Losing Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda for the season is devastating, but it would have been worse if he had suffered the ankle fracture during the previous two seasons.
The Ravens might not be able to overcome the loss of Yanda in 2017, but at least there is more confidence in the coaching staff with senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach Greg Roman helping devise the game plan with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg this season.
Of course everything about this season has to be prefaced with the admission that the Ravens have played only the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, but so far there hasn’t been this much creativity in the offense since 2014, when Gary Kubiak spent a year as offensive coordinator before leaving to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.
The Ravens had 337 yards of total offense in a 24-10 win against the Browns on Sunday, and it appeared some missing pieces were coming together. There is no replacement for a standout such as Yanda, but there is hope.
This is a well-schemed offense.
"Offensively, it was a pounding, grinding game, but you had balance," coach John Harbaugh said of the victory. "The run game was there. We had a really good scheme. The players did a good job. The coaches did a good job. We found a way to get some yards in there, and we executed very well.
"But the passing game is what made the difference for us. We had conversions, chunk plays. [Quarterback] Joe [Flacco] moved around. We had scramble plays. We had scheme plays."
It's interesting to watch this offense. No, the Ravens aren't the fastest team on turf, and they don't have any skill-position players who are Pro Bowl performers, but they milk as much production as possible out of this unit.
Once they lost Danny Woodhead in the regular-season opener for eight weeks with an injured hamstring, most of us wondered who would be the Ravens third-down running back or Flacco's security blanket.
The Ravens were innovative Sunday. They put wide receiver Michael Campanaro and tight end Maxx Williams in the backfield at times, and both even carried the ball. It's not a big deal, but at least the Ravens tried new things and were unpredictable.
Flacco completed eight passes to tight end Benjamin Watson for 91 yards, and the veteran will probably become Flacco's go-to guy. That's how Flacco works. Once he becomes comfortable with a receiver, he develops tunnel vision.
The Ravens might have found another running back in Alex Collins, who rushed for 42 yards on seven carries in the second half. Once Yanda left early in the third quarter, the Browns started getting more penetration at the line of scrimmage. Collins broke runs outside for 7, 16 and 13 yards.
Mornhinweg and Roman have to be excited about Collins because the Ravens haven't had this kind of explosiveness out of a runner since Ray Rice. The competition becomes more intense among Terrance West and Buck Allen as the inside runners and Collins as the change-of-pace back.
It's a good problem to have.
A year ago the Ravens were still using the outside stretch and zone plays implemented by Kubiak, but not anymore. Now it's about angle blocking for offensive linemen and improvising for a group that had only two players — Yanda and left tackle Ronnie Stanley — who could start for most NFL teams.
"We knew they were going to pound the run using a lot of pull schemes and downhill running, which happened through the game," Cleveland linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "They outplayed us. They have a good scheme."
The Ravens keep making adjustments and adding to the playbook. A week ago against Cincinnati, Flacco was stationary in the pocket, but he rolled out more Sunday as the Ravens flooded zones with receivers to the right side of the field.
The Ravens ran some plays out of the pistol formation and used an unbalanced line. They had a clever middle screen to the tight end and used a lot of motion with two tight ends.
It's not as if the Ravens invented something, but this type of creativity hasn't been displayed in Baltimore for a while. The Ravens still have to find a way to get more downfield passing out of this offense, but that might come when they play more explosive teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Oakland Raiders.
But at least there is the impression the Ravens will adjust. And it appears they're capable of making good decisions without Yanda despite his great value.