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Whose offense is it anyway?

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Whose offense is it anyway?

Stop me if you've heard this before:  The Ravens decide they are a passing team. Joe Flacco throws and throws and throws. They give the ball to Ray Rice only occasionally, and on the road, hardly at all.

If it sounds at all familiar, it's because that was pretty much the case in the first half of last season. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the playoffs: The Ravens realized that, well, they have Ray Rice, so maybe they are a running team after all.

Ray Rice's workload is in focus again this week after Rice had just nine carries in the Ravens' 43-13 loss to Houston.  The coaches will certainly point out that handoffs to Rice can't dig the Ravens out of a 26-point halftime hole. True. But it's fair to question why Rice, who had three carries for 27 yards on the game's first possession, didn't carry it at all in the next two Ravens possessions. In fact, the Ravens' second possession went pass-pass-pass-punt.

Through six games this season, Ray Rice had 97 carries, exactly the same number as last season. Through six games this year, Joe Flacco had thrown 209 passes, two less than last season.  In other words, for all the talk of this being Joe Flacco's offense this season, the workload distribution over the first six games was nearly identical.

Last season, this run-pass debate reached a crescendo in the Ravens' ninth game, an ugly loss at Seattle in which Flacco threw 52 passes and Rice had five carries. From that point on, Rice's workload increased signficantly, and the Ravens got on a roll.

After that Seattle debacle, Rice had 20 or more carries in six of the final seven games, and the Ravens went 6-1 in those games. Coincidence?

Some will say that the schedule had a lot to do with that success -- that stretch included two games with the Browns and one with the hapless Colts. But the Ravens also played the first four games in that stretch without Ray Lewis. And as Rice's workload increased, guess whose decreased? After averaging 40.1 passes in the first nine games, Flacco averaged 25.8 passes over the final seven games.

Translation: Maybe it was meant to be Joe Flacco's offense, but when the chips were down, the weather got lousy and the Ravens had to pound out  a trip to the playoffs, it really was Ray Rice's offense.

This season, will this loss at Houston  -- in which Flacco had 47 pass attempts (counting four sacks) and Rice had nine carries -- be a similar turning point?

To be clear, handing the ball to Rice is no easy, quick fix. Unless the defense begins to stop people, nothing else will matter. But as the Ravens showed last year, for all the talk of the new-look, sugar-huddle, pass-happy Ravens, this offense still goes as Ray Rice goes.

 

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Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

We've known the Ravens' 2018 preseason and regular season opponents for some time now, but the NFL finally released their full schedule with exact dates and times.

As they do every year, the Ravens will be seeing the Bengals, Steelers and Browns twice. 

For the ninth consecutive year, Week 16 and 17 will be divisional games with playoff implications.

The Ravens will also be playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio, bringing an extra preseason game to their schedule.

In the regular season, the birds will be flocking south to take on the Panthers, Falcons and Titans. They haven't seen the Panthers or Falcons since 2014 - both ending in wins - and came up just short against the Titans in their 23-20 loss last season.

The Ravens will only have to travel to the west coast once when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who they last saw in 2015 and earned a 29-26 win.

Not including AFC North rivals, the last time the Ravens saw their remaining five home opponents they came away with wins. Hopefully history will repeat itself.

Prime-time games, which the Ravens have two of, will kick off at earlier times than in the past. Monday Night Football will now start at 8:15 p.m. while Thursday and Sunday Night Football will start at 8:20 p.m.

Ravens 2018 Regular-Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sunday, 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Thursday, 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sunday 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Saturday 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sunday 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.


PRESEASON 

Hall of Fame Game: Thurs., 8/2, vs. Chicago Bears (Canton, OH), 8:00pm (NBC).

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 2: Mon. 8/20,  at Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football, ESPN).

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins*

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30 at Washington Redskins

* - Game date and time not yet determined

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

With 10 days until the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to visit the Ravens this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a projected first-round pick as he has proven to have success in the air and on the ground. 

While at Louisville, Jackson had 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His NFL draft profile compares him to Michael Vick. 

RELATED: BEST QUOTES FROM RAVENS PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE

The Ravens are in search of Joe Flacco's successor, but spending a first-round pick on a quarterback when there are other glaring needs is up in the air. However, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of drafting a quarterback in the first-round.

At their pre-draft press conference, GM Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta kept reiterating we could be surprised by who they pick at No. 16, if they do at all. 

While Jackson's numbers are impressive, he continues to be considered a late first-round pick as his build isn't up to typical NFL QB standards and scouts are concerned with his accuracy. What he does have in his favor is speed.

While fans are hoping for an offensive weapon, having Jackson learn under Flacco for a year (and maybe RGIII?) could rev up some excitement. 

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER