The Ravens are their own worst enemy right now
Although Baltimore has lost two games so far this season, it feels fair to say they have yet to be truly outplayed by another team. In both losses, the Ravens committed a long list of self-inflicted mistakes that prevented them from pulling away on the scoreboard. The two losses both featured fumbles and miscommunication blunders, while drops were the major killer against the Steelers.
Through five weeks of the season, Baltimore looks like the clear best team in the AFC North, but it will be hard for them to create much separation in the race for the division title if they continue to sabotage themselves and drop games they should win. If this team wants to be a true contender come January then they must clean up these backbreaking mistakes to realize their true potential.
Previously injured players may need some time to regain form
The Ravens received a wave of reinforcements last week, with multiple key players returning to the field from injury, including cornerback Marlon Humphrey, free safety Marcus Williams, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman. While this sounded great before the game, it was clear that most if not all of these players were still affected by lingering injuries, rust, or a combination of the two.
Stanley was the worst offender of the bunch, as the usually steady blindside protector allowed nine pressures on the day, including a pivotal sack that turned into a fumble late in the contest. Bateman dropped an easy touchdown that would have put the team up 14-0, and Beckham was the intended target on an endzone fade late in the game that was intercepted by rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. The throw was ill-advised on quarterback Lamar Jackson’s part, but Beckham created no separation on the play and was a nonfactor in the passing game, catching only two passes for 13 yards.
On the other side of the ball, it was clear that Williams was effectively playing with one arm due to the pectoral injury suffered in Week 1. This affected his ability to tackle effectively more than anything. If Williams cannot be the difference maker he usually is in his current state then Baltimore needs to contemplate sitting him in favor of safety Geno Stone until he can get healthier. Meanwhile, the Ravens rag-tag group of corners that had held up so well without Humphrey in the lineup through the first four weeks of the season was let down by the All-Pro in a big way this past Sunday as he allowed the game-winning touchdown deep down the field to wide receiver George Pickens. If Humphrey’s foot injury is affecting his speed then leaving him on an island may not be the best idea at this time.
Special Teams issues have become a trend
Perhaps the most surprising outcome so far this season for Baltimore has been the play of the special teams unit. The Ravens are known for their great special teams play under Head Coach John Harbaugh, but so far through five weeks this year they have one of the league’s worst units. Both kicker Justin Tucker and punter Jordan Stout have been just fine, but a blocked punt last week and shoddy return coverage have dragged the unit down considerably.
Punt coverage in particular has been the biggest recurring issue so far this season, as Baltimore has allowed the most return yards in the NFL on punts, including a long touchdown return against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. This is unacceptable with a former special teams coordinator as the team’s head coach and must be cleaned up or else it will continue to bite the Ravens in key moments of big games going forward.