By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens are not the same team they were in 2011. They have become much better. Coming into the season, many expected Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense to improve a great deal after their AFC Championship game performance. But no one could have expected this. Prior to the Ravens matchup against the Browns, Flacco was 2nd in passing yards in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens were 2nd in scoring and 3rd in overall offense. And all this was done against 3 playoff contending teams in the Bengals, Eagles, and Patriots.
So how are the Ravens doing this? It starts with Joe Flacco. The Ravens have implemented a “sugar huddle” offense that speeds up the tempo on any given drive. This idea was suggested when QB coach Jim Caldwell joined the team. Caldwell and Cameron noticed that Flacco was at his best during the two minute drill. The no huddle offense is a huge part of that drill. This has been a lethal tool for the Ravens over the past 4 weeks.
But the biggest difference in play lies within Flacco himself. While Cameron has attempted to take over a game, Flacco leads the offense this season. The Ravens coaching staff has finally decided to give that responsibility to Flacco. And their faith has rewarded Baltimore with one of the best offenses in the NFL. Cam Cameron hasn’t always been great at feeling the game during pivotal situations. Often times you’ll see him call running plays when they would be more inclined to pass and vice versa. Flacco doesn’t seem to have that problem. He’s done a great job of calling plays at the line of scrimmage based on what the defense is giving them. And with his skill set, he can make any defense pay if need be.
The change in philosophy for the Ravens has also helped Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice. Though he has received a decrease in carries so far this year, Rice has made the most of his opportunities. When Rice has a chance to carry the football, it’s usually for large chunks at a time. In past years, Rice would have success against teams who would at times have 7 or 8 men in the box. With how potent the Ravens offense has been, it would be foolish to keep that many so close to the line of scrimmage. The resurgence of Flacco has resulted in larger running lanes for Rice. A back with the skills of Rice can gash a defense with huge plays if given the opportunity. And while Flacco has been impressive, teams fear Ray Rice a great deal.
Though Rice and Flacco take a lot of credit, not much has been given to a receiving corps that is playing lights out. Anquan Boldin is slowly having a great season. His week 4 performance against the Browns was really the difference in that ball game. Jacoby Jones has turned into the 3rd receiver the Ravens have been waiting for. He is a clear upgrade over his predecessor and he is burning corners any chance he gets. But no receiver has been as impressive as Torrey Smith. The second year receiver made a name for himself with his blazing speed on deep routes. But Torrey has become a complete receiver with crisp route running on underneath patterns. He has become the number one receiver on an offensive unit that is scary when performing at a high level.
With the way the defense has played so far, the Ravens need Flacco and company to continue to perform the way they have. If the defense begins to play the way they have in the past, this team can become extremely dangerous.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.