Pundits Expect Ravens' Offense to Look Different
This offseason, the Ravens' offense has been the main attraction.
With Lamar Jackson under center, the Ravens' run-heavy scheme took the league by storm last season. Jackson and the offense rode the ground game's success to a 6-1 record, a division title, and a postseason berth.
Now under newly-promoted Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, the Ravens are piecing together an entirely new system, and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio expects to see a different product this season.
"We all assume that because [the Ravens] implemented an offense that was run-heavy, that this is something they're going to continue into 2019, even though they made [Marquise] 'Hollywood' Brown their first-round pick … [and] added other receivers during the draft," Florio said.
"They had a hard time luring free-agent receivers because of the perception they're going to run the ball all the time, but when [General Manager] Eric DeCosta sat down with us right after the draft, it became very clear that this was not going to be necessarily an offense that runs the ball 35 times a game."
PFT's Chris Simms said the offense could be unlike anything we've seen in the NFL.
"It's going to be an old-school wishbone, read-option, play-action pass type of offense," Simms said.
DeCosta prioritized adding speed this offseason. The Ravens accomplished that feat, signing Mark Ingram and drafting home-run hitting threats in Brown, Miles Boykin, and Justice Hill.
The additions allow the Ravens to stretch opposing defenses and keep them honest.
"We're aware of the fact that teams are now going to look at us as a run-first, run primarily team," DeCosta told Florio following the NFL Draft. "We want to make it tougher for those defenses to put eight or nine guys in the box."
While the Ravens are still expected to lean primarily on the rushing attack, Simms said Roman's biggest strengths are his schematics and his ability to find mismatches in the run game.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer echoed similar praises.
"One reason that John Harbaugh went with Roman over Mornhinweg in January was because of Roman's history and creativity in the run game, which paved the way for Colin Kaepernick's early-career success in San Francisco," Breer wrote. "The idea is to stress the defense in the run game with an athletic quarterback, which should open up things in the passing game. And seeing the direction the NFL's been going in (spread-out pass-heavy offenses vs. smallish defenses to combat them), the Ravens are very much zigging when so many other teams are zagging."
The Action Network's Ian Hartitz took an in-depth look and found that new offensive coordinators "gained the same or more yards per play in their first year as offensive coordinator than the team had in the previous season."
Much like was the case with the Chargers last season, Florio and Simms agree that the Ravens' biggest challenge will come when facing opponents the second time around.
But ultimately, the success falls on the arm of Jackson.
"They've got a great offensive line, they've got some good running backs, Lamar is extremely talented there," Simms said. "But the last piece of the puzzle that's really going to make them a really legit playoff threat … is going to have to be the pass game. Because you're going to play a few defenses every year that are great on run defense and have the personnel to stop that great power-run offense that the Ravens want to run."
Gerald McCoy Has 'Great' Visit in Baltimore, Reportedly Extended Into Wednesday
The Gerald McCoy watch is on in Baltimore.
The free agent defensive tackle reportedly visited the Ravens Tuesday after making his first stop in Cleveland late last week.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley reported that McCoy went to dinner with Ravens coaches and players Tuesday night.
Safeties Tony Jefferson and Earl Thomas were among the players reportedly in attendance.
Mark Ingram made sure to send in his recruitment pitch.
Pundits expect McCoy's visit to stretch into Wednesday morning. The process is ongoing, and many teams reportedly remain interested in signing McCoy, including the Browns.
"The Browns are still in the mix for free-agent defensive tackle McCoy despite the fact his visit with the Ravens will stretch into Wednesday morning," Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot wrote. "The AFC North rivals knew he was visiting both teams and that he would likely make his decision after going through the process."
ESPN's Dan Graziano noted the Cowboys or Colts could also come into the mix.
"[McCoy's] ideal fit would be Dallas, where his interior pass-rush skills would solidify one of the league's most underrated defensive fronts," Graziano wrote. "But the Cowboys are focusing their financial resources on contract extensions for their own guys right now and don't seem likely to outbid other teams for McCoy. If he doesn't end up with Cleveland or Baltimore, watch out for the Colts, who have cap room and money to spend after a disciplined offseason."
Manti Te'o an Intriguing Free-Agent Option?
Staying on the theme of free agents, Fansided's Nicholas Price believes linebacker Manti Te'o would be an intriguing option for the Ravens.
"The current pool of free-agent inside linebackers isn't all that inspiring," Price wrote. "However, there are a couple of names that could make sense for them. One of them is Manti Te'o."
Te'o, a former second-round pick of the Chargers, played limited snaps in five games with the New Orleans Saints last season, but quietly had a standout year.
He was one of the top-rated free-agent linebackers in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.
Price acknowledged that the Ravens would be smart to target Te'o on a one-year, "prove-it" deal, similar to John Brown's contract last season.
"The point of signing Te'o would be to add a veteran in the starting lineup to play more of a stopgap role until they find someone better," Price wrote. "Te'o has experience playing in a 3-4 defense and would be a decent complement to [Patrick] Onwuasor."
Te'o is only one year removed from totaling 62 tackles with the Saints in 2017 and could be a formidable option. At 28, he could provide experienced depth to a linebacker core that lost C.J. Mosley.
"Even if you believe that Onwuasor and [Kenny] Young will make for a formidable duo, the Ravens have little depth behind them," Zrebiec wrote. "Their other inside linebackers are all first or second-year undrafted free agents, a group headed by Chris Board, who is currently the top reserve. The Ravens worked out inside linebackers … They didn't immediately sign one, but they probably will have to at some point."
- Haloti Ngata will officially retire as a Raven today, and Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens believes Ngata belongs in the team's "Ring of Honor."