This is the first time in the John Harbaugh era that the Ravens have had a losing record after seven games. What is more alarming is the lack of improvement from this team through those seven games, and the bye week couldn’t come any sooner. The offense has been unable to run the ball, or consistently score in the first half. The secondary continues to give up big plays, and all the special teams units have been underwhelming. Things have gotten so bad that, according to the Baltimore Sun, players have approached Harbaugh about changing some schemes and philosophies.
The team source mentioned in the Sun’s article specifically cites the run game as something players have been frustrated with. The Ravens brought in run-game coordinator Juan Castillo during the playoffs last year and he tried to change the team’s scheme this offseason. According to the team source, players have asked Harbaugh to change the running scheme back to the one they used last year, which focuses more on cut blocking and doubling at the point of attack, instead of the zone philosophy Castillo uses. The source also mentioned that Castillo has lost influence in the room, which could signal the end of his tenure as a Raven. The Ravens run game has played a large part in the offense’s inability to move the ball early on in games, and this new development could help the team improve. We saw that a little bit against Pittsburgh yesterday, but the rushing attack still has a ways to go.
Then there is the issue with the special teams. Yesterday was a disastrous performance by this group, and Harbaugh is concerned with them. In today’s press conference he said, “We’ve got to find guys that want to play special teams.” Clearly Harbaugh is upset with this group and is willing to make the necessary changes to do so. In order for this to happen, there will have to be some decisions made on this roster and Harbaugh left that door open saying, “We’ll trade guys, we’ll cut guys. We’ll sign guys. We’ll change schemes. We have to find a way to get better.” Special teams makes up the core of a team, as most backups and rookies play on the coverage and return units, so any backup on the hot seat could be on his way out this week. Bryant McKinnie was just traded today, meaning that a spot is already open on the 53 man roster, so expect to see some transactions over the next two weeks in the lead up to the team’s matchup with the Browns.
At 3-4, it still isn’t time for the team to go into a “state of emergency” as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs declared after yesterday’s loss to the Steelers, but time is certainly not on the team’s side. Harbaugh put it best when asked about Suggs’ comment saying, “A sense of urgency is a good thing”. Harbaugh appears ready to handle this situation and understands this team still has plenty left in them to make a playoff run, and maybe win a weak division. These next two weeks of preparation will be crucial, though, and the coaching staff must find ways to get the best out of what they have, or else it will continue to be a long, and disappointing season for the Super Bowl champions.