So far, this 2021 Ravens season could be compared to the infamous Baltimore-based television series The Wire: some incredible highs, very tough lows, and simply some unbelievable dramatic moments that have left all of Ravens Flock speechless.
Let's dive into the best and worst so far this season for Baltimore. With the Ravens coming off their week 8 bye, here is the midseason edition of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The passing attack is... *checks notes*... the strength of the team
The Baltimore Ravens and elite passing attacks — two things that have never existed in the history of this great franchise. However, these 2021 Ravens are truly breaking the mold of what the Ravens identity is, or at least the strength of the team. The passing game is what has the Ravens as one of the top teams in the AFC with a 5-2 record. Lamar Jackson and his promising group of pass-catchers have been the highlight for this team overall through these first seven games.
What stands out most has been the chunk passing plays. Only Tom Brady and Derek Carr have more 20+ yards completions than Lamar Jackson's 32. Jackson is slinging the rock downfield more than he ever has,and for good reason —his weapons are straight balling.
Marquise "Hollywood” Brown is continuing his third-year breakout campaign, to the tune of 566 receiving yards and six touchdowns - good for sixth and tied for third in the NFL. Mark Andrews had his signature game of his young career with the monster Monday Night performance in the win versus Indianapolis. Rookie Rashod Bateman has flashed his pro-ready game so far through two weeks. Look for him step up and be the alpha target in some games down the stretch. Even Sammy Watkins looked like a real weapon when he was in the lineup the first four games.
The Ravens will continue to fly high with their passing attack in the second half of the season.
The Clutch Factor is real with this squad
The past two Ravens seasons have been tremendous. From No. 1 seeds, MVPs, recording setting rushing attacks, and everything in between. However, in the the biggest spots and brightest moments that past two years, the Ravens have not always risen to the occasion. Obviously, no team is perfect and won't come through in every moment. But, this 2021 Ravens team seems to have that clutch gene.
In Week 2, with the whole world watching on Sunday Night football, the Ravens delivered a masterful comeback win over the Chiefs. Then in Week 3, the Ravens did not played their best game at all against the Lions but were clutch when it mattered most. Jackson's 4th-&-19 dime to Sammy Watkins set up the greatest kick of all-time for the GOAT himself, Justin Tucker, to secure the win. In Week 5, a 19-point second-half comeback on Monday Night against the Colts showed that the Ravens are never completely out of it in any game.
This Ravens team is not perfect. But they are battled test, have the capability of winning any style of game, and they come up clutch when it matters most.
The Musical Chairs along the offensive line
Take me back to this offensive line pic.twitter.com/SgIfK5fDgZ— Chris (@ChrisJustJoking) October 31, 2021
Shoutout to Ravens Flock member and great Twitter follow @ChrisJustJoking for this humorous but also very painful reminder of the absolute dominate 2019 Ravens offensive line. Now, just a season and a half later, the five-man group up front for Baltimore is almost a shell of its former self.
We knew Orlando Brown Jr. was gone prior to entering the season. We also knew that franchise left tackle Ronnie Stanley was coming off a catastrophic leg injury. The risk was certainly there in trading away Brown Jr. with the uncertainly surround Stanley, but he had the front office's hands tied with wanting out. Unfortunately now for the Ravens, they are without both Pro Bowl tackles all together, as Stanley's injured ankle required another surgery — ending his 2021 season after just one games played.
Alejandro Villanueva has played honorably moving over from the right side, but he is not Stanley on the left side of the line. The right tackle spot has now been a revolving door in replacing “AV”, with Patrick Mekari and Tyre Phillips both playing there but also dealing with injuries. Rookie Ben Cleveland was filling in for Philips at left guard in Week 5, but he suffered a knee injury and was put on injured reserve. With the exception of center and right guard, the Ravens’ offensive line has had little structure.
The lack of continuity along the line and the overall talent as a unit has certainly been a factor in the porous rushing attack for moments this season. Let's see if a bye week was what this offensive line needed to get right and healthy.
Tackling... Anyone? Anyone?
Baltimore Beatdown's Spencer Shultz had Ed Reed on the Baltimore Beatdown Podcast this past week. Spencer asked Reed what his thoughts were on the Ravens tackling woes on defense this year. Of course, Reed had a straightforward and honest answer about tackling in general. Reed said, “in the NFL, either you are gonna do it, or you not gonna do it.”
Unfortunately, for the 2021 Ravens defensive unit, they seem to be falling on the wrong side of Reed's tackling approach. With the exception of the win versus the Chargers, there has been quite a few displays of poor tackling by the defense in every game. From Jonathan Taylor running wild on Monday Night to Ja’Marr Chase roasting the secondary for 201 yards, the Baltimore defense has been very susceptive to giving up the big play.
JA’MARR CHASE IS EMBARRASSING THE RAVENS DEFENSE— PFF (@PFF) October 24, 2021
If this Ravens team wants to stay at the top of the AFC and make a deep playoff run, the defense will have to tighten up their side. The second half of the schedule features a tough slate of games versus strong offenses including the Vikings, Packers, Rams, and five divisional matchups still to go.
Let’s see if the very prideful Ravens defense will answer the call and choose to tackle during the second half of the season.