Eisenberg: Why Improving at Wide Receiver Is So Important This Offseason


We've reached that time of year when NFL coaches study what happened last season and brainstorm adjustments, new ideas, etc.

No doubt, defensive coordinators are taking a good, long look at the Ravens' "revolutionary" offense, which overwhelmed the league in 2019, while conceptualizing ways to slow it down.

"We understand we are going to be studied on both sides of the ball, by every single team in the league, very thoroughly," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said last month. "We will be the first team that they will pull the tape up on and watch. Our job is to stay ahead. Our job is to find the areas where we can come up with new ideas – expand, tweak, challenge people the way they challenged us or the way we anticipate them challenge us going forward. [We need to] have those answers ready, schematically. So, we will be working on that real hard in the offseason."

Put simply, while other teams work on stopping what the Ravens rolled out in 2019, it's up to the Ravens to be new and different in some way in 2020.

That prompts an interesting question: In what ways can they get better on offense after they were so dominant last season?

I'm sure Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman have a list of answers even though the Ravens led the NFL in scoring and ranked second in offense. That's what coaches do every day – strive to get better.

But one answer stands out to me. Getting more production out of their wide receivers is clearly a way for the Ravens to be different and better on offense in 2020.

Baltimore's receivers ranked last in the league in receptions and yardage in 2019. That was largely by design, of course. The offense was set up to go through the eventual MVP quarterback, tight ends and running backs, as opposed to the wide receivers. That's what made it so revolutionary in the pass-happy NFL.

It couldn't have worked better. The Ravens' tight ends were second in the league in receptions and yardage. The running backs were part of a record-setting ground game.

The wide receivers' mandate was block, block, block and then catch when called upon. When contemplating their league-low numbers, one must understand they also were last in the league in targets.

Nonetheless, I'm sure analysts studying Jackson's MVP performance years from now will find it amazing that he wreaked so much havoc and led the league in touchdown passes while throwing to the league's least-productive wide receiver corps.

The Ravens aren't going to fundamentally change who they are; the tight ends and running backs will remain the focus of the offense. But it would help to have more productive wide receivers.

How can they achieve that? For starters, they expect Hollywood Brown to be healthy and stronger. Their 2019 first-round draft pick was already dangerous as a rookie while dealing with the remnants of a Lisfranc foot injury. He should take a leap forward in 2020.

The Ravens also expect to see Miles Boykin become a more polished route runner and consistent producer while Willie Snead IV continues doing what he does. And they'll surely add several new, potentially major contributors – my guess, a rookie selected with a fairly high draft pick (second or third round) and a veteran free agent. (Those Emmanuel Sanders rumors are fine by me.)

"We have a really good feel for the type of receivers we want to bring in. Without letting the cat out of the bag too much, we want a certain type of guy, and we want a certain type of other guy that would fit us," Harbaugh said last month.

Many took that to mean the Ravens are looking for a big-bodied possession receiver to pair with Brown. I'm not so sure. The Ravens already have that big-bodied guy in Boykin. They might want another fast playmaker, more like Brown.

If the Kansas City Chiefs proved anything in their Super Bowl run, it was the value of having a fleet of speedy receivers, regardless of size.

The Ravens' goal is offensive balance. They won't forget their wide receivers' first commandment is "thou shalt be able to block." But by giving those receivers more chances to make plays, the Ravens can throw the kind of stylistic curveball they'll surely need to throw in 2020.

Related Content