The Baltimore Ravens offensive coaching staff never trusted the ground attack during a 2016 season that established a new single-season franchise low for rushing attempts.
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“We need another back,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “What type of back that is? I think we’re talking about it. We have a pretty good idea of the type of back we want to add.”
That type of back is a playmaker with the speed and elusiveness to make defenders miss in the open field.
Baltimore’s backs accounted for just six runs and one reception over 20 yards. No other backfield generated fewer big plays in the passing game.
It didn’t help that the Ravens’ play-callers ignored the running game for long stretches of the season. A pass-heavy, dink-and-dunk offense cost Marc Trestman his job in early October. Stuck with an injury-ravaged offensive line in his first six weeks on the job, Marty Mornhinweg offered no relief.
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Still, Harbaugh insists a balanced offense is a priority in 2017.
“Marty believes in running the football, and I believe in running the football,” Harbaugh explained. “We have not run the football well enough or enough, really, for the last two years. That has to change.”
“You don’t have to have a true No. 1 to have a great passing attack, but I sure hope Breshad Perriman becomes a true No. 1, and to me, there are signs that’s possible,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “But he’s got a ways to go. He’s got a lot of work to do to get it done. You see the radius, and you see the speed. Here’s a guy that has a chance. Now he’s got to refine his route running, he’s got to find his hands to catch them and just become a really good all-around receiver. This is his first year of practicing. He didn’t even have training camp. So to me, there’s a lot of upside there.”
Perriman, a 2015 first-round pick, missed his entire rookie season due to knee issues and missed much of training camp this season. The 6-foot-2 receiver believes being healthy entering the offseason will give him a jump on locking down the No. 1 role.
“I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for me,” he said. “There’s no more rehabbing. It’s just straight to work on the things that I know I need to get better at. So I’m looking forward to it.”
“When you are only seven or eight months out of an injury, no matter what it is, there is going to be a growing process for it,” he said. “This offseason will definitely help with that.”
Flacco set a franchise record for passing yards in a season with 4,317 — the first time he’d broken 4,000 in his nine-year career. Yet he was woefully inconsistent while attempting a career-high 672 passes — 58 more than his previous high in 2013.
The Ravens attempted to run a Jim Bob Cooter-style quick pass offense this season, rarely leaning on the run game and limiting the shots taken downfield. Flacco’s inconsistent accuracy — which his owner attributes at least in part to the lingering knee issues — killed that attacking style.
The game plan was questionable without any knee issue. Flacco’s best asset is his deep ball. And it’s not like the Ravens’ run game was uncompromisingly woeful when given a chance. Baltimore averaged just 22.9 rush attempts per game, ranking 30th, while averaging 4.0 yards per carry, ranking 20th.
The offensive inconsistencies led many to believe offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg could be fired. Coach John Harbaugh decided to keep him, although Baltimore did add Greg Roman as senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach.
Bisciotti believes a full offseason of work will lead to a more consistent Flacco and help Baltimore back to the playoffs after missing the past two years.
“I’m pretty optimistic that Joe is going to be better next year than he was,” Bisciotti said. “That, to me, is the biggie on the offensive side of the ball.”