How can Baltimore Ravens actually use four running backs?
This was actually used quite frequently in a lot of black-and-white era footage you can find of pro football (pre-Super Bowl). It’s named, as many classic plays are, after its general shape; that being a wing. This was a precursor for the modern shotgun formation. The right side of the offensive field is loaded.
Meanwhile, the left side is fairly bare, besides the O-linemen, and the center is actually towards the weak side of the offense. It can position the quarterback “off-center” of the snap, or straight behind, depending on slight variants, and the quarterback is usually (though not always) behind his running backs. This should sound a little familiar as the Kansas City Chiefs recently had a similar line-up during a red zone push in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs were lined up in this fashion after they did their fancy “twirl/spin” to the right, behind the line, taking quarterback Patrick Mahomes off-center and moving the formation to the right for a “trick” run play. Though, they did use different personnel than what this traditionally calls for, and thus it’s a bit different than what I’d like to see the Ravens do with this offensive scheme.
For the Ravens, they can tweak this to utilize four running backs as follows: Any two-man combination of Dobbins, Ingram, and Edwards would be lined up basically next to each other, each to one side of the center. Lamar Jackson would be behind the aforementioned running backs, either dead-center or a bit to the right, and then they could put the remaining downhill-running back and Justice Hill right next to Jackson. These two backs can either line up one on each side of Jackson, or both to his right. This 11-man set would end with the five linemen and either a tight end or full back for stout blocking.
To describe this play’s setup more clearly let’s place Ingram and Edwards next to each other behind the center with Hill, Jackson, and Dobbins lined up left to right behind Ingram and Edwards. What this positioning would do is give the Ravens no less than 5 solid run options right after the snap. I’ll start with the least-likely way this formation would play out:
The Ravens offense could snap the ball to Ingram or Edwards, and we see one of them act as the quarterback and either hand-off to the other or take off running while Lamar Jackson and other backs move forward to block or simply go in-motion to confuse the defense
The more likely scenarios would be as follows:
- Ingram and Edwards moving up to block after the snap, while Hill or Dobbins takes the snap, and then become a runner behind the blocking line
- The Ravens could snap the ball to Jackson, who could take off running behind the blockers after a fake hand-off
- The Ravens could snap the ball to Jackson, who then hands-off to Justice or Dobbins for a nice sweep to the right behind the line.
- Or, they could snap the ball to Jackson, fake hand-off to Justice/Dobbins, then as the two running backs in front of Jackson (Ingram and Edwards) cross each other, one will take the hand-off from Jackson.
All of this is nice enough, but imagine the x-factor here: You can add the RPO to this and send the tight end/full back (lined up all the way to the right of the line) past the D-line to catch a pass, or use all of this misdirection to the right to then just send Lamar Jackson bolting to the left of his line, hitting a near open field.