The Ravens might have been inches away from the NFL playoffs
The Ravens might have been inches away from the NFL playoffs, but they are several players away from winning a Super Bowl title.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh irritated many fans when he announced Tuesday he is retaining all three of his coordinators, including Marty Mornhinweg on offense.
That decision hasn't created much optimism around town. But it was understandable. The Ravens made attempts to find another offensive coordinator, but there aren't many who were going to come to Baltimore knowing that 2017 could be Harbaugh's final year.
So there only seems to be one other option to create hope: the Ravens need to do something special in the offseason. They need to make a big splash in free agency to find a cornerback, pass rusher or receiver, not another Mike Wallace or Eric Weddle.
In the draft, the Ravens can't afford to miss again in the first round like they have in recent years with safety Matt Elam and receiver Breshad Perriman. Since the Ravens aren't bringing in many new concepts, they have to make up ground on the top teams by bringing in impact players — or another 8-8 record is a real possibility.
But before we dive into free agency and line up potential draft picks, we'll look back at 2016 season one more time and hand out final grades:
Quarterback: Joe Flacco threw for 4,317 yards but he had 15 interceptions, compared to 20 touchdowns. He never seemed comfortable in the pocket until late in the season, and was inaccurate on a lot of the short stuff. Flacco was an easy read: If the primary target wasn't open, he went to the check-down receiver, which is why he averaged only 6.42 yards per passing attempt. For a nine-year veteran, more was expected. The Ravens thought Flacco could carry the offense, and they were wrong. Grade: D
Running backs: Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon took over the No. 1 and No. 2 positions as the season went on. West finished with 774 yards on 193 carries and Dixon had 382 yards on 88 attempts. They are both solid runners but had the same running style. West sometimes tried to bounce outside but didn't have the speed, and Dixon was a liability as a pass blocker. Next year the Ravens need to add a speedster to the mix. Overall, West and Dixon played well, but the Ravens weren't committed to the run. There were times when the Ravens could have worn down opponents with a steady diet of West and Dixon, but they were more interested in the short passing game, better described as "Marty Ball." Grade: B-
Offensive line: Overall, this group turned in a solid effort even though the unit suffered a rash of injuries early in the season. Guard Marshal Yanda had a strong season and showed his versatility by being able to play on either the left or right side. Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley played well most of the season and should be a mainstay for years to come. Rick Wagner had a good season at right tackle and always rebounded with a strong effort after games in which he struggled. A lot of the Ravens problems came in the middle, where center Jeremy Zuttah struggled with big nose tackles, and right guard Vladimir DuCasse was simply outmatched most of the time. Rookie left guard Alex Lewis showed some potential, but he had a tendency to be too stiff at times. He'll be better once he becomes more technically sound. Grade: C
Receivers: Flacco never got in sync with this group, and his quick decisions to throw to check-down receivers caused problems. Tight end Dennis Pitta led all receivers with 86 catches (for 729 yards), but he wasn't a downfield threat. Mike Wallace had 72 catches for a team-best 1,017 yards; the Ravens should have used his speed more. He and Steve Smith Sr. believed they could have contributed more if Flacco went through his progressions. Smith ended up with 70 catches for 799 yards, but, like Wallace, disappeared from the offense at times. Breshad Perriman, playing in his first season, was inconsistent. Harbaugh has said he needs a possession receiver in the offense next season, but he had one in Kamar Aiken this year and the Ravens failed to use him. Grade: D+
Defensive line: The Ravens started out strong, and by midseason had the best run defense in the NFL. Nose tackle Brandon Williams finished with 51 tackles, eighth most on the team. The Ravens also got a strong effort from rookie nose tackle Michael Pierce. But this group faded down the stretch. At one point, end Timmy Jernigan had one tackle over the span of three games. He struggled against the run, which is why his playing time decreased. Like Williams, end Lawrence Guy played well early in the season, but he wasn't near the ball much in the second half of the year. Grade: C+
Linebackers: Zachary Orr had a strong season, his first as a starter, and led the team in tackles with 132. Fellow inside linebacker C.J. Mosley had 92 tackles, and both Orr and Mosley made tremendous progress in pass defense this season. But once the defensive line started getting pushed around, so did Mosley and Orr, because they weren't strong enough to shed and shock blockers. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, despite an arm injury, played well against the run, but the Ravens weren't able to get consistent pass-rushing pressure from Suggs or Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil might not return next season. Grade: C+
Secondary: The Ravens haven't had a true, shutdown cornerback since Chris McAlister left in 2008. Jimmy Smith is solid when he plays, but injuries always keep him out of the lineup in big games. Rookie Tavon Young has potential, and played reasonably well this season, but he can't shut down an opposing team's No. 1 receiver. In fact, he had problems against good No. 2 options. After Young and Smith, the Ravens have no one else, and they'll have to find a good cornerback in the offseason. Eric Weddle was a good addition at safety as far as quarterbacking the secondary, but he was a liability in pass coverage. Fellow safety Lardarius Webb had a respectable season, but he couldn't play center field in this secondary either. He played hard, but just was quite good enough. Good quarterbacks feasted on the Ravens. Grade: D.
Special teams: Justin Tucker had a dream season, connecting on all 10 field goals attempts of 50 yards or more. Punter Sam Koch was just as dependable, averaging 45.8 yards on 80 punts. But the Ravens waited too long to replace Devin Hester as a kickoff and punt returner and he cost them field position in many games. Chris Moore is exciting as a kickoff returner but needs to secure the ball better and Michael Campanaro has great hands to handle punts, but isn't much of a breakaway threat. The Ravens still had too many penalties. Grade B+.
Coaching: Defensive coordinator Dean Pees had strong command through the first three quarters of the season, but his unit never adjusted when teams started running the ball against them late in year. Overall, though, he didn't have much talent to work with, especially on the back end. Mornhinweg got locked into the notion that the Ravens were a passing team, and he stayed with this idea even though the Ravens had an adequate running game. There were quite a few games when he got way from running the ball too early. Harbaugh should have provided more input into the offense, and that cost the Ravens. Harbaugh also made some bad decisions early in the season when he gambled instead of relying on a strong defense and Tucker. Harbaugh needs to give the Ravens' offense an identity, not wait for Mornhinweg in 2017. After all, if Harbaugh goes, all the other coaches go with him. Grade: D