Leading into the 2016 season, much of the talk about the Ravens offense revolved around the arsenal of big-play weapons available to quarterback Joe Flacco.
Speedy first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman was finally healthy to blow the top off the defense. Mike Wallace was signed and looked capable of big plays. Steve Smith was coming back after missing most of last season with an injury. Kamar Aiken, the leading receiver last year, was also back. The Ravens drafted another speed receiver in Chris Moore.
And with cannon-armed quarterback Joe Flacco returning from his knee injury, the Ravens expected to field an explosive, big-play offense.
But after yet another disappointing performance Sunday in a 16-10 loss to the Redskins, it’s impossible to avoid the question: Where, exactly, is that offense? Are those supposed big-time playmakers not all they were cracked up to be?
Through five games, the Ravens offense has been defined more by checkdown throws, bad throws, dropped passes and three-and-outs than by big plays.
Flacco is averaging 5.9 yards per attempt, the lowest of his career. He averaged fewer than 5 yards per attempt against the Redskins, going 30-for-46 for 210 yards (4.6 yards/attempt).
“I think we have to find our offense,” coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “That’s been the story of the season. We can’t find continuity on offense. We didn’t protect the quarterback particularly well. He got hit way too much again. That has to stop. The run game was pretty good for the most part, but you can’t just run the ball. You have to make some plays in the passing game.”
Against the Redskins, the Ravens mounted an effortless 75-yard touchdown drive on their first possession, but then misfired time and again after that. They failed to convert on all 10 of their third-down plays after the first quarter. This was against a Redskins defense that ranked 29th overall, 25th against the pass and dead last in third-down defense. (Opponents had converted third downs at a 57.4 percent clip.)
“It’s embarrassing to run off the field in front of your home fans, in front of your teammates,” Flacco said. “Our defense is putting up awesome fights every week, and we’re just running on and off the field.”
Whether by design or because Flacco has been under pressure because of injuries on the offensive line, the Ravens have taken few of the deep shots downfield that were supposed to define this offense. Flacco has even taken to lobbying offensive coordinator Marc Trestman to air it out. But when he has, it has rarely worked.
Flacco threw a deep ball to Perriman on Sunday that drifted through his hands. Perriman later caught what appeared to be a leaping, 23-yard, go-ahead touchdown in the last minute but he came down with one foot out of bounds.
“I feel like I gotta execute,” Perriman said. “I can make plays out there to kind of change the momentum. I left two out there.”
Mike Wallace led the Ravens with seven catches for 63 yards against the Redskins, but his longest catch went for 13 yards. In fact, the Ravens did not have pass play Sunday longer than 15 yards.
“We have so much talent, but it’s crazy,” Wallace said. “We will figure it out. We still have 11 games left, and we will be OK.”
That might be true, but it’s been anything but OK so far.
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