PFT 2019 storyline No. 21: Will the Ravens continue with a run-heavy offense?

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When then-rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson got a chance to turn cameo appearances into full-time starting, the Ravens threw the NFL a curveball, turning the offense into a run-heavy attack.

Jackson’s first start included a whopping 26 rushing attempts. (In contrast, Joe Flacco had 19 total rushing attempts in his nine 2018 starts.) Through seven 2019 starts, six of which the Ravens won, Jackson ran the ball 119 times — an average of 17 per game. He also gained 556 yards on the ground in those seven starts.

The success of both Jackson and the team has created the impression that the Ravens will do more of the same in 2019. But the Ravens have done a nice job of clouding the issue, from swapping out Marty Mornhinweg for Greg Roman at offensive coordinator to adding a pair of fleet-footed receivers in the draft (after being unable to attract any quality wideouts in free agency) to making it clear via owner Steve Bisciotti that Jackson won’t run the ball 20 times per game to strongly hinting via G.M. Eric DeCosta that a far more diverse attack will be used to, most recently, the vow from backup quarterback Robert Griffin III that the new offense will “shock some people.”

It’s still not clear what the Ravens will do, and that’s good news for the Ravens. Whether it’s the Dolphins in Week One or the Cardinals in Week Two or come Week Three a rematch of an epic 2018 regular-season battle in Kansas City with the Chiefs, those early-season foes may be on their heels as they try to figure out whether the pre-snap looks are hinting at a run or a pass.

Until the Ravens tip their hands by generating several games of film, opposing defenses would be wise to look at 49ers games played with Roman as the offensive coordinator. The Ravens in turn would be wise to use some of those 49ers games as the basis for making what once was a pass into a run, and vice versa.

However it turns out, the fact that no one quite knows what the Ravens precisely will be doing on offense is a bonus for Baltimore. It becomes a bigger bonus if Jackson, who ran the ball last year nearly as well as he did at Louisville, can begin throwing the ball like he did in college.

Through it all, the overriding goal should be ensuring that Jackson doesn’t run the ball so much that he gets injured. In the NFL, that’s the biggest reason why teams choose to avoid putting their quarterbacks at risk by repeatedly subjecting him to the kinds of hits that usually only running backs absorb.

34 responses to “PFT 2019 storyline No. 21: Will the Ravens continue with a run-heavy offense?

  1. No way. Their offense this year will look nothing like what they did at the end of last year when Jackson was playing. But the haters will attack Jackson as if they will run the same offense and with the thought that no player can improve after 8 games of NFL experience.

  2. If Jackson even improves his throwing just a little bit they can be dangerous, especially with Ingram and Hollywood. I have a feeling the Ravens Browns games are going to be much more fun to watch in the years to come.

  3. It won’t matter much what schemes the Ravens employ on offense, if Jackson can’t throw the ball with more consistency and accuracy than he’s shown so far. Driving 100+ MPH while taking a selfie or what have you, also doesn’t speak well to a QB’s judgement and leadership ability.

  4. Sounds like they’re going to have the two worst teams in the NFL completely flummoxed the first two weeks of the season, then everyone will have them figured out and the wheels will come off.

  5. I love the internet coaches who say “Lamar Jackson can’t throw” or “he’s a running back”. Did you know Jackson had a better completion percentage, 58%, than all rookie QB’s last year not named Mayfield? Granted he had fewer attempts but are you questioning Darnold, Rosen, and Allen’s ability to throw?
    Jackson is such a great athlete that if he can get to 60 to 62% completion rate the team will have a lot of success. He works extremely hard at his craft so certainly expect improvement over last year. As long as he progresses each year he’ll be tough to deal with.

  6. Jackson can obviously take NFL hits so he seems to be durable enough to make it through a full season, especially if they dial back his rushing attempts. That way when he does run it will be even more effective. If he becomes more proficient as a passer, he will be able to rip off big gains on passing plays when they break down and theres nothing but green in front of him.

  7. A “curveball” is an unexpected turn – but simply employing a QB who runs a lot as a QB who runs a lot is the very opposite of a curveball.

