Baltimore Ravens: Complete 2014 Final Report Card
It was one heck of a season for these Baltimore Ravens, full of adversity, criticism and injuries the season looked like a write off. Somehow through great ownership, coaching and player determination the Ravens were a few plays away from the AFC Championship game. Unfortunately the season must end, here are my grades for the 2014 Baltimore Ravens.
Quarterback - B+
Flacco finished off the regular season with 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, the stats immediately tell you that he had a good year and taking away a few disasters Flacco did exactly that, he adapted to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s new system incredibly well. Flacco was deadly off play action this year and finished off the season averaging 7.2 yards per throw and a quarterback rating above 90. With a predominantly young receiving corp Flacco found chemistry with Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro and Kamar Aiken who all benefited with Flacco under centre.
Flacco also showed flashes of utter brilliance throughout the season, he carried the team to beat Pittsburgh in week 2 and a 3 touchdown 137.4 QBR display against the Carolina Panthers was easy on the eye. Flacco has also had his bad days however, although arguably on his offensive line Flacco did experience some major bloopers. A must win game against Houston resulted in Flacco producing a 41.7 rating and 3 interceptions.
Stats aside Flacco certainly proved some doubters wrong, I didn’t even get on to the postseason where Flacco plays fearless, fast football. His pocket presence and ability to step into short throws this season increased dramatically, he also found a new ability to scramble in key situations and this is most probably influenced by the addition of Gary Kubiak.
Overall a very solid year for Flacco, his durability is incredibly underrated, you know this guy will play week in week out.
Running Back - B+
If I were to tell you the Ravens will grade a B at running back after the whole Ray Rice fiasco, you would laugh at the site of me. The Justin Forsett story is just incredible. A 5 foot 8 journeyman joins the Ravens as a training camp back just to fill up a spot. 2 months later he is the starting running back. He took his chance, and had a truly incredible season. I will put it as simple as this. 235 attempts, 1,226 yards averaging 5.4 yards a carry, incredible.
Forsett showed incredible patience this year as he ran predominantly stretch plays behind the tackles, he also mixed speed with power displaying he could run north & south when neccesary, he showed he could be an every down back.
Before his injury rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro also showed that he was an NFL player, a big bodied one cut back who gained a hell of a lot of yards after first contact, he proved a perfect mix with a small guy like Forsett. Bernard Pierce also showed some flashes but was demoted to the number 3 back early in the year, someone of his experience and knowledge still is a valuable asset to have however.
Wide Receivers - B-
Just to clarify, Steve Smith still has it, a warrior who plays smart football, he’s a perfect match with the Ravens. The receiving corp had a solid season helping Joe Flacco to have another good year and reach the playoffs for a sixth time in seven years. The two Smith’s had productive years combining for 1800 yards from 130 receptions.
2014 was the year of the young receiver however, Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro made huge steps in the offense playing and catching passes on key third down situations. This corp will only get better as they gain more experience, the bar is set high for next year.
Tight Ends - C
The season ending injury to Dennis Pitta in week 3 was a monumental blow for the Ravens title chances, he is a fantastic Tight End who can both block and make plays in the outfield. Owen Daniels a free agent addition familiar with Kubiak’s system did a stellar job however, for a man who was hurried into the #1 spot he did incredibly well contributing in both the run and passing game. He finished the season with 48 receptions for 527 yards. Rookie Crockett Gilmore showed flashes in the blocking game but contributed little in the passing attack, the talent is obvious though, so look for a big year next time round by the TE’s.
Offensive Line - A
Put it simple, the offensive line was a laughing stock last season. The new zone blocking scheme Gary Kubiak brought in however has worked wonders, the big 5 upfront have simply mauled defenders out the way leading the boys in Purple to average 4.5 yards a carry, an unbelievable turnaround. Rick Wagner had a tremendous year, the 5th round draft pick was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd best ranked Right Tackle in the league, an incredible achievement. The free agency pick up of Jeremy Zuttah was also a big one, although not perfect he is a major upgrade over Gradkowski or Shipley, he really did nestle in to the team quickly with no snap issues all year. Guard wise there’s nothing much left to say about the play of Marshall Yanda and Keleche Osemele, they are the best at their respected positions in the league, it’s as simple as that.
Overall the O-line had an incredible turnaround but there was glimpses of last year at times. There were cases in a couple of games of blown coverages resulting in sacks and also mis queuing on the zone blocking schemes causing the run game to falter. But take away a few bad drives, this O-line was dominant and one of the best in the league.
Pass Rush - A
The 2014 Defensive front 7 were dominant, it’s as simple as that, Elvis Dumervil broke the Ravens single season sack record and Terrell Suggs had arguably one of his best seasons ever. The D-line rotation scheme is probably why this defense played so well, Pernell Mc Phee, Courtney Upshaw, Timmy Jernigan and Chris Canty may be the best 2nd string line in the league.
An unsung hero for the Ravens this year was Brandon Williams, the 2nd year man was nothing short of incredible stopping the run and this is backed up by the stat that the Ravens didn’t allow a 100 yard rusher all year. This is mainly down to the dominant inside play of Williams and Ngata.
Inside Linebackers - A
Anyone who watches Football properly will tell you how underrated Daryl Smith is, pair him up with rookie sensation and Pro bowler C.J Mosley, and you’re going to have a good time. The mix of Smith’s knowledge and leadership combined with the freakish athleticism of Mosley creates a frightening pair for opposing teams. Mosley finished the year with 133 tackles, 3 sacks a forced fumble and he leads the team on interceptions, how can he not win Defensive Rookie Of The Year?
Cornerbacks - E
Now… To the bad stuff. The Ravens secondary has been a roller coaster ride this year, filled with a plethora of injuries the Ravens lost nickel corner Aaron Ross before the season even started. Asa Jackson then suffered a sprained toe, Ladarius Webb battled injury all year, Danny Gorrer tore his ACL, Anthony Levine battled concussions and a sprained knee all year, Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks were cut and Tramain Jacobs tore his ACL. Oh and did I mention shutdown Cornerback Jimmy Smith was sent to IR after week 8? I’ve never seen anything like it, so it’s pretty obvious why the secondary struggled so much this year, when fully fit Ladarius Webb performed much better and Rasheen Melvin, a Miami Dolphins practise squad player filled in nicely until he was torched by Tom Brady in the Divisional round.
You can only do so much with undrafted practise squad players, the Ravens just caught the injury bug at the wrong time.
Safeties - D
It’s now officially ok to call 2013 first round pick Matt Elam a bust, the ex Florida Gator had a truly horrible season recording the most missed tackles and blown coverages on the team. Behind him was Damien Stewart, a recent free agency purchase. Stewart was so unconvincing that Harbaugh briefly went back to Elam during the season as the two seemed to both be so bad that they kept getting benched for each other.
It’s a different story over at FS however, the addition of Will Hill is a great one. Hill is a hard hitting ball hawk who has a great knowledge of the game. Hill helped to nearly shut out Jimmy Graham in the Ravens’ win against the Saints, he flourished under Dean Pees’ exoctic play calls, allowing him to roam around the field.
Overall Grade - B
Through all of the adversity the Ravens faced this year the coaching staff did a stellar job of getting this team ready, they played hard, smart football and really over achieved reaching the Divisional round of the playoffs, they have a lot to build on next year, and you know Ozzie will strike gold in the draft.