Mailbag: Which Half Is the Real Ravens Offense?

QB Lamar Jackson

Mink: I'm guessing your question centers around the offense because that's the unit that flipped the script in Indianapolis. One thing I've learned covering the Ravens for the past 11 years is to not put too much stock into the results of one week rubbing off on the next. Each game is its own beast.

On one hand, I do have hope that the second half of that game, in which Lamar Jackson didn't miss a single pass, could get the reigning MVP rolling. Jackson hasn't been as sharp, or seemed as confident in his decisions, since the Kansas City game. He needed a breakthrough, and I think that second half against a very good Colts defense could have been it.

On the other hand, I think the Ravens offense has some weaknesses that they can improve on, but aren't going away with the snap of your fingers. An offensive line already having (understandable) trouble replacing Marshal Yanda now has injuries at that right guard spot and lost All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Teams are better prepared for the Ravens' unique scheme this year and are giving Jackson more to think digest. The Ravens aren't making enough plays deep or outside the numbers to break opponents' all-eyes-on-Lamar approach.

Yes, the Ravens can, and I expect will, improve in all phases. That's just what John Harbaugh teams do and the more Jackson sees the better he'll get. But I think there won't be as many offensive explosions as there were last season. Still, if the Ravens continue to do what they do in the second half in Indianapolis – not turn the ball over, run the ball well, and throw it efficiently – then they'll be a very hard team to beat given how well the defense is playing. And keep in mind that the past two games were against two of the NFL's best defenses, so I think brighter days are ahead for Baltimore's offense.

Downing: Now this is some good X's and O's perspective to the game. This is a max protection look to give Jackson time and allow his receivers to get open downfield. The use of this formation against the Colts could have been because Indianapolis has an excellent defense, and the Ravens needed to keep that front seven from getting into the backfield. It also may be related to some of the injuries along the offensive line. The Ravens are down two starters after the injuries to Stanley and Phillips, so they may need to use tight end Nick Boyle as an extra blocker more often when trying to move the ball downfield. Now I don't think the answer to hitting downfield shots is as simple as, "use this formation every time," but this could be one of the tactics the Ravens implement to pick up some chunk plays.

Mink: Why do I get the feeling that this is a fantasy football question? I'll oblige only because I also have Dobbins on my fantasy team, and also wanted him to get a goal-line carry or two in Indy.

I don't think this has much, or anything, to do with Dobbins. Gus Edwards is a big, powerful back who is rarely stopped for no gain or a loss, so that makes him a good option on the goal line. After he fumbled, I wondered if the Ravens would give Dobbins the nod the next time around. Nope. On the very next drive, Gus the Bus got three straight carries from inside the 2-yard line and plunged into the end zone. To me, that was a nod from the Ravens coaches that they still had faith in Edwards after the fumble.

Dobbins scored a pair of touchdowns in his first NFL game in goal-line situations. He hasn't reached the end zone since. I expect that will change in the not-so-distant future because Dobbins has the power, slipperiness (is that a word?) and speed to score in a variety of ways. The issue for fantasy owners is the same as it has been all year and in all other aspects of the game. Edwards and Mark Ingram II, who will be returning at some point from his ankle injury, are both good at the goal line and everywhere else too.

Downing: This is mystery right now and the Ravens seem intent on keeping it that way. The Ravens have been fairly mum on the expectations for Bryant since signing him to the practice squad two weeks ago, and Harbaugh continued that trend this week by saying, "It's really not something that I think we need to advertise. We'll just see where it goes."

Bryant was elevated to active roster for Sunday's game against the Colts and saw two offensive snaps, but he's technically still on the practice squad at this point (NFL rules for this season allow teams to elevate two practice squad players on gameday). The Ravens can elevate Bryant for gameday one more time before they would need to place him on the 53-man roster. It's unclear if he'll be brought up again for this week's matchup against the Patriots, and that decision will depend on how he continues to practice.

It's clear that the Ravens aren't going to rush Bryant into action. Sunday was his first game since 2017 and that was a good step back for him. The Ravens want to give him time to prove himself in practice and work himself back into football shape, and once that happens, they'll see what he can handle in terms of increased game action.

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