Why the Baltimore Ravens run game is hard to stop
The Baltimore Ravens are going to have a fun and creative run game that gives defensive coordinators fits:
The Baltimore Ravens running game is going to be very hard for opponents to stop. Run defense isn’t in vogue the way it used to be. There are a lot of teams who are simply built to deal primarily with passing. The Ravens aren’t the only team that knows this.
The New Orleans Saints have a strong commitment to the running game. They have one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of professional football and the ground game is still core to their cause. The Saints had 471 rushing plays and 519 passing attempts in 2018. That is a great balance for an offense with a historically good quarterback.
The two Super Bowl teams from last year both ran the ball effectively. The Los Angeles Rams main weapon is Todd Gurley. The Patriots also leaned heavily on their running backs. Running the football works because everyone is worried about quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Teams aren’t built worried about a committee of running backs. Quarterback left tackle, pass rusher and wide receiver. Those are the first things team builders go for. Baltimore has a chance to take advantage of that.
The Ravens might be the best rushing offense in the NFL this season. Running the rock at an above average level of success has a high correlation with a playoff appearance.
You may be thinking that teams won’t be worried about the passing game against the Ravens. The thing is that loading the box isn’t going to be a great idea against the Ravens. With Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, a creative run game and good blocking tight ends like Hayden Hurst, the Ravens can run against most looks and against most teams.
The Ravens are more equipped to run the football than any team in the NFL. They have two running backs who averaged over four yards per carry last year. With the Saints, Ingram rushed for 4.7 yards per carry. Gus Edwards had 5.2 yards per pop last year. Justice Hill being added to the mix is exciting. Hill has breakaway speed. He may not break a big play with every carry, but if he gets into the open field, he could be off to the races. Hill averaged at least 5.5 yards per carry in all three of his seasons at Oklahoma State.
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The Ravens can handle an eight man tackle box. This is especially true when the Jackson runs the ball. Designed runs from Jackson give the Ravens a numbers an extra blocker. The eight man box is countered by 10 available blockers. Jackson can avoid extra hits by sliding, going out of bounds and not going for a few extra yards when he’s bottled up.
Jackson can still run less as the Ravens have promised and still be a major factor in the running game. The Ravens aren’t going to take this element out of the offense. Jackson has the speed and the athleticism to take any carry into the end zone. As long as the defense has to worry about Jackson running it is one of the greatest threats an offense can impose on a defense.
The Ravens played a lot of games with the defense in the backfield last year. The read option is a very simple concept that is absolutely in the Ravens’ wheel house. If Jackson makes the right decision, it’s easy yards almost every single time. The idea that Jackson could take off with the football creates hesitation that is unique in the NFL. It’s something that the defense has to account for. Constant guessing plays into the hands of the Ravens.
Greg Roman is going to build a lot of things out of simple concepts like the zone read. Baltimore could end up being the RPO (Run-Pass-Option) capital of the NFL. The Ravens are going to have a fun and creative offense. They can line up in a bunch of different sets. The Ravens have three good tight ends in Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle. The Ravens could come out with three tight ends and Pat Ricard as the fullback and could have a balanced playbook. What other team could say that?
An eight man box also helps Jackson deliver as a passer. The more the defense commits to the run, the less they commit to the pass. Then it just becomes a game of getting the football to fast players in the passing game. If the defense bites on play action it is even better for the Ravens.
With an eight man box the Ravens would probably be looking at a single high safety. Marquise Brown will present a challenge to defenses. If they are playing Cover 1 Man, Brown can win two ways. Against press his speed could get him a reception down the field if he slips loose from the corner. If the opposing cornerback plays off, it makes a quick completion and yards after the catch more likely. Miles Boykin is fast too and Willie Snead gets open over the middle like a seasoned pro.
With most teams the solution to the stopping the run is just to load the tackle box and play gap sound defense. That can work against the Ravens, but it isn’t a simple task. It takes more than just a scheme adjustment. The Los Angeles Chargers had a rare blend of speed and power on their defense. Most teams can’t plug the gaps and keep up with Jackson and the Ravens running backs.
The Ravens run game is going to be hard to stop because it’s not just about loading up the tackle box. The Ravens run game is going to be hard to stop because it may just be the one running game in the NFL that’s truly creative. Most importantly, the Ravens run game’s invincibility is built on the fact that the fastest quarterback in football touches the ball every single play. The 2019 Ravens will have an answer for everything. They may just have the most exciting offense Baltimore has ever seen.