Ronnie Stanley’s return could help initiate this play-calling change

Ravens, Ronnie Stanley (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Ravens, Ronnie Stanley (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens have spent two years searching for answers at the left tackle position. Ever since first-team All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley went down with a major ankle injury just a few days after signing a long-term contract extension, Baltimore has faced a revolving door at the position, with quarterback Lamar Jackson consistently facing pressure from his blindside.

While the biggest effect this had on the offense is obviously the simple difference in the quality of players when losing someone at Stanley’s level, this has also put offensive coordinator Greg Roman in somewhat of a play-calling bind, one which could potentially be alleviated with Stanley being expected to return soon.

Prior to Stanley’s injury, fullback Patrick Ricard had never played more than 50% of snaps in a game. He was mostly used as a player to come in and run block every now and then on first downs and was a staple as a lead blocker in Baltimore’s power packages.

Over the time period since the injury, Ricard’s snap counts have steadily started to climb. According to FantasyPros, He broke the 50% barrier for the first time in his career in Week 13 of 2020 and stayed over that number for the rest of the season.

He continued to spend more time on the field in 2021, generally putting up snap counts of about 55%, but finishing at 62% for the season due to a couple of outlier games where his numbers skyrocketed to career highs.

The Ravens have continued to use Patrick Ricard consistently in 2022

This year, the number has been much more steady. Over the first three games he has been on the field for 64%, 63%, and 65% of snaps, a remarkably consistent and high number for a player at a position such as fullback that generally has snap variance depending on how the game plays out.

The reason for Ricard’s steady climb in snaps has been pretty simple: Baltimore’s tackles have increasingly needed more help as the team has been increasingly forced to reach for players deep in the depth chart.

This was never more evident than this past Sunday when the Ravens were down to fourth-string tackle Daniel Faalele, who immediately let Patriots edge rush Deatrich Wise Jr. twice run around him to reach Jackson without much impedance.

And (breaths heavily), in a truly shocking moment (no seriously I’ve never said this before I need a minute), offensive coordinator Greg Roman made a fantastic in-game adjustment by using Ricard more to help Faalele block on passing downs (What just happened? I think I blacked out for a minute).

Ricard noticeably spent most of his time on the left side of the line, being used either exclusively as a pass-blocker to give Faalele protection or to provide a chip before running a route.

And to his credit, Ricard was fantastic on Sunday. He was truly all over the place and played perhaps the best game of his career.

The trade-off of having to keep Ricard on the field is that you have to take a receiver off the field. Mark Andrews will always have the highest snap rate among the Ravens’ skill players, but when Ricard is second on that list that means the snap rates for receivers go down.

Rashod Bateman played over 80% of snaps in the final four games last year and finished the year at 68%, but has topped out this year at 66% and has seen that number steadily decline as the Ravens have been forced to go further down the offensive line depth chart.

While Ricard can catch some passes he is not much of a downfield receiving threat, and being forced to keep him in the game in passing situations has its negative effects.

In a reverse of last year, Lamar Jackson has been dominant against the blitz but has struggled when teams rush fewer than five players, finishing 7-of-18 with no touchdowns and an interception in such situations.

It makes it easier on a defense when they have seven or more players in coverage and the Ravens are forced to keep Ricard on the field and take a receiver off because the defense now has extra resources to cover fewer true receiving threats.

With Stanley being listed as questionable for Sunday and expected to return “sooner rather than later” according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Ravens may be able to put some more receivers on the field.

Even if Stanley is not able to return to his All-Pro form, as long as he can hold serve the Ravens should be able to play their receivers more.

This does not mean Ricard will stop playing. He is a very capable and important player to this offense, who should still maintain a steady snap count.

But Stanley’s return could mean that the Ravens will be able to put another receiver on the field for an extra five or six passing downs a game.

Next. Jason Pierre-Paul promises to make his Ravens debut on Sunday. dark

And even though it sounds cliche, in a league like the NFL five or six plays could make all the difference in the world.