“Frustration can be a great motivator,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. If he is correct, the Ravens offensive line should be the most motivated group in the entire league right now. 26th in the league it total rushing yards with 436. They are tied for dead last, with winless Jacksonville, at a measly 2.7 yards per carry. Frustration would be an understatement.
It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. Well, Harbaugh and the Ravens are close to being fitted for a straight jacket. But changes are a coming. Harbaugh made that clear after the loss to the Packers where the Ravens rushed for just 47 total yards. “We’re going to find our way into our run game,” Harbaugh said. And for the record, I commend Harbaugh for sticking with the run game despite its lack of production. They can’t get into a situation like they did back in Week 4 against the Bills where they dropped back to pass 31 straight times. That is never a recipe for a win, especially with three straight divisional games coming up.
So where is the blame? And more importantly, where is the fix? Many have started to point the finger at run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, who was added to the Ravens late last year after being fired in Philadelphia. Throughout training camp, Castillo was ingratiated in everything the offensive line was doing. He was changing blocking techniques and schemes. Through six games, Castillo’s work has not had a positive effect. The numbers bear that out. Whether it is all on him is a matter of debate, but Harbaugh has probably reached his limit with the lack of results. “We’re definitely making changes. We’re not going to sit there and just stand pat with what we are doing. It may not be visible from the outside looking in. Whether it’s personnel changes or more likely scheme changes,” Harbaugh said.
One of the biggest problems the run game has faced has been penetration into the backfield. Ravens’ running backs were hit in the backfield on nine of their 21 designed run plays against Green Bay. After watching the film, Harbaugh wasn’t shy about that issue, “We’ve got too many situations where we don’t have a [man] on a [man], and when you don’t have a [man] on a [man], that’s a problem. That’s just not acceptable,” he said. Now, I’ve never been a head coach, nor an offensive coordinator … heck, I’ve never even played offensive line in high school, but it doesn’t take a “run-game coordinator” to figure out that if you don’t block the guy in front of you, chances are he will be in the backfield, early and often.
The Ravens fruitless run game along with controversial decisions by Harbaugh did them in against the Packers. If you ask me, the bigger blame is on the inability to fix the run game over the past six week, rather than the decision to go for it on fourth and goal from the one or even to try and pass with 12 second left in the half which led to a sack, strip, fumble. If you run the ball well, you can overcome most things in the game. Bad coaching decisions can cost you a game. Inability to run the football will cost you a season! And maybe that’s where and why John Harbaugh is frustrated. And maybe it’s not frustration; it’s a sense of urgency. Time may be “running” out.
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