Could Ravens Turn Into a Pass-First Offense This Season?
The Ravens often get labeled as a "run-first team," which is understandable considering they set the NFL's single-season rushing record in 2019 and led the league in rushing again last season while finishing last in passing yards.
However, as Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman pointed out last month, the Ravens actually called more passing plays than running plays last season.
"They finished last season with an NFL-high 555 carries and NFL-low 406 pass attempts. In theory, though, the numbers told a different story," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "According to Sports Info Solutions data, if you were to move the Ravens' 49 scrambles over to their passing column, remove their 13 kneel-downs from their running column and imagine all 32 sacks as pass attempts, the margin narrows considerably.
"Add the 23 pass attempts and scrambles nullified by penalties, compared to the nine designed runs taken off the books, and unofficially, 510 Ravens plays had started off as passes — and just 502 as runs."
While the Ravens' offense was more balanced in 2020 than it appears at first glance, could it become a true pass-first offense this season given the additions of Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace?
Lamar Jackson, the only quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons, has said he prefers throwing the ball to running it.
"Now their attack has three first-round picks and developing depth at wide receiver, a Pro Bowl-level tight end in Mark Andrews, a more experienced and likely more secure offensive line, and a quarterback with something else to prove," Shaffer wrote. "The Ravens had the NFL's top offense two years ago, when they set the league's single-season rushing record. Their path to the top this season could look very different."
General Manager Eric DeCosta said "we're a running team" during the Ravens' season-ending press conference in January, but he also acknowledged that the passing attack has room for improvement.
The Ravens have won a lot of games with the league's best rushing attack, so it wouldn't make sense to suddenly become pass-happy, but an improved passing game figures to make the running game that much better.
"In leading the NFL in scoring over the past two seasons, the Ravens have largely defied modern conventions," Shaffer wrote. "Now their revamped offense could defy easy categorization: a constantly evolving force that embodies DeCosta's run-based philosophy one week, Jackson's pass-heavy preference the next week and Roman's good-at-everything ideals every game."
Julio Jones Reportedly Not on Ravens' Radar at Moment
And now for our daily Julio Jones item. Warning: Ravens fans still hoping the team pulls off a trade for the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver won't like this update.
For the Ravens, Jones "is not on the radar for the moment," according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.
Despite the Ravens constantly being linked to Jones, a deal has never seemed likely for several reasons, including Jones' cap hit and the draft capital he would cost. Drafting Bateman and Wallace appears to be further indication that the Ravens aren't in the market for Jones.
Meanwhile, there are conflicting reports as to what a team interested in Jones would have to give the Atlanta Falcons. ESPN's Diana Russini said the Falcons have discussed several offers for Jones, including one for a future first-round draft pick.
Conversely, ESPN's Jeff Darlington said the Falcons are hoping for a second-round pick but they may not get more than a third-rounder.
Pundits Reignite Debate About Whether Lamar Jackson Should Get 'Mahomes-Like Deal'
The Ravens have made it clear that they want to sign Jackson to a long-term contract extension, and he reiterated this week that he wants to be a Raven forever.
Jackson's comments reignited the debate among pundits as to how much the Ravens should pay him, the length of the contract, and when they should finalize a deal.
On "Good Morning Football," the question was whether Jackson should get a "Mahomes-like deal," in reference to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' 10-year, $450 million contract.
The consensus was that Jackson's annual salary should be in that range but not for as many years. The length of Mahomes' contract is indeed an outlier, as the next five highest-paid quarterbacks all received four-year deals.
Dak Prescott ($40 million annual salary) and Deshaun Watson ($39 million) are the second- and third-highest paid quarterbacks, respectively.
"It's hard to justify paying him less than Dak Prescott and less than Deshaun Watson," Kay Adams said. "He does belong, objectively, after Patrick Mahomes on that list. He took the Ravens to the playoffs every season he's been there. … He's been an MVP. He has more accolades than Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson."
Sports Illustrated's Bill Enright went a step further, saying Jackson "absolutely should have the richest contract in NFL history."
"He is just now getting into his prime," Enright said. "Give him whatever he wants and make sure he's a Raven for life."
"GMFB's" Peter Schrager strongly advocated for getting a deal done sooner than later, but James Palmer disagreed.
"Maybe you want to see if his style of play is sustainable because it's different than anyone else in the NFL," Palmer said. "I'm not saying don't pay him. I think he's one of the best players in football. But it doesn't hurt to wait a year. The only issue that you have with waiting a season is the price goes up, but the cap in 2023 should drastically increase anyway."
Three Veterans Young Ravens Should Be Emulating
Not every player who makes his mark in the NFL is a high draft pick — or in some cases, a draft pick at all.
For young players seeking to carve out a role for themselves with the Ravens, the team has no shortage of accomplished veterans who began their pro careers with little fanfare for them to look to as an example.
Russell Street Report's Darin McCann identified three Ravens veterans young players should want to emulate:
C Bradley Bozeman
"Bozeman came to the Ravens as a sixth-round center out of Alabama. While a good player for a powerhouse program, expectations for a career of note were low for Bozeman, and he still managed to get on the field for 14 games his rookie year, getting one start. The next season, Bozeman somewhat surprisingly came out on top of a heated competition for the left guard spot, and he started every game — a feat he reproduced this past season, as well.
"Bozeman's improvement on the field speaks to his commitment and intelligence. … Obviously, nobody knows how Bozeman will perform in his new duties as the Ravens' starting center, but it's safe to assume he's going to do things the right way in the transition."
S Chuck Clark
"Another sixth-round pick for the Ravens, Clark came out of Virginia Tech with a similar feel to Bozeman, beside their respective draft slots. Good player from a big program who didn't really have a lot of expectations on him from the start. … The coaching staff and other defensive players continue to rave about Clark's intelligence and professionalism, and he's become a significant figure on one of the best defenses in the league.
"It was widely reported this week that Clark actually watched film of the rookie minicamp this week by himself to get his own impressions of the young talent added to the roster."
RB Gus Edwards
"Edwards was an undrafted rookie who split his collegiate career between Rutgers and Miami (FL) and flashed a bit that preseason with power-fueled juggernaut runs up the gut. Once Jackson became the starting quarterback about halfway through the 2018 season, the offense dramatically changed. Edwards entered the spotlight as that punishing between-the-tackle option for Jackson in the zone-read game that exploited and confused defenses from the jump.
"Edwards has proven himself to be a good NFL power back, and if that career keeps him in Baltimore, or takes him to new locales down the road, Edwards has made a name for himself in the league by being dependable and showing continuous improvement in his craft."