Former star Jonathan Ogden says Ravens need to run to develop rhythm

Ex-guard Wally Williams questions Ravens decision makers as running game stumbles

November 17, 2011|Mike Preston

While watching the Ravens throw the ball 53 times in last Sunday's loss to Seattle, former offensive linemen Wally Williams and Jonathan Ogden said that would have caused major problems on the sidelines.

One of Ogden's trademarks was to throw down his helmet on the sidelines when frustrated by the play calling, and then immediately begin talking with coordinators Matt Cavanaugh and Jim Fassel or head coach Brian Billick.

Ogden might have split his helmet in half Sunday.

"If J.O. [Ogden] or Orlando Brown had to pass block a Jevon Kearse or a Dwight Freeney 53 times, they would have been raising all kinds of hell on the sidelines," said Williams, a former starting guard and center for the Ravens from 1996 through 1998. "You have to allow offensive linemen to get their hands on these guys some times, to throw, beat them around and gain some rhythm."

Williams and Ogden are die hard supporters who still bleed purple. Most offensive linemen would prefer to run the ball, but they aren't advocating the Ravens become Woody Hayes' Ohio State or Bo Schembechler's Michigan teams.

They want balance. But nine games into the season, they both agree that the Ravens' offense has struggled because it lacks an identity, and both question the leadership and wonder whether the team has the right strategy to attack the 4-3 defense.

"I don't know who their leaders are on offense, or if they even have a leader," said Ogden, an 11-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle. "I was the guy who would go to Cavanaugh, go to Billick and tell them you need to do X,Y,Z. And if it didn't work, they could put it on me. I'd take the blame, but let's do it. "

Receiver Derrick Mason was that kind of guy, but the Ravens cut him during the offseason. Receiver Anquan Boldin has had his moments, but leads more by example. Running back Ray Rice might be that player privately, but not publicly.

How about quarterback Joe Flacco?

"Joe is Joe," said Ogden. "He doesn't have that type of personality."

Overall, the Ravens' offense hasn't performed poorly. They are ranked ninth in the league in points (25 per game), 15th in total yards (340.7) and No. 11 in passing (241.7). But they have struggled running the football (22nd, 99 yards) and have had problems blocking a 4-3 defense.

All three losses have come against teams which play the 4-3. The Ravens gained only 45 rushing yards on 17 attempts against Tennessee and only 34 yards on 12 attempts versus Jacksonville.

Last week against Seattle, Rice, one of the league's top playmakers, had only five carries for 27 yards. That's ridiculous. The Ravens face another 4-3 Sunday in visiting Cincinnati.

"I don't know what the statistics are, but when you throw 52 to 53 times a game, you usually lose," said Ogden. "Joe is a lot better than any quarterback I ever played with but he is not the type that can carry an offense. You have to have some type of run/pass balance, not just throw it 50 times or run it 50 times."

"They never get into a rhythm," said Ogden. "They'll either run it 10 straight times or pass it 10 straight times. They have no identity, and when they get in trouble, they don't know how to get out. They give up on the run so quickly and then they start playing that powder puff, flag football, seven-on-seven [style]."

Both Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh have said the Ravens threw the ball out of necessity against Seattle because the Ravens got behind early. But both Williams and Ogden suggested the Ravens may have gone to the passing attack early in all three losses because of panic, and then didn't make the proper adjustments in the running game. Both agreed that blocking a 4-3 is easier than a 3-4.

"When you're going against a 3-4 defense, what is there isn't going to be there when the ball is snapped," said Williams. "There is a lot of slanting and moving around going on, so it's good to have the downhill running game and the zone blocking scheme."

"But when I watch the Ravens go against a 4-3, I don't see the proper adjustments being made," said Williams. "In a 4-3, those guys in front of you are going to be there, so you have to run more powers, more traps and more counters. In all honesty, I'm starting to question some of the decision makers."

Ogden says it is not unusual to see coordinators go to the air, especially when they are down by more than a touchdown at half time.

"The Ravens never let their offensive line get into a physical rhythm, they never give the group a chance to dictate to the defense," said Ogden. "When we won it, we took pride in the running game with Jamal [Lewis]. We faced something different every week, from eight to nine in the box. But our coaches — Jim Colletto, Matt Simon, Wade Harman — they'd always come up with a plan.

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