Overall, I would argue that the Ravens season was a success. Sure, the end of their campaign was disappointing, and we couldn’t help but hope that the squad had a Super Bowl run in it, but the team finished with a strong 10-6 record and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 2012. That being said, if we dig a little deeper and consider specific aspects of the season, there are certainly some things I liked, and some that I didn’t. Hence the title of this blog, I am going to list the 5 things I liked the most, and the 5 that were the most frustrating.
Things I Liked:
1. Lamar Jackson
This will continue to be discussed for a long time: how strong a start our new quarterback got off to when he was given the reigns. Jackson led the Ravens to a 6-1 record to push them into the postseason, but even beyond his statistical success, he gave Baltimore hope for a nice transition out of the Flacco era and showed that he has the skills to be successful long-term, if he’s developed properly.
2. Wink Martindale’s Defense
In my opinion, the fact that Wink wasn’t hired as a head coach is somewhat surprising. The man took an old defense with the same players that Dean Pees had at his disposal and transformed them into an aggressive, suffocating defense. Early in the season, this unit kept the Ravens afloat and by the end of it, with the help of the clock-eating offense, it pushed them over the top. Wink deserves endless credit for what he did with the group.
3. Mark Andrews
I’ve been so excited by Andrews’ production this year, as he was a consistent member of the attack with both Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson at the helm. I hope he will continue to improve and become more utilized on all downs – if he does that, he could really become a threat.
4. The Rushing Attack
In many ways, this works in tandem with Lamar Jackson, but I still think that I was most impressed with the development of this facet of the offense once he took over. Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon ran hard and won games for the Ravens, and though I think this group could still use a real gamebreaker to take it to the next level, as a fan I am happy with what the team has moving into next year.
5. The Rest of the Rookie Class
I’ve already hit on Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and even Gus Edwards, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the rest of the young talent that Ozzie Newsome brought into Baltimore in his final year as GM. Though Hayden Hurst’s season was shortened by injury, tackle Orlando Brown, Jr. was a tremendous pick in the third-round, center Bradley Bozeman contributed with him on the line, defender Kenny Young saw a fair share of snaps behind Mosley and Onwuasor, and Anthony Averett flashed potential in the secondary. In addition, players such as Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, DeShon Elliott and Zach Sieler appear to have the talent to make an impact if given the chance. All around, this year’s class was deep and talented!
Things I Didn’t Like:
1. Marty Mornhinweg
The second season under Marty’s offense was more of the same, as the unit was hampered by his lack of ingenuity. Obviously, he has been replaced by Greg Roman, who I see to be an upgrade, but if not for his play calling, this team may have found themselves stealing a first-round BYE in the playoffs. Even if not, they probably would have beaten the Chargers.
2. Michael Crabtree
The man who was brought in to solidify the receiving core and be the leader of the group ended up being the most frustrating and least productive. His issue with drops and inability to separate caused the offense a great deal of pain, especially when Flacco was under center. Don’t let his pair of late touchdowns against LA fool you, Crabtree had an awful season.
3. The Coverage of Tight Ends
For all that CJ Mosley and Peanut Onwuasor were able to accomplish down the stretch, this duo remains unable to cover tight ends. You could throw Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson into this discussion, as well, because having a safety with that capability would seriously help the situation. Covering tight ends may be the most glaring ailment of the defense, and it is something that must be solved either through the draft, through scheme, or through development.
4. Turnover Battle
If there’s one thing that was particularly surprising to me about the defense, it was their apparent inability to force turnovers, especially as the season began. In 2017 the team led the league in interceptions, but this year they struggled to get their hands on the ball. It was puzzling. Couple that with Lamar Jackson’s glaring ball-security issues and you’ll see the problem that the Ravens faced. If you win the turnover battle, you often win games. They’ll have to do a better job of that next year.
5. Special Teams Coverage
This might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of an entire season, but the poor special teams coverage on both punts and kicks seemed, to me, to be a consistent issue for the Ravens this season and I hated it. Baltimore is supposed to be one of the strongest in that facet – it’s how they would win when they miss the offensive phase of the game – yet a few breakdowns played a major role in their loss to the Chargers in the Wild Card round. Instead of trying to be cheeky and pin teams back by placing it along the sideline on kickoffs, just punch it through the end zone. Keep it simple and take away any risk.