by Garrett Downing & Ryan Mink
Mink: Let's not forget that this team has a whole lot more going for it than against it. Still, there's no doubt that the Ravens need to get better if they're going to reach their Super Bowl aspirations.
With that out the way, the biggest issue in my mind is the red-zone offense. The Ravens rank 24th in the league, scoring a touchdown on 51% of their trips this season. Obviously, it was a big problem the past two weeks, which allowed the Panthers and Jaguars to hang around longer than they should have. The Ravens will play more "should-win" games the rest of the regular season. If they're going to avoid more surprise results, they need to capitalize more often in the red zone. And when they face high-powered offenses to come, they probably won't be able to lean as heavily on their defense to get stops. They'll need to score more points.
My first answer was that the passing offense needed to improve, as it's currently ranked 26th in the league with 193.4 yards per game. But what's interesting is the Ravens actually rank 7th in the league in passing DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). So while the Ravens don't put up a lot of yards through the air because of the heavy ground attack, they have been quite efficient throwing the ball - contrary to popular belief around Baltimore. They still need more big plays that have been lacking since Rashod Bateman left the lineup, and hopefully DeSean Jackson can provide more of that.
Downing: This is something the Ravens need to improve. The rush against the play clock hurt them in the first half of Sunday's loss to Jacksonville, and it's been a trend throughout the season. Lamar Jackson has been good at managing the play clock this year, but the Ravens often seem late getting to the line and rushed in the final seconds of the play clock. Head Coach John Harbaugh said this week that Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman told him he needs to get the plays in faster, and the entire operation needs to be more efficient. The Ravens improved in the second half of Sunday's game and didn't have any delay of games, but the operation has been too rushed too often this year. "We just have to adjust as coaches on that," Harbaugh said. "If we have to have less offense, or less movements in the plays or whatever it might be, that's just what you do."
Mink: No, I don't think the Ravens are going to sign another veteran wide receiver. I think this will be the corps the rest of the way. Baltimore already inked DeSean Jackson and, if he can stay healthy, he could be a difference-maker down the stretch. We've seen flashes of that whenever he's been on the field in New Orleans and Jacksonville. The Ravens have just $2.5 million in salary-cap space, per overthecap.com. Beckham and Hilton would most likely cost more than that. They're not free agents, so it's not like another team is picking up part of that salary. Maybe the Ravens could restructure contracts to make enough space, but I don't see it happening.
Downing: I would be surprised if the Ravens move Nick Boyle to injured reserve. He hasn't been on the injury report since the first week of the season, so his knee isn't keeping him sidelined during games or practice. He may not be the same dominant blocker that he was before the injury, but the surgically repaired knee isn't preventing him from taking the field. Also, the Ravens have already moved Charlie Kolar to the active roster, so it's not like they need a roster spot at this point. Plus, Kolar has yet to even play a game for the Ravens, and it's a total guess what he'll provide this offense once he is active on gameday. The Ravens don't want to find themselves in a situation where they move Boyle to injured reserve and then determine that Kolar needs more time before making a big contribution. There's no doubt the Ravens have crowded tight end room but moving Boyle to injured reserve doesn't seem like a likely solution at this point.