Flacco’s weapons on offense have been taken away. I’m not willing to give him that excuse though. Look at the great Tom Brady. He’s aging, has had not most, but all of his weapons taken away. He’s managed to keep middle of the road. Then you have Phillip Rivers near the top who also has had all of his weapons lost due to injury with the exception of Antonio Gates. Rivers turned Eddie Royal into a Pro Bowler for two weeks. If Brady and Rivers we’re both struggling, then maybe I’d say that losing some key receivers is a real detrimental thing. But it’s apparently not. Joe Flacco is in his prime, still has Torrey Smith and Ray Rice, and he’s getting paid a lot of money. To be just ahead of two benchwarmers on this list is completely unacceptable. Flacco needs to step it up in big way.

One last note on Joe Flacco. He ranks 16th with a 94.3 NFL QB rating when he utilizes play action. He ranks 30th with a 65.9 NFL QB rating when he doesn’t use play action. More play action please. It is pretty hard to sell the play action when you run the ball just nine times though, like they did in Buffalo.

Sticking with the passing game, we’ll look at the wide receivers. Torrey Smith is in an elite group when it comes to hanging on to the football. Only seven receivers, including Smith, with a qualifying number of targets have not dropped a ball yet. (I know what you’re saying. He dropped a TD pass against the Browns. I thought the same, but PFF didn’t view it as a drop, for whatever reason). The other six are Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, and Mike Williams. Torrey has also been targeted a league leading 18 times more than 20 yards down field. Only five of those passes have been catchable, and he caught all five. Another aspect of Joe Flacco’s game he needs to improve upon. He could be making Torrey one of the best if he was on target more than 5 out of 18 times.  Smith has posted 2.40 yards per route run, good for ninth best. Over 2.0 YPRR is considered great. Maybe Flacco should lean on Torrey a bit more. Forget spreading it around. Dickson and Clark are more liabilities than assets. You can’t trust them. Spread Torrey around. Use him for more than a deep target.

Segway into our tight ends starting with Dallas Clark. As far as qualifying tight ends, he is among the worst. If you have watched the games, you would already know that. He doesn’t go deep at all, and they utilize him out of that key slot position. In the slot he has run the most routes of any TE in the league (107) and he’s been targeted the most of any TE in the league (21). He has caught just 10 of those. The better tight ends are catching 70-80% of those passes out of the slot. There is a reason why they call those “high percentage passes”. Dallas Clark is catching 47.6% of them, worst in the league. Some of that I’ve seen come from dropped balls, or poor route running by Clark. But some of that is Flacco just plain being off the mark. Teams really lean on their TEs for those tough yards, or to move those chains on third down. Clark has to be more reliable, and Flacco needs to hit him in the numbers more often.

“But what about Ed Dickson?” Dickson has dropped more passes (4) than he has caught (3). Need I say more?

The running game was all but abandoned last week. Ray Rice missed week 3, but has still yet to reach 100 yards on the ground for the year. Bernard Pierce is averaging just 2.7 YPC, and Rice, 3.0.  The offensive line isn’t doing their part and their issues have been well documented. The only saving grace for this line may be rookie Ryan Jensen. He suffered a broken foot in camp which at the time was a 10 week injury. That puts a him at a return time of somewhere in week six or seven, maybe. He hasn’t been placed on IR, which leads me to believe that when healthy, he’ll step right into Gino Gradkowski’s spot as the center. Gradkowski is the weak link on the line with a PFF overall grade of -10.8, worst on the O-line. I can’t believe we haven’t seen A.Q. Shipley yet, but maybe that’s because he isn’t any better and the coaches know that. Jensen maybe different, but not better, but I’d try anyone else at center right now.

Stay tuned. Next up, we’ll take a closer look at the defense up to this point. I can promise you that I’ll enjoy writing about the defense more than this offense right now.

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About the author

Mike Randall   

Ravens Analyst

Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he be reached at mike.randall@baltimoresportsandlife.com.

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