  8. “Begin throwing the ball like he did in college”? Excuse me? He IS throwing the ball like he did in college.

    His completion percentage barely hit 57%. Not even close to top 20 in the country. Same with his passer rating. Threw a ton of interceptions. Justice Hansen, Taylor Lamb, and Bryant Shirreffs all had better years than he did in 2017. Anyone think those guys are NFL starters? Mason Rudolph had a monster year compared to him, and he’s the #3 in Pittsburgh.

    What Jackson can do is run, extend plays, and get the ball downfield. He’s a poor man’s Mahomes. Ravens fans who think they can win with this kid, especially if their defence doesn’t hold up, are delusional.

  9. I predict they use a run jump pass frequently this season.

    Lamar just can’t throw the ball in tight window.

    Ravens will make the playoffs but get exposed again for their weakness.

    1 QB
    2 Aging defense

  10. Delusional? They have already won with Lamar. First time in the playoffs in years, guy gets no credit.

  11. annapterp says:
    July 3, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Did you know Jackson had a better completion percentage, 58%, than all rookie QB’s last year not named Mayfield? Granted he had fewer attempts but are you questioning Darnold, Rosen, and Allen’s ability to throw?
    ————————————————————————————-
    Yes, Allen is equally inaccurate, and Rosen was already dumped by his first team for a late 2nd round pick. Darnold may turn out to be good, or he could be the 2nd coming of Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart.

  12. Maybe not so much run heavy as possession oriented. To succeed, they will need to win time of possession, avoid turnovers and play solid defense. This is a team that probably can’t get behind and expect to win, but has the tools to extend drives and keep the opposition facing long drives.

    On paper, the Browns are the favorite, but the Ravens are the reigning division champs. After the Dolphins and Cards, they have the Chiefs, Browns and Steelers. We’ll know before week six what they are.

  13. In Lamar Jackson, the Ravens will revert to being run heavy if a) they can’t score points b) Jackson turns into a turnover machine or c) injuries to receivers. Small body of work but he has a decent chance of being a serviceable game manager type QB if the offense is simple enough.

  14. Get to know their qb and you’ll know why they are run heavy…
    Not that gifted at throwing but can tale off and run with the best of them!

  15. @magnumpimustache, the Ravens have an aging defense? They only have two players who are in their 30’s, Thomas and Jimmy Smith who are both 30 exactly. Be more informed when you post.

  16. ——————————————————-
    Yes, Allen is equally inaccurate, and Rosen was already dumped by his first team for a late 2nd round pick. Darnold may turn out to be good, or he could be the 2nd coming of Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart.
    ———————————————————————————————————————————-
    No, sir! There is not a throw in the universe that Allen can’t make – it was said repeatedly at the 2018 Combine that Jackson can’t complete throws outside the hash marks. Rosen wasn’t dumped in any way – the Cardinals are engaged in a truly Mad Scientist experiment with a college offense. And anyone with a sliver of ability to assess quarterback talent could see when Darnold took the field for USC in 2016 that he was special.

  17. If we’ve learned one thing these past few years, it’s to not judge a QB by his rookie season. Patrick Mahomes is considered by many to be the best QB in the NFL, and he wasn’t even good enough to get on the field his rookie season. Jared Goff was a bust his rookie year, but then led his team to the super bowl his 3rd year. I get it, ya’ll are just pretending to be dumb, right?

  18. He couldn’t really throw in college and he didn’t throw in the nfl. For those spouting out completion percentages, when you throw the ball four times a game it is bound to not be as bad as the other rookies who started. Being athletic doesn’t always mean you can play every position. Jackson is a running back who can pass better than other running backs. I haven’t even seen him show the QB smarts that come with a moderately good QB. He can run howeever, and as long as he can complete a pass or two the Ravens will be dangerous.

  19. The thing that should scare people about the Ravens is the secondary. Two CB1s, upgrade at Safety, and massive depth – plus no more CJ Mosely, who (God Bless him!) couldn’t cover the receiver out of the backfield to save his soul – that’s how the Steelers chewed up the Ravens last year. Until proven otherwise, the big rivalry for AFC North supremacy remains Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

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