Perception vs Reality: Ravens Edition

As fans, we are subjected to the national media force-feeding us narratives about our teams, players, and coaches. On top of that, homers give their opinions, and fans of other teams drop their insight to whoever will listen. So, I’ve taken some time to gather some perceptions of the Baltimore Ravens, and the reality of those.

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Perception: Joe Flacco doesn’t care about the game. Many people have taken Joe’s declining play, combined with his ‘Joe Cool’ persona, and his 5 children, to mean that the game of football no longer interests him. It’s been said that he’s just collecting a check, and that he doesn’t have the fire or emotion to be a team leader.

Reality: Joe cares about football. Nobody does anything for 10 years if they don’t care about it. Joe has repeatedly shown his distress after a close game ends in a loss, or when a receiver tips a pass into the hands of a defender (looking at you, Perriman). When Joe was winning all the time, his persona was deemed collected. Now that the team has struggled, he’s not emotional enough. Pick a lane.

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Perception: The Ravens don’t have any wide receivers. Look at the production from the wide receivers last season. That’s all I need to say for you to understand why this is said.

Reality: Ravens may have an embrassment of riches at the position. Last year, the Ravens WR room was a barren wasteland. They all combined for less yards than Antonio Brown. This year, however, the Ravens have made good on their promise to revamp the wide receiver corps. In free agency, they brought in a possession receiver (Michael Crabtree), a speed threat (John Brown), and an absolute stud in the slot (Willie Snead). In the draft, they added two more (Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley), as well as a couple UDFA prospects (including W. Georgia’s Deniko Carter). Other receivers include Chris Moore (3rd year), DeVier Posey (CFL Grey Cup MVP), Tim White (flashed in preseason before injury), and Quincy Adeboyejo (redshirted on IR last season). The Ravens can’t keep all of them, obviously, but to say that they don’t have viable options is ridiculous. (You can see which ones I think make the roster here.)

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens

Perception: The Ravens can’t develop wide receivers. On the surface, this looks to be true.

Reality: The Ravens haven’t given Engram a lot of talent – or given the young guys a chance. I want you to take a second to think about the wide receivers that have been drafted by the Ravens. Really think about them. Only 3 have been first round picks. The rest have been scattered throughout the draft in various rounds. While talented wideouts can be found in later rounds, mathematically, those players are either flashes in the pan, or complete wastes. Combine that loose stat with the fact that ‘The Ravens Way’ has been to sign older, veteran wideouts in free agency to fill holes and roles, it pushes the younger guys down the depth chart, effectively stunting their growth. You can counter this by pointing out Perriman, Taylor, and Clayton, but to be fair, you can’t coach up something that isn’t there. The underlying truth is that we have struggled to groom wideouts, and the hiring of James Urban shows that the Ravens are not unaware. Expect him to have a role in the development of the young guys.

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Perception: Joe Flacco can’t hit receivers downfield in stride anymore. We’ve seen a steep decline in deep passes over the past few years.

Reality: Not entirely untrue. However, how much of the blame really falls on Joe? His weapons last season included superstars like 30-year-old Mike Wallace, banged up Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman, and Scoop’n’score Moore, who was just getting his first meaningful offensive snaps. While Joe overthrew, underthrew, and completely missed these receivers, a portion of the blame falls on the receivers as well. There were shoddily run routes, lack of awareness, and flat out drops (looking at you, Perriman) that attributed to this perception. That being said, with the new threats that have been added to the roster, we will see whether Joe has lost his greatest (only?) strength.

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Perception: The Ravens no longer have a pass rush. When comparing the Ravens to other teams, or even former Ravens defenses, this can seem entirely accurate. However…

Reality: The fact is that the scheme had a lot to do with it. Matthew Judon ranked 4th in the league for percentage of snaps that led to pressure. That’s not a small amount. The Ravens have yet another OLBeast in the making with Judon. Tyus Bowser flashed in limited snaps. Terrell Suggs is still performing at a high level, despite being half cyborg, and 37 years old. Tim Williams and others have talent that has yet to be tapped. The problem was this: Dean Pees ran a very simple defense. There weren’t a lot of disguised blitzes, or blitzes period. With a small lead, he would switch to a cushion prevent defense, which doesn’t lead to a lot of rushing. Wink Martindale promises a more aggressive defense in 2018, so we should see an uptick here.

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens

Perception: The Ravens are a middle of the pack team. Easy to believe, after an 8-8 and 9-7 seasons, and not making the playoffs since 2014.

Reality: The Ravens aren’t as far off from contention as people may think, or lead you to believe. The WR corps has been miserable (looking at you, Perriman.) Injuries have taken their toll. Flacco has regressed. TEs have lost their luster. Most importantly, the defense has given up key plays at the worst possible times – the inability to tackle Antonio Brown in 2016, and the blown coverage by Maurice Canady against the Bengals on 4th and 12 in 2017. I’ve touched on each of these things throughout the article, and they all combine to amount to missed playoff berths for the Ravens. However – it requires a retooling, and some tweaks, not a complete rebuild, as the national media and naysayers would have you believe.

The WR group has been rebuilt, the defense has been promised to be more aggressive, and the winds of change are upon us at the QB position (not sure if that’s good or bad, yet.) TE was our biggest need, Ozzie handled it. The RT position was stumbling, Ozzie handled it. He found a WLB, something that was sorely missing. He shored up the secondary. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the Ravens cannot return to form in 2018-2019.

Be careful who you allow to make you think a certain way. Be careful who you choose as your media outlet. The perception is not always the reality. Head up, Ravens fans. The end isn’t as close as you’ve been led to believe.

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Bonus Perception: Breshad ‘Ghost’ Perriman is a bum.

Reality: This is factual. I call him Ghost for a reason – either we don’t see him, or the ball goes through his hands. Like a ghost.

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