Power I Variant:
Usually involving a full back, I think all four running backs could come in for a version of this play. The quarterback is right behind the center, with a running back immediately behind the quarterback, and then two more running backs surrounding the first running back (one to his side and one behind him). You could add the fourth running back to the other side of the running back immediately behind the quarterback, making a cross shape, or you could place the running back on the far end of the line for a jet sweep (in this case, I’d go with Justice Hill in that position and the other three backs forming behind Jackson). As before, you have Jackson and all four backs in-play for hand-off and sweeps.
These are just three formations that together bring over a dozen possible plays to reality. The point of using four running backs at the same time in these offenses is that it would give any NFL defense fits. It’s simply too difficult to keep your eye on a minimum of five play-makers swarming the ball immediately after the snap. All four running backs, and Lamar Jackson himself, could take off with the ball at any second in these three schemes. Add in the beefy Ravens o-line and tight ends/full backs that are able to block for these backs and you’re still left with a wide receiver to deal with in some of these plays. If Eric DeCosta wanted to make the Ravens’ offense “undefendable,” he may be able to do it with a swarm of running backs. Unorthodox? Sure, but I’d love to see it.
So, would utilizing all four running backs for a multitude of plays actually work? I believe so. Greg Roman could take just the basic three offenses I’ve mentioned and create enough wrinkles by swapping out tight ends for fullbacks or wide receivers. He could go back to old pro football footage and modern college tape and morph some of the plays to drop a wide receiver and implant a running back. The thing about the Ravens’ running backs is that they all seem to be open to adopting multiple roles. I don’t think anyone is going to say that Mark Ingram is the best running back to use on a jet sweep, or that Gus Edwards should dart down the field for a 25-yard pass. However, from what we’ve seen of the Ravens’ running backs from last year, and from what we can see from college tape of J.K. Dobbins, it seems that all four of these guys can block, run, and catch, to varying degrees; so utilizing their specializations, and just having all four bodies cross paths after a snap, should help the Ravens’ offense disorient NFL defenses throughout 2020.
Lastly, even if the Ravens just use three running backs to any major degree in their 2020 play-calling, it is still worth having four running backs on the active roster. This a dangerous game for running backs; getting hit and slammed almost every play, and needing to hit defenses head-on and drag other players with you in order to gain a single yard. The tread wears down fast, and Mark Ingram will turn 31 before the 2020 season is over. Now is the time to keep the wheels fresh; the wheels that propel this offense down the field. I don’t know about you, but I’d take four wheels over three.