The Ravens 2015 season came to a close with a thud at Cincinnati on Sunday, with the Ravens losing 24-16 to finish at 5-11, the first losing season in coach John Harbaugh’s eight-year tenure. And the cast of characters on the field at times in that finale – Ryan Mallett at quarterback, Chris Matthews at wide receiver, Terrance West at running back, John Urschel at center, Chris Carter at outside linebacker, among others – speaks to just how much injuries ravaged the Ravens this season.
A total of 20 players ended up on injured reserve, and that list included some of the biggest cogs in the machine -- Joe Flacco, Terrell, Suggs, Steve Smith, Justin Forsett and Jeremy Zuttah, among others. And while it’s true that injuries decimated this team, it’s a bit misleading to suggest that was the only reason for the Ravens struggles.
Would they have been a better team had those players not gotten hurt? Of course. But remember, this team started 1-6 with most key players (other than Suggs) still in uniform. There were plenty of other reasons this season ran off the rails for the Ravens. Among them:
-- Little to no production from high-round draft picks
Rookie first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman didn’t play a down. Neither did 2013 first-round draft pick Matt Elam. Arthur Brown, a second-rounder in 2013, hardly saw the field on defense. The Ravens can and should expect more production from lofty draft picks, and whiffing on high picks has long-term ramifications.
-- Poor construction of the roster in places
The Ravens knew that Steve Smith was 36, and it was fair to wonder whether he could hold up for an entire season. After letting Torrey Smith walk away in free agency, the Ravens banked on the ageless Smith and the rookie Perriman being the anchors of the passing attack, with players such as Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown filling supporting roles. They obviously hoped that Michael Campanaro could stay healthy and contribute. But when first Perriman and then Campanaro and Smith went down for the season, they were ill-prepared. Brown’s regression from his rookie season continued, and the Ravens were left to scrape together a receiver corps from the likes of Chris Givens, Chris Matthews, Jeremy Butler and Daniel Brown. In short, those receivers were just good enough for this team to go 5-11.
-- Disappointing free-agent acquisitions
As usual, Ozzie Newsome didn’t overpay in the splashy early days of free agency. He looked for bargains, such as safety Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Kyle Arrington. Both proved to be disappointments. Lewis had his moments, but too often he showed poor ball awareness, and he failed to come up with a couple of interceptions that could have been game-changers. Arrington was ultimately pushed aside as the Ravens tried to find answers in a secondary that was riddled early in the season.
-- Tough calls went the other way
There were a lot of officials calls that cost the Ravens. A questionable penalty on Will Hill wiped out what would have been a game-clinching interception at Oakland. The NFL came out and publicly said that the officials erred in giving the Jaguars one final play, which led to a face-mask penalty on Elvis Dumervil and a game-winning Jaguars field goal. But as is always the case, those games never should have come down to a single call.