Ravens Offense Could Be 'Nearly Unstoppable'
Two words that immediately come to mind when thinking about the Ravens over the years are "dominant defense." Conversely, two words generally not part of the team's lexicon are "explosive offense."
The latter could change in 2019. At least that's what Sportnaut's Vincent Frank believes. He ranked the 10 most explosive offenses heading into this season, and the Ravens came in at No. 9.
That's music to the ears for a franchise that has finished in the top 10 in points scored just five times and total yards three times in its 23-year history, according to ProFootballReference.com. Frank, however, thinks the Ravens offense has the potential to be even higher than his No. 9 ranking.
"Talk about untapped potential in Baltimore," Frank wrote. "The focus is obviously going to be on second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, who will be working in a new offense under coordinator Greg Roman. Just ask Colin Kaepernick how well a mobile and talented quarterback can perform in said offense.
"Baltimore's offense is a bit lower than it could be. Again, that's primarily due to the untapped potential. Jackson will be joined in the backfield by Pro Bowler Mark Ingram and underrated rookie in Justice Hill. Meanwhile, rookie first-round pick Marquise Brown will benefit from Jackson's play-making ability in the backfield. We're more than bullish on this offense in 2019."
That's quite a contrast from NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling’s rankings of the top 10 offenses last month. The Ravens not only did not make the top 10, they weren't even among the nine teams who were "knocking on the door." Clearly, there is a wide range of opinions on a Ravens offense that figures to rely heavily on the running game in a pass-happy league.
Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz believes the Ravens are onto something.
"If Lamar Jackson can improve his consistency as a passer on short, quick throws, the Ravens offense can be damn near unstoppable," Schultz wrote. "Running the ball and running the ball well is the easiest way to win in the National Football League. Of course, teams must be able to throw the ball well, but Super Bowls are won up front. If your team's big uglies beat your opponent's big uglies, your team will go far."
At this point in the offseason, the Ravens' retooled offense is still a work in progress, but that's to be expected.
"I think it's been going really well," wide receiver Willie Snead IV said. "I think the offense is starting to mesh together, and it's starting to make sense to a lot of guys. Right now, it's just more about getting the reps, getting out here, getting the plays going, and then just getting the concepts down at the end of the day."
As Frank noted, two words to keep in mind regarding the Ravens offense heading into the season: "Untapped potential."
Ingram, Brown Receive Kudos on 'Good Morning Football'
If the Ravens offense does realize its potential this season, Ingram and Brown figure to be two of the main contributors. The veteran running back and rookie wide receiver both got some love from "Good Morning Football's" Kyle Brandt yesterday.
Brandt ranked Ingram at No. 4 on his list of the hardest runners in the league, and he chose Brown as the rookie who will have to make the biggest contribution to his team this season.
"Over the last two years -- Mark Ingram had to sit out some games a couple seasons ago, he's had to split carries with Alvin Kamara -- and still, despite that, he is No. 3 in total yards after contact," Brandt said. "That ain't easy to do.
"We do a segment here in the fall called 'angry runs' where we nominate the fiercest runs of the week. No one has had more nominations than Mark Ingram, again, in limited carries."
As for Brown, Brandt likes the swagger "Hollywood" brings to the offense.
"They are banking on Marquise Brown," Brandt said. "I can't say for sure that he's going to be a prolific player, but it ain't gonna be tame. He's gonna go bold. … Lamar, just let that thing fly."
Matthew Judon Regarded as a 'Building Block'
Playing on a defense with the likes of Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle and C.J. Mosley, it was easy to overlook outside linebacker Matthew Judon. Despite flying under the radar, however, Judon's contributions – both what he's done in the past and what he is capable of doing going forward – should not be diminished.
Bleacher Report’s Maurice Morton named every team's most promising building block – "budding talents on each roster capable of becoming roster cornerstones for the coming years" – and Judon got the nod for the Ravens.
Judon has 19 sacks in three seasons with the Ravens, including 15 over the past two seasons.
"He's a proven pass-rusher capable of cranking his production up a couple of notches," Morton wrote. "Going into the 2019 campaign, he's the lead pass-rusher with familiarity in defensive coordinator Don Martindale's scheme. Judon's track record suggests he's the edge-rusher to watch in Baltimore. He's heading into a contract year, and a double-digit sack season could encourage the front office to keep him on the long-term books."
Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw also used the term "building block" in regard to Judon. Bradshaw wrote that Judon and third-round draft pick Jaylon Ferguson could be a "fearsome tandem."
"With Judon on one side and Ferguson on the other, the Ravens may have found themselves the best duo at edge rusher since Suggs and Elvis Dumervil dominated the NFL back in 2014," Bradshaw wrote. "The idea of Matt Judon and Jaylon Ferguson together is certainly an exciting one.
"Should both players reach their potential, the Ravens may have found themselves the building blocks needed to remake their pass rushing core quicker than anyone could've predicted. Time will tell how these two will fair, but for now Ravens Flock should be eager to see what these two can do together in 2019."
Judon did not participate at the Ravens' voluntary OTAs, but he could return to the field next week for mandatory minicamp.
Ravens: Masters of the Creeper
The word "creeper" usually carries a negative connotation, but not when it pertains to a defensive scheme that was referred to as the "next big thing in defense" by USA Today’s Steven Ruiz. Apparently, the Ravens are at the forefront of the creeper revolution.
So what exactly is a creeper?
"The concept of a creeper — also referred to as a 'simulated pressure' depending which coach you're talking to — is not too different from the one behind the zone blitz," Ruiz wrote. "You have the traditional 'fire zone' pattern of a blitz, with second- and third-level defenders replacing traditional rushers in the pass rush, but instead of dropping only six to defend the pass, leaving a void in coverage, you don't send the fifth rusher and keep seven in coverage."
LSU Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda, an architect of the scheme, pointed to the Ravens as an NFL team that has committed to the concept.
"Right now, the Baltimore Ravens do a great job of running these creepers and it's a direct result of how they are practicing it," Aranda said. "Because these schemes require universal teaching, it becomes necessary to rotate players through different skill sets in the form of a circuit.
"For example, on day one install, the linebackers will do linebacker things, the defensive backs will do defensive back things and the bigs will do big things. The next install, the linebackers will switch with DBs and then the linebackers will switch with the bigs. This way everyone's role is switched. Simulated pressures give you that ability."