NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth got a chance to study the Ravens as a member of the network’s broadcast team covering the upcoming game at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And based on the film the former wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1981 to 1988 has watched, Collinsworth likes what general manager Ozzie Newsome did in remaking the Ravens after they were left out of the AFC playoffs for the third consecutive season.
“They’re pretty good,” Collinsworth said. “I just got a chance to study their last film, and I thought that as a receiver, he understood that they had to be more dynamic. [Quarterback] Joe Flacco had kind of gotten to be this checkdown guy, and they needed to be more explosive. So they got more explosive with [former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John] Brown adding some speed, with [former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael] Crabtree adding some playmaking. Drafting those two tight ends [Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews] has already made a difference, and we’re already seeing the difference that those guys have made.”
So far, Collinsworth’s evaluation is backed by several pieces of evidence. At 2-1, the Ravens are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North division, the offense ranks first in the NFL in red-zone efficiency (100 percent on 12-for-12) and fifth in scoring (32.3 points per game), and the defense leads the league in total yards allowed (273.0 per game) and ranks second against the pass (169.3 yards per game).
Time will tell whether Newsome’s moves in the offseason will lead to success in the form of a postseason run. But Collinsworth, whose playing career overlapped with Newsome’s when the Ravens GM was a tight end for the Cleveland Browns, said it’s difficult to get too pessimistic about the Ravens considering Newsome’s track record.
“I would say that the future is pretty bright, and the reason you could say that is because the past is usually a pretty good predictor of future success, and who’s done much more than he has in the past there?” Collinsworth said. “Every team except for the New England Patriots has gone through ups and downs, and the minute that the downs come, everybody wants to get rid of everybody. I understand that, but there are certain teams that don’t do that.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t do that, and they’ve had an incredibly long run of success, too. It takes an injury here or an injury there, but he’s like bumper bowling. … If you’ve got Ozzie running the show, you’re not going to throw a gutter ball. There may be some ups and downs, but you’re not going to throw a gutter ball.”