From the preseason losses of Marcus Peters, JK Dobbins, and Gus Edwards, to the season opening OT loss in Las Vegas, to the consistent further attrition of the roster during the year, to yesterday’s OT loss to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers – this 2021 Baltimore Ravens season was a tough watch.
With the year officially over, here are some thoughts on what we saw, and what comes next.
- Injuries are part of the game, but there was simply too many to overcome. That’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.
- Even in the season-ending 6 game losing streak, you had games vs. the Packers and Rams which were winnable. Winnable games with a depleted roster against teams with current Super Bowl aspirations. Those were just other annoying reminders of what could have been.
- I thought Coach Harbaugh did a great job during the week getting whatever guys he had available ready to play; and questioned some of the decision making on game days. I’m not anti-aggression. I’m certainly not anti-analytics. There are times where I want to see the pedal pushed, and there are times I think where you should press the brakes. Without going back through every questionable decision; I will say that at times it feels like the Ravens utilize available league wide analytics without properly factoring in team specific information, and game situations.
- Everything ties together obviously with the Cap. There is only so much to go around. If Jackson gets an extension this off-season, there is probably less. You won’t be able to address everything, and for the most part the answers you need are going to have to come internally.
- Due to the limited available cap space, many will be comfortable going into ’22 with Stanley and Mekari as the starting Tackles, and James as the backup. That could end up working out fine, but here on January 10th my thinking is it would be dereliction of duties if the Ravens don’t add some real help. Stanley has played 7 games over the last two years. James has played 3 games over the last three years. I like Mekari’s versatility and was glad to see him get an extension – but I’m of the opinion he’s more of just a guy at RT vs. a guy you are excited to have starting. As we said above, the skill position talent coming back is strong. If you want to maximize that group, you need to be able to block. Maybe / hopefully Stanley is ready to go when the bell rings next September and he shows he is able to stay in the lineup and again play at a Pro Bowl level. After these past two seasons, I’ll be in prove it mode. When thinking about the draft, sure ‘Best Player Available’ yada yada, but ideally I’d love to see a plug-and-play Tackle capable of playing of playing either on either side with the 14th overall pick. NCST’s Ikem Ekwonu being my current favorite.
- I like to see teams built from the lines out. So, if the O-Line doesn’t get help with the 1st round selection, I sure hope the D-Line does. Campbell was still very good this year, and it would be helpful if the Ravens can talk him into another season. Brandon Williams had a nice career here, but he seems done. For 20+ years the Ravens defense has been built around stopping the run, and making teams one dimensional. The Ravens will need to find interior line help that can occupy space and swallow up runners. You aren’t going to spend the 14th overall pick on an interior D-lineman; but a 2nd round pick on one of the Georgia Bulldogs (Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt) would work for me.
- Patrick Queen was better when moved outside, as he was more instinctual, and able to move around easier; but the tackling still wasn’t great. Obviously he’s back either way. Odafe Oweh had a quality Rookie season. Certainly showed his motor and athleticism. Also showed he’s raw, with limitations to his current game. Let’s see how much he develops going into Year 2. Tyus Bowser suffering an Achillies injury yesterday was disappointing. He justified his extension this year, and did a lot of things well. Going to be a real question all off-season of if he will be ready to go next September.
- Outside of the Week 2 win vs. the Chiefs, the best wins for the Ravens in ’21 were against the Colts and Chargers – who both also missed the Playoffs.
- The Ravens were 1-5 against the AFC North. Pittsburgh will improve at QB. Cincinnati’s talented youth will continue to be a threat. I’ll believe in Cleveland whenever they actually put it all together on the field, but they played this year with a broken Mayfield. If he’s healthy in ’22 and provides league average production – they’ll be solid. If they replace him and find an improvement, many will have relatively high aspirations for the Browns.
- The Ravens will have a last-place schedule in ’22, and that will only help.
- My colleague Mike Randall gave his takes on the Coordinators Wink Martindale and Greg Roman. I’m pretty indifferent on both. Martindale got to late August planning on having Peters, and Wolfe available. During the year he lost Humphrey, Elliott, and further depth. Roman got to late August planning on having Dobbins and Edwards. During the year he lost Stanley, and barely had Boyle. Lost Ricard for multiple games. Had Bateman for 12 games. Only had Jackson for 12 starts. Those losses we’re real, and shouldn’t be casually dismissed. To argue the other side, I wasn’t happy with either this year. Once Peters was out, the defense needed to change. Without two having two corners you could put on an Island, you left the defense vulnerable with some of the schemed pressure (which to be fair to Martindale was necessary at-times, because the Ravens lacked the personnel to just line up and get to the QB). Offensively, during Jackson’s last 4 games, I was puzzled by the lack of adjustments from Roman to the up-the-middle blitz pressure defenses were bringing. Yes, you can put some of that on Jackson – but Roman wasn’t helping him out either. Am I ready to make moves on either side? Willing? Yes. Looking to? Probably less so. If the Ravens moved on Martindale, and found a new identity in ’22; I’d be good there. I also know Martindale is generally respected and apparently well liked in the locker-room. I’d probably give him another opportunity with a (should be) healthier group, but whatever. I’d like Roman back myself. I think if the Ravens have a great ’22, it’s going to largely be about Dobbins, Edwards, and Jackson running wild; and that running game sucking in defenders allowing Jackson to kill defenses as he passes to Andrews, Bateman, and Hollywood in single coverage. I wouldn’t want to make a change for ’22, and have Jackson have to adjust to another offense. What I do suggest is having Roman leaning further on Chris Hewitt, Keith Williams, and Tee Martin in-terms of the passing game concepts.
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.