To get to know the Villain this week, I talked to Ebony Bird editor, Tynan Patrick. The Denver Broncos have obviously had a terribly difficult time winning in Baltimore over the years, so it’s important to get to know this year’s team.
Let’s go Inside the Villain’s Venue with Ebony Bird.
Predominantly Orange: Ranked 9th in points per game, why was Cam Cameron fired as offensive coordinator? Do you think Jim Caldwell is a good replacement?
Ebony Bird: I think Cameron’s firing had more to do with the inconsistency than statistics. The Ravens are 9th in ppg but they are only averaging about 15 ppg on the road vs about 35 ppg at home. Cameron played a big part in that. On the road the Ravens seem to abandon their normal offense in favor of repeatedly taking deep shots instead of methodically working down the field like they do at home.
As far as Caldwell is concerned, I am not quite sure what to think of him as an OC. In Indianapolis we never saw him fill that role as he jumped straight from QB coach to head coach. We know he struggled mightily as a head coach (in his last season there), but that team was one of the least talented in the NFL without Manning under center. I have a feeling that unless Caldwell has an excellent showing to close the season, the Ravens will be making a run at Norv Turner or maybe even Sean Payton during the offseason. Obviously the latter would be a ridiculously long shot since he is firmly entrenched as a head coach, but strange things can happen and fans can dream of Payton in Baltimore, right?
PO: Joe Flacco has been sacked 12 times in the past four games. What’s going on with the offensive line?
EB: The offensive line has struggled mightily all season long. I think there are several things at play here. First, Keleche Osemele is going to be an excellent player in this league, but he wasn’t anywhere near ready to be playing right tackle as a rookie. I have to think that the Ravens would rather use him at left guard which is a traditionally a much simpler position to learn, but no other player emerged that could competently play either LT( moving Michael Oher over to the right side) or RT to allow Osemele to swing inside. A huge factor in that was the refusal of the Ravens to use Bryant McKinney due to their transition to the no huddle offense which was viewed as being too fast paced for him to handle for a full game. The Ravens have had players playing out of position all year first with Ramone Harewood (a tackle if there ever was one thanks to his enormous size and then with Bobbie Williams) a run blocking RG who was pushed into a role a a pass blocking LG) and finally Jah Reid, another true tackle. All the flip flopping and personnel loss of the past few seasons has finally caught up to the ravens OL.
PO: Is the fall of your defense the result of injuries or is something else going on as well?
EB: Reports of the demise of the Ravens defense might not be as cut and dry as one would think. It’s true that the Ravens D has tanked. Massive steps back this year, but they are still solid in points per game allowed and they are tops in the league in red zone defense. That was their bread and butter coming into the season because that is the type of defense that defensive coordinator Dean Pees likes to run.
The more disturbing trend than the yards is their inability to stop teams in crunch time during close games. I believe a big part of the problem is the loss of Lardarius Webb. Webb has been overshadowed by the injury to Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, but Webb was quickly becoming a top 3 cornerback in the league (he hadn’t allowed a TD pass in almost 2 years) and when he went down it destroyed the Ravens’ secondary. That caused a domino effect because open wide receivers meant the pass rush had to be faster and the ease teams pass with set up their run games. Things got a bit better with Suggs back in the lineup, but now that he has suffered yet another injury and already wasn’t playing at full strength to begin with, the Ravens desperately need someone to step up. Hopefully, some of the issues will be fixed when Jimmy Smith gets back from his hernia surgery. He could be starting this weekend.
PO: Anquan Boldin or Champ Bailey. Who do you like in a one-on-one matchup?
EB: Boldin or Bailey is a close one. Both guys are past their best days but they are both still among the better players at their positions. Both guys like to play pretty physical which might play into the hands of Boldin, who in a matchup of sheer physicality would probably beat out any corner in the league. Luckily for Bailey though, there is more to the matchup than just physicality. Bailey is probably faster than Boldin at this point and his coverage skills are obviously excellent. I think this matchup might be a draw. Boldin will probably make a couple plays but for the most part I expect Bailey to have a pretty good game.
PO: Finally, your prediction for Sunday’s game?
EB: If this game were in Denver, I would pick the Broncos by double digits. Because it’s in Baltimore I think it will be a game decided by a razor thin margin. The homer in me says the Ravens win by a FG but it probably all depends on the Ravens’ offense. It’s tough to say how they will look under Jim Caldwell. They might be a mess and if that’s the case they could struggle all game. All that said, I’ll take the Ravens 23-21.