If the Ravens are going to be a playoff team next season, their secondary will have to play much better.
Russell Wilson of the Seahawks became the latest quarterback to light up the Ravens, throwing five touchdown passes during Sunday’s 35-6 rout. It wasn’t like Wilson needed to make perfect throws, or his receivers needed to make great catches. The Ravens reverted to blowing assignments far too often, leaving Seahawks receivers running wide open in the secondary.
That has happened far too often this season for coach John Harbaugh’s taste. To see it happen in Week 14 with just three games left in the season was particularly alarming.
“We had assignment issues, we had technique issues,” Harbaugh said following the game. “We didn’t match up correctly on a bunch route. We had two guys playing it one way and one guy playing it another way. It was bad. It has to be better than that. It’s no individual guy’s fault, it’s just not as good as it needs to be. I’ll take responsibility for that. We have to play way, way better pass defense.”
Four quarterbacks have enjoyed their season high in passing yards against the Ravens this season:
Derek Carr, Raiders, 351 yards in Week 2
Andy Dalton, Bengals, 383 yards in Week 3
Josh McCown, Browns, 457 yards in Week 5
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers, 340 yards in Week 6
Wilson throw for 292 yards Sunday, and the five touchdown passes equaled the five he threw against the Steelers in Week 12.
Can the Ravens play better pass defense next season without dramatically changing personnel? That’s one of many subjects that will be discussed this offseason. It’s reasonable to expect cornerback Jimmy Smith to play solidly in 2016, in his second season following foot surgery in 2014. Before his injury, Smith was playing the best football of his career, and often the second year after an athlete’s major surgery is better than the first.
However, cornerback Lardarius Webb was beaten badly several times Sunday. Safeties Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill have both been better defending the run than the pass. Second-year safety Terrence Brooks has been inconsistent, and has taken some needless penalties. While cornerback Shareece Wright has come on late in the season, cornerback Kyle Arrington has not been the consistent nickel corner the Ravens expected, and rookie Tray Walker is raw and often inactive for games.
The Ravens’ coverage and communication issues were magnified Sunday, because the pass rush was weak, and Wilson was never sacked. But a secondary that gives up big plays makes a defense vulnerable. Once again, improving the secondary will be a major focal point for the front office this offseason.
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