The Baltimore Ravens have fully given the keys to Lamar Jackson
A changing of the guard:
So, that was how the organization largely failed Joe Flacco (and I could go into a little depth on the regression of Flacco, as well, in another piece, to be honest), and how the team found itself staring at a 4-5 record, with head coach John Harbaugh reportedly on the hot seat. With talented first-round quarterback waiting in the wings, the team made the move, got a jolt out of Lamar Jackson and they raced out to a division title before burning out in the first round of the playoffs.
Here’s where things began to change. Between Lamar Jackson taking the wheel, Harbaugh seemingly being reinvigorated by the excitement brought to the offense, Greg Roman bringing his unique system to the equation and Eric DeCosta taking over from his mentor, there was an obvious commitment to building a team around Jackson that could take advantage of his strengths.
The team recognized that Lamar Jackson was a better passer to the middle of the field than the boundaries, and Andrews became a focal part of the offense, while rookies Miles Boykin and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown were added through the draft to add to the speed package helmed by Jackson. Roman crafted his attack around a three-headed monster at tight end that could move from run-heavy formations to spread-out attacks with one substitution, and an offensive line that was good at creating angles.
The team broke nearly every Ravens offensive record last season and finished off a 14-2 glorious season with an epic dud in the playoffs that deflated 90 percent of the great state of Maryland and left Ravens fans around the world defending themselves from the taunts and “choke” jokes of, well, the rest of free society.
So, what did they do this offseason? They went more in on Jackson and this style of offense. Losing all-world guard Marshal Yanda was a serious blow, but the team has added waves of interior line candidates through the draft and free agency. They added more explosion in Devin Duvernay and J.K. Dobbins while bringing in another sure-handed threat in the middle of the field in James Proche. This team will continue to pound the ball up the middle, hit the edges on options and power runs, and dare safeties to stack the box with quick options darting around the field behind those overly-aggressive safeties, along with sure-handed threats up the seams.
Oh, it’s not just on offense that this team is built around Lamar Jackson, either. The working theory appears to be that this is a team built to play with a lead. Their running attack milks clock and shortens the game for opponents to try to make comebacks, and the strength of the defense has been a backfield that can frustrate even the best of quarterbacks when they fall into a hole and are forced to pass every down.
It was a system that was insanely effective last team as the Ravens sprinted to those 12 straight wins, but was exposed when they fell behind to the Browns, Chiefs, and Titans. Jackson struggled to make consistent plays in obvious passing situations, the run game that the entire scheme was built around was pushed into the abyss and the Ravens rush defense allowed teams to control the clock by gashing them along the edges for first down after first down.