As the seconds ticked off the Ravens’ season in a windy Buffalo two weeks ago, anyone that watched that game came away with at least two takeaways about the Ravens’ offense.
First, the Ravens need to stop shooting themselves in the foot in the playoffs if they want to make a deep run toward their ultimate goal in February. Secondly, the Ravens need to improve their passing attack by any means necessary.
In a 17-3 loss to the Bills, the run game for the Ravens wasn’t as dominant as it had been and, as a result, the offense faltered in a defeat where the game was closer than the score ended up.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta was asked a few times about the passing attack on Monday at his end-of-season press conference, and while he had a lot to say about the offense, it took some deeper analysis to understand.
For example: When asked about fixing the passing game, the first thing DeCosta said wasn’t an improved scheme or an improved receiving corps. Rather, he talked about the offensive line.
“I think one of the things we have to do is get better up front with pass protection,” DeCosta said. “Losing Ronnie Stanley was definitely a tough deal for the offensive line to handle. Orlando (Brown Jr.) did a great job, and I think the offensive line, in general, really battled versus some adversity this year. But pass protection is going to be a factor. I think that having an OTA this year, if we can, more practice time would be a big thing.”
Now, it’s not reasonable to think DeCosta will simply lay out the Ravens’ needs and proclaim exactly what they need for the 2021 season.
It is, however, notable that he would bring up the offensive line first and foremost. The center position was one of uncertainty for the Ravens this season with snaps, and that’s an area the Ravens would likely address first in the offseason. He mentioned how they liked the young players they had on the line, though they don’t have a set combination yet.
With Stanley and Brown at the tackles, and Bradley Bozeman at left guard, that leaves Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers, Tyre Phillips, Ben Bredeson and Trystan Colon-Castillo as options to take over at center and right guard. If the Ravens bring in a center this offseason in free agency or the draft, they’ll shore up not only the starting lineup, but the depth as well.
“It’s not all about getting the quote ‘No. 1 receiver’ that everybody likes to talk about,” DeCosta said. “We will certainly look at that. We would try to upgrade every single position on this football team this offseason, if we can — based on the parameters of what we have to work with draft pick-wise, money-wise, and all the other challenges associated with building a football team.”
Essentially, the Ravens would love to get their hands on a JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay in free agency, or even a Rashod Bateman or other receiver in the draft. But if the No. 1 receiver never comes, and it’s expected the Ravens will add at least one receiver, the Ravens think they’ll be OK.
Both DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh talked about the need to not look at yards-per-game and total statistics. Instead, they focused their attention to efficiency metrics and mentioned that as a way to improve.
“We don’t want to be a team that’s forced to do anything,” DeCosta said. “We want to be a team that can dictate to the defense what we want to do. I think part of that is being a team that can run the football — a physical, big, physical mashing style (of) offense, which is what we’ve seen in the past from us. We are a running team. We want to be a big, physical offensive line. We want receivers who can make plays. We want tight ends who can make plays.”
The Ravens aren’t going to change their entire offense, one that has ranked seventh and first in points in the last two seasons. And improving the offense is certainly a priority, as it has to be, but whether that comes by way of prioritizing the offensive line, tight end or receiver position remains unknown.
“I’m not going to say right now sitting here today, ‘Oh, we’re going to do all these different things to improve the passing game,’” DeCosta said. “It’s going to take place over a two-, three-, four-, five-, six-month period of time, but we would like to improve in many different areas. We did not accomplish our ultimate goal this year. We have to find out why, and we have to be able to do that next year.”