Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the offense is still “a work in progress.”
Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s assessment: “Inconsistent.”
Running back Gus Edwards? “It’s kind of like a fire right now and everybody is eager to put it out.”
Six games into the season, Baltimore’s offense is still trying to find its footing.
The Ravens are 15th in scoring with 22.2 points per game, which ranks behind the Houston Texans and is tied with the Washington Commanders. They’re only marginally better in FTN Fantasy’s Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, ranking 10th. And their 339.2 yards per game is only 11th-most, behind the Indianapolis Colts and barely ahead of the Minnesota Vikings.
Most glaring are their passing numbers; the Ravens’ 194.3 yards per game rank lower than the 1-5 New England Patriots and the 0-6 Carolina Panthers.
There are other issues that have stood out as well. Last week in London, the Ravens were just 1-for-6 scoring touchdowns in the red zone despite entering the game with the league’s top offense inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The week before, in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they had seven dropped passes. Turnovers have also proved costly at times. And while the Ravens have started fast, they have also fizzled as games wear on, scoring the third-most points in the league in the first quarter and the 25th-most in the fourth.
“Teams do a great job of adjusting,” Jackson said. “[They’re] changing up their defenses on us in the second half, and then I’ll say, it takes us a little bit of time to catch up to them.”
The Ravens can at least take some solace knowing they are not alone, as scoring is down leaguewide.
Through the first six weeks, the NFL average of 20.62 points per game is the second-lowest output of the past 10 seasons. The average explosive play rate of 10% is also the lowest through six weeks since the start of TruMedia’s play data in 2000. Quarterbacks are averaging the lowest expected points added per dropback and per pass attempt in history. And success rates running the ball are near the NFL average over the past two decades.
Still, the Ravens spent more money on offense than any team in the league and haven’t had much to show for it. Jackson, in the first season of his five-year, $260 million contract, has only thrown five touchdown passes.
“We’ve got to do a better job of scheming it, do a better job of executing when we have those opportunities,” first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken said Thursday of the Ravens’ red-zone woes from a week ago. “We’ve done a good job the last couple of weeks of moving the football. That has not been the issue. We’ve solved some of those things in terms of being more explosive, creating an identity, having a better rhythm. But turnovers and execution at the wrong time have hurt us. There’s no way around it. We’ve got to be better.”
Monken also pointed to second-half struggles, which cost the Ravens in their losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers and nearly did so against last week against the Titans.
Now the 5-1 Detroit Lions, tied for the best record in the NFL, come to M&T Bank Stadium. In addition to featuring one of the league’s best and most dynamic offensive attacks under coordinator Ben Johnson, they are also drastically improved on defense.
Last season, the Lions were last in the league in defensive expected points allowed. This year, they’re 10th, which is tied with the Cleveland Browns for the biggest jump this season.
Much of their success can be attributed to star edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and rookie defensive back Brian Branch, who memorably returned an interception for a touchdown in Detroit’s season-opening win over the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Kansas City. But the overall scheme has changed, too, with a significant shift from man coverage to zone.
Detroit has also generated the sixth-highest pressure rate this year despite having the fifth-lowest blitz rate, and it boasts the second-stingiest run defense in the NFL, allowing just 64.7 yards per game.
Yet the Ravens enter Sunday’s game feeling as if they gave away both of their losses, games they led by double digits but ultimately failed to finish despite several opportunities to do so.
“I think it’s just don’t let off the gas,” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “I feel like [if] you let off the gas … This is the National Football League; every team is capable of winning any Sunday. So just finding ways to close those games off.
“This is a team in here that’s 4-2; it feels like [we] should be 6-0. And maybe those two losses were the best things that happened for us to allow us not to take any moment for granted — or opportunity — and just being able to capitalize when we do have that time.”
Seven weeks in would be a good time to do so. The schedule will only get harder the rest of the way.
“Not turning it over, being explosive, converting on third down [and] scoring touchdowns in the red zone are all big part of what makes an offense successful and all the ways why [a] defense is successful,” Monken said. “All those things correlate, and we’re close.”
We’ll find out just how close — or how far — come Sunday.
Lions at Ravens
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 45
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens by 3