After spending the bye week meeting with coaches and reviewing every aspect of the Ravens' play through the first seven games, coach John Harbaugh said there are no plans to make "wholesale changes" before Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, and acknowledged that there isn't a simple fix to the team's road woes.
"Execution is part of it, but coaching is part of it, game-planning is part of it, guys developing into their positions, whatever it might be, it's all a big part of it," Harbaugh said Monday. "We're not making any wholesale changes. It's not like we're going to switch everything around and make some huge, momentous moves. But we're always trying to look at the best batting order. We're trying to look at the best lineup we can put on the floor at any particular time and getting as many good players involved as we possibly can."
Harbaugh hinted last Monday, a day after the Ravens' were beaten, 43-13, by the Houston Texans in a matchup between the AFC's best two teams record-wise, that changes could be coming. He mentioned the possibility of rotating guys in on the offensive line, getting Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice the ball more, and evaluating how much the team can rely on the no-huddle offense on the road.
"There are young guys on the offensive line that we want to look at and veteran guys that can help us do different things. I just think football's evolving to where you've got to get as many players involved as you can," Harbaugh said. "So without giving away too much, I can tell you this: the whole offensive line is not going to be re-ordered on Wednesday. We're not doing that. The whole defensive line is not going to be restructured either. But there are some things that we think we can do to get some guys involved and use them as we go and try to take advantage of all our guys."
Harbaugh didn't elaborate too much on what was discussed or discovered during the bye week meetings, but he did say that he's feeling good about potential adjustments that will be made. Despite being in first place in the AFC North, the Ravens currently rank 28th in total defense, allowing 400 yards per game, and 16th in total offense, averaging 355.1 yards.
"I think we have a good plan going forward. We presented that a little bit to the guys [Monday] morning and you try to just take the opportunity to kind of re-align, kind of understand where you are at," Harbaugh said. "There were some very real concerns. There are things that we need to do a lot better through the whole seven-game period, that we felt like we needed to take a hard look at. We did and I did feel good about it. The proof will be in the pudding. If I say I'm excited about it and we don't play well, you guys can hammer me, but I don't believe that. We've gotten better every single year in the second half of the season since we've been here. That's been something that's been a strength for the Ravens and I expect it to be a strength for us going forward."
The Ravens have beaten the Browns nine straight times but many of the games, including the Ravens' 23-16 victory in Week Four, have been closely contested. Cleveland has also won two of its past three games and appears to be getting healthier.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a must-win game," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, we'll have eight games after that game. But in my mind, we need to win that game this week."
Because of the safety concerns as a result of Hurricane Sandy, Harbaugh spoke to the media via conference call rather than his normal Monday afternoon news conference. He touched on a couple of other topics:
• Harbaugh said that despite the storm, all but three of his players were able to get back into Baltimore in time for morning meetings and Monday's practice. He specifically credited linebacker Terrell Suggs, who went home to Arizona for the bye week but adjusted his travel plans.
"He was in a situation where all his flights were getting canceled. He booked a bunch of flights through different airports and ended up getting into Raleigh [N.C.] and he and his wife drove up from Raleigh obviously in a driving rainstorm to get here in time for practice," Harbaugh said. "A lot of guys did a good job with that and thought ahead and moved flights up. I'm proud of them for that."
Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones was one player who didn't make it back in time. Jones said on his Twitter page late Sunday night that he was stuck in Dallas.
"From a coaching standpoint, we have certain things that we have to get done. Monday and Tuesday are really huge work days for the coaches as far as game-planning and preparing, and getting practices ready and all that. That work has to be done and we'll be doing that," Harbaugh said. "We did our normal plan that we had for today. We'll keep our fingers crossed for Wednesday. Hopefully, we can get started on time and just keep our normal schedule. It looks like it's going to be dying down Tuesday night, Wednesday morning. … We think we'll be OK."