Baltimore Ravens

Ravens can't use injuries as excuse with far deeper problems leading to poor season

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, left, general manager Ozzie Newsome, center, and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, right, speak to the media at the pre-draft luncheon at the Under Armour Performance Center on April 7, 2015.

The Ravens haven't played a good, complete game yet in 2015.

A lot of people will point to the high number of injuries as the main reason for the 3-7 record, but that's just a convenient excuse. This team has to address a lot of internal problems in the future.


It's easy to overlook these concerns over the final six weeks with quarterback Joe Flacco (knee) and running back Justin Forsett (arm) out with injuries, but let's not get caught up in the pity party.

The indications of a poor season were starting to show two to three weeks into training camp when young receivers like Marlon Brown, Breshad Perriman and Kamar Aiken didn't show promise, and veteran cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb were no longer dominant.


Now, we know why coach John Harbaugh was acting a little strange in the preseason. He saw the signs, too.

So, when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti huddles with general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh at the end of the season to discuss the major problems, the injury excuse can only be used so much.

Instead, the Ravens need to focus on adding alpha males and playmakers, and getting their salary-cap situation under control. Bisciotti should ask Newsome about poor recent drafts and the unsuccessful free agents signed this season. He should question Harbaugh and coordinator Marc Trestman about the offense, and coordinator Dean Pees about the IQ of his defensive players.

Injuries are only part of the game. But the Ravens haven't completely recovered since winning the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season.

In those 2 1/2 years, the Ravens have a 21-21 record and it appears they won't make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. So, it's not all about injuries. In fact, it's not simply one area or one problem.

Where to begin?

Oh, pick an area.

Let's start with the draft. Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta haven't given Harbaugh enough quality players, selecting only one Pro Bowl performer since 2008: linebacker C.J. Mosley.


A team doesn't need Pro Bowl players to win a Super Bowl, but it needs some who can make a significant impact, especially at the skill positions. In 20 years since the team has been in Baltimore, the Ravens have failed to develop a legitimate No. 1 receiver. The team's No. 1 pick in the last draft, Perriman, didn't even step on the field this season because of a knee injury; another source of embarrassment for the organization this season.

The Ravens have had more success with bringing in veteran receivers in the past like Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. All, with the exception of Mason, were past their prime.

So, were Newsome and Harbaugh both that confident in the young receivers or did the $20 million in dead money allotted to former players Haloti Ngata, Jacoby Jones and Ray Rice prohibit them from signing possible big-name free agents? If so, will that be a problem again next year?

This Ravens team lacks speed and playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Ravens had only one top performer in Smith, who was forced out for the season on Nov. 1 with a torn Achilles.

No one can predict injures, but the Ravens lacked foresight in other areas, and now a change of direction is needed. Harbaugh has to make adjustments as well.

After the 2012 season, Harbaugh wanted to get rid of players with dominant personalities like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Boldin and safety Bernard Pollard. So, it's important to know now if he has grown as a coach because the good ones work around and absorb those types of players.


Simply put, you can't win in pro sports without a couple of those "superstars" on the roster.

Harbaugh has some other issues to solve with his staff. The offense hasn't found a rhythm or an identity. It's not Trestman's fault because he wasn't given much talent, but there is something missing in his relationship with Flacco.

Until the injury, Flacco's mechanics had been poor all season. The assumption here is that Flacco listens more intently to former coaches like Jim Zorn and Gary Kubiak who played quarterback in the league, than to others like Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell and now Trestman.

On defense, Pees has to answer questions about his playbook because it appears to be complicated for the players. As of last week, they were still lost at times, especially in zone coverage.

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It might come down to an intelligence or discipline issue because the Ravens keep making the same mistakes — not just in the secondary but on special teams as well.

The Ravens rank 24th in the league with 78 penalties and are 29th in penalty yards with 751. They either lack discipline or they just aren't getting it.


It's a season where everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. It is so easy to say that the team's lack of success has been a result of injuries to top players like linebacker Terrell Suggs, Smith, center Jeremy Zuttah and defensive end Chris Canty.

But it's so much deeper than that, including free agents like Kyle Arrington and Kendrick Lewis who haven't panned out this season. There are many holes, but some can be filled in the offseason, enough to the point where the Ravens can at least have a winning season again next year.

But the key is not to just use the injuries as an excuse. Under the surface, there are a lot of other problems.