How the Ravens Offense Can Be Even Better in 2020
The Ravens made good on their vow to have a revolutionary offense last season in Greg Roman's first year as the team's offensive coordinator, but they know they can't rest on their laurels, no matter how impressive those laurels were.
There needs to be an evolution of the revolution, which is something Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged after the season.
"We are not going to be sitting on our hands, schematically," Harbaugh said. "We are not going to be saying 'OK, we have this offense and this defensive system that was hard for people to deal with, and we are good.' We understand that we are going to be studied on both sides of the ball, by every single team in the league, very thoroughly. 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 challenging us going forward. We will be working on that real hard in the offseason."
So how do you improve upon an innovative offense that led the league in scoring and set a single-season rushing record? Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz has some ideas.
For one, he believes the team needs to decrease its dependency on the legs of reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson – who set a single-season rushing record for a quarterback – while maintaining the threat.
"While around 49% of Jackson's carries result in him sliding under contact, running out of bounds or a kneel (by my tally), the Ravens need Jackson, who led the NFL in QBR in 2019, fresh and healthy to achieve their ultimate goal," Schultz wrote. "The problem is that Jackson is so damn effective between the tackles, it's a disservice to entirely avoid using his arguably greatest skill.
"[The Ravens] would be best served to spend the 2020 regular season, especially the early portion, emphasizing the passing game and relying on their young running backs to carry the load. Save Jackson's superhuman ability on veers and bashes for when the games count more."
To Schultz's point, the addition of second-round pick J.K. Dobbins to a backfield that returns Pro Bowl selection Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, could mean fewer carries for Jackson.
As for improvements in the passing game, Schultz said Jackson needs to be quicker on checkdowns. He also thinks the Ravens should use more screen passes and jet motion. According to Schultz, only 20 of Jackson's 460 attempts last season (including the playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans) were screens or "pop passes." He said the Ravens have the receivers to do it with.
"Marquise Brown was a terror on screen passes during his time at Oklahoma," Schultz wrote. "While he clearly was never operating at full capacity in 2019, he averaged 6.4 yards of cushion at the snap, which was the 17th highest amount of cushion given to any receiver in the NFL last season. That cushion allows for endless screens, which sucks the defense up, opening up vertical passing possibilities, as well as giving edge and perimeter defenders more to think about, which can open up lanes in the run game. … The Ravens also acquired two of college football's best screen receivers from 2019 in Devin Duvernay and James Proche."
Overall, Schultz said there's no reason to think the offense can't be even better in 2020.
"The Ravens offense is in good hands and should maintain their level of dominance with just a few tweaks," Schultz wrote. "While Baltimore's offense isn't the NFL's shiny new toy anymore, it's still just as scary to defend and could be even scarier in 2020."
Matthew Judon Maintains Sense of Humor As Deadline Nears
As the final hours tick down to today's 4 p.m. ET deadline for franchise-tagged players such as outside linebacker Matthew Judon to reach an agreement on a long-term deal, Judon is maintaining his sense of humor.
After it was reported yesterday that defensive tackle Chris Jones and the Kansas City Chiefs had agreed to a four-year, $60 million deal, Judon sent a tweet to Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu asking how the real estate is in Kansas City, adding that he's "asking for a friend."
Mathieu responded by tweeting, "Solid. Nice bang for ya buck," to which Judon replied: I'll@make sure they get this info."
This morning, Judon tweeted that he wanted to be left alone because he's waiting on an important phone call before 4 p.m.
If a deal isn't completed, Judon will play this season under the tag, which is worth $16.8 million. While Judon obviously wants a long-term contract -- and the Ravens have expressed interest in keeping him in the fold for years to come -- he has said that he's "pleased" to play under the tag.
J.K. Dobbins Is the 'Key to Winning Championships in Jackson Era'
When the Ravens selected Dobbins out of Ohio State with the 55th-overall pick, it not only made a position of strength even stronger, but it also set the Ravens up for success in the future. Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler referred to Dobbins as "the key to winning championships in the Lamar Jackson era."
"Dobbins can potentially give Baltimore four great years at the running back position on a rookie contract," Schisler wrote. "It's more than probable that Dobbins will be the starter and the main attraction to the run game in three of those four seasons. … The Ravens can make Dobbins a workhorse for four years and if they need to franchise tag him for a year after that, so be it.
"At some point the Ravens had to find an after-Ingram plan. Drafting Dobbins was just crossing this off their list early."
Schisler said a nucleus on offense of Jackson (23 years old), Dobbins (21), Brown (23) and tight end Mark Andrews (23) could be special for years to come.
"Adding Dobbins allows the Ravens to have a chance at having one of the best offenses of their generation," Schisler wrote. "If Jackson and the Ravens keep breaking records, they'll be remembered much like the St. Louis Rams were when they had 'The Greatest Show on Turf.'"
Ravens Are No. 6 in PFF's Tight End Rankings
The Ravens are No. 6 in Pro Football Focus’ tight end rankings, but a case could be made that they should be even higher.
Tight ends figured prominently in the Ravens' juggernaut offense last season. Only the Philadelphia Eagles' tight ends caught more passes than Baltimore's trio of Andrews, Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst, and the blocking ability of the tight ends was crucial to the success of the Ravens' run-heavy scheme.
"Mark Andrews broke out to post the position's second-best receiving grade during the regular season (90.2), and he's now averaged an impressive 14.0 yards per reception in his two years in the league," PFF's Steve Palazzolo wrote. "While Andrews established himself as one of the best receiving weapons at the position, Nick Boyle also set career highs with 31 catches for 321 yards and posted the fifth-best run-blocking grade in the league, at 75.4."
Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons during the offseason, but his departure opens up an opportunity for undrafted rookies Jacob Breeland and Eli Wolf. Harbaugh said it's possible that both could make the team. At least one undrafted rookie has made Baltimore's Week 1 roster for 16 straight years.
The teams ranked ahead of the Ravens in PFF's rankings were the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams. For more on the Ravens' tight ends, read Clifton Brown’s training camp breakdown on the unit.
A Veteran Who Could Be on the Roster Bubble
ESPN identified one veteran on each team who could be on the roster bubble. For the Ravens, it's wide receiver/punt returner De'Anthony Thomas.
Thomas joined the Ravens in Week 10 last season and became their primary returner. The seventh-year veteran was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason.
"But that was before the Ravens drafted two wide receivers, including sixth-rounder James Proche, whose return skills have been praised by General Manager Eric DeCosta," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. "Unless Proche falters in fielding kicks as a rookie, Thomas will have a difficult path to making the Ravens purely as a receiver.
"Baltimore appears set with its top five receivers: Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown, Willie Snead IV, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and Chris Moore. Thomas, a 2014 fourth-round pick by the Chiefs, received only $25,000 in guaranteed money when he rejoined Baltimore on a one-year deal."