Stopping Lamar Jackson is one thing. Preparing to stop him is another.
Making it harder to solve the problem that is the Ravens offense is that fact that it’s difficult to get ready to face the Ravens, as the Rams learned both before and during Monday night’s 45-6 debacle.
“You can’t truly simulate that, especially when you look at just what a great job they do of creating the conflict,” coach Sean McVay told reporters after the game. “When you look at when it is some of those gives downhill, those things hit faster on the second and third levels. Then when Lamar does pull it on some of those zone-read plays, he’s got the ability to get around you and then what he can do as a runner, just feeling space, because you’re not tackling during the week, those do make it very, very difficult to simulate those types of things.”
The lack of tackling during the week — and the overall reduction in padded practices and tackling to the ground generally — contributes to the inability to tackle during games those players who are hard to tackle. Coupled with the overall physicality of the Baltimore offensive line, a defense can quickly find itself on its heels, as the Rams were last night. Eventually, the onslaught broke their will.
At this point in the season, there’s not much that can be done to prepare to better tackle a team with players like Jackson and Mark Ingram, who on the brink of 30 is running more angrily than ever. But teams can try to better simulate the Baltimore offense via the scout team, if they have the backup quarterbacks or the fast, agile athletes at other positions (like a receiver who previously played quarterback in college or high school) with the skills to properly play the role of Jackson.
For any team to have a realistic shot at shutting down Baltimore’s offense, it becomes critical to conjure a scout-team offense that can approximate what the Ravens do. For teams likely to face Baltimore in the postseason, the sooner they begin making those plans, the better.