Kurt Warner Says Greg Roman's System Is Best Fit for Lamar Jackson
NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner has been critical of the Ravens' passing scheme, but the Hall of Fame quarterback said Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's system is still the best fit for Lamar Jackson.
"I can't believe that there's another system that overall is going to be better for him at this point in his career," Warner said on Glenn Clark Radio. "You'd love to see if he is able to do more in the passing game. You'd love to see the evolution of this offense to allow him to do more or have some pieces that you can put out there and play a little different way when need be if he's at that stage. But it's just hard for me to say because we haven't really seen him in that type of system, obviously, at this level."
As Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh accurately pointed out during his season-ending press conference this week, the Ravens have had a lot of success with Roman's run-oriented offense the past two seasons. No team has scored more points during that span, and the Ravens' 25 wins trail only the Chiefs (26) and Packers (26).
Harbaugh also noted that while the Ravens were last in the league in passing yards this season, they were in the middle of the pack in passing efficiency. In Jackson's 2019 MVP season, he led the league in touchdown passes in addition to setting the single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
However, the offense overall has not been nearly as productive in the postseason. In three playoff games the past two seasons, the Ravens have scored 35 total points.
"The bottom line is, most teams when you get to the playoffs, you're going to have to win a game away from your strength," Warner said. "That's going to be the question. Can they win a game away from their strength?"
ESPN's Greg Cosell went as far as to say the Ravens "do not want to throw the ball unless they absolutely have to" when appearing on the Ross Tucker Podcast.
While analysts such as Warner and former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. have placed much of the blame for the offense's subpar performances in the playoffs on Roman, former NFL quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan said that's an oversimplification.
O'Sullivan, the host of "The QB School" YouTube series, took a deep dive into last Saturday's playoff game between the Ravens and Bills to assess what went wrong with the Ravens' passing attack.
"There are layers to things when they go bad, whether it's pass protection, execution on the perimeter, play design, quarterback play, decision-making, all of the above here," O'Sullivan said. " … Realize it's usually never just one thing. I know it's really easy to point fingers and blast people about crummy play design — and there are elements of it in this film — but to think it's just that is to really do yourself a disservice to evaluating the whole picture."
Michael Wilbon said on the "Pardon the Interruption" podcast that some criticism of the Ravens' passing game is valid, but he agrees with Harbaugh's defense of the offensive scheme.
"Steve Smith and Kurt Warner raise perfectly legitimate criticism, and Harbaugh probably took exception to that, and they're talking about the too simplistic nature of the pass offense, and both things can be true," Wilbon said. "It is to them overly simplistic, but if you've got that kind of running attack then build around that and keep going. It's not like they're going 6-10 every year and they have no shot. They go into the playoffs with a reasonable shot.
"So I can see both these points, but if I'm Harbaugh, I don't think I'm making a radical change. … These are team efforts. So I'm not laying all of this at the foot of the philosophy of the Baltimore Ravens. I'm not."
Ravens Predicted to Be No. 2 Seed in AFC Next Season
The Chiefs and Ravens began this season as the two favorites in the AFC, and one pundit has them in the same position next season.
In ESPN's Bill Barnwell's predictions for the 2021 playoff bracket, he has the Chiefs as the No. 1 seed and the Ravens at No. 2.
"The Ravens might have come up short in the divisional round, but by the end of the regular season they had quietly made a case as one of the NFL's best teams," Barnwell wrote. "They finished the season with the league's best point differential and were fourth in ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) rankings. John Harbaugh's team torched an easy schedule over the final five weeks, with quarterback Lamar Jackson posting a league-best 93.8 QBR over that stretch."
Barnwell acknowledged that the offense needs to perform better in the playoffs but said "it should still be in position to overwhelm most of the league's opposing defenses."
"The prospect of adding a star wide receiver from a deep free-agent crop should only make things scarier," Barnwell wrote. "The Ravens will need to rebuild their pass rush with Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue potentially leaving in unrestricted free agency, but they have the league's best record (31-8) since Jackson took over as quarterback."
For the rest of the AFC playoff field, Barnwell has (in order): Miami, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and New England.
Ravens Have Second-Toughest Schedule in 2021
If the Ravens do end up as the No. 2 seed next season, they will have done it the hard way.
After having the easiest strength of schedule in 2020 (based on their opponents' 2019 record), Baltimore is at the other end of the spectrum in 2021. The Ravens have the second-toughest schedule next season, trailing only the Steelers, per Ravens Wire.
Half of the Ravens' games will be against teams that made the playoffs this season. In addition to playing the Steelers and Browns twice, the Ravens also will face the Chiefs, Packers, Colts and Bears. The Dolphins, who just missed the playoffs, also are on the schedule.
If NFL owners approve the addition of a 17th regular-season game next season, the Ravens would play the Rams, yet another playoff team.
Zaven Is a Raven in Baltimore Sun's Latest Mock Draft
In the latest mock draft from The Baltimore Sun's C.J. Doon, he has the Ravens selecting Tulsa outside linebacker Zaven Collins with the 27th-overall pick.
"The Ravens' priorities are hard to pinpoint," Doon wrote. "Wide receiver is seemingly a target every offseason, and help is needed on the interior of the offensive line. The bet here is that the Ravens are more likely to target an edge rusher instead with Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Tyus Bowser set to hit free agency.
"Collins is the kind of versatile defender the Ravens love, recording 11½ tackles for loss and four interceptions this past season. He was PFF's highest-graded linebacker in 2020."