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4. The Ravens probably could benefit from more creativity on offense.
Too often, the Ravens appeared to be calling plays straight out of some mid-90s "Madden" football game, while other teams had more modern versions. I didn't break down film every week but also didn't need to in order to know the Ravens were pretty straightforward in the run and pass.
Cam Cameron is generally regarded as a smart, creative play caller. It often seemed, at least to this observer, that the way the Ravens' offense ran this year was as much an extension of some other concern as it was Cameron's ingenuity or lack thereof. Maybe the Ravens simplified things because of the young receiving corps. Or maybe signing the best fullback in the league convinced them to run more standard plays behind a lead blocker. Most football coaches want to win in the simplest way they can; no need for draws or misdirection plays or pitchouts if you can go ahead and beat the other team at the point of impact.
It's been suggested that Flacco, who showed off his powerful arm this year throwing deep to Torrey Smith, lacks the touch or vision needed to complete short, quick routes. But he also might lack the appropriate options as far as receivers go. Watching Manning cycle through Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz made me realize how important it is to have that many options, but also how vital familiarity is: Nicks is in his fourth year with the Giants, Manningham his third and Cruz his second. Anquan Boldin, in his second season with the Ravens, was the longest-tenured of Flacco's wide receivers; Smith was his only other real option.
So maybe with a full offseason ahead for guys like Smith, Tandon Doss, David Reed and Evans (maybe), Cameron will be more likely to diversify the offense and mix in more timing routes that would draw defenders closer to the line (making them eventually easier to run past). And there's no doubt he's finding ways to feed Rice; the Ravens repeatedly struggled when they couldn't find ways to integrate him into the offense early in the game.
December 24, 2011