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Mailbag: Why Don't the Ravens Run More?

RB Kenyan Drake
RB Kenyan Drake

Mink: I can hear it now. If Lamar Jackson was throwing less, people would be asking, "Why aren't you letting Lamar throw!?!?"

The wide-angle view here is that it's only natural for Jackson to throw more as his career progresses and he becomes a better passer. As far as year-to-year differences, the Ravens' roster status has dictated this. Last year, Baltimore was forced to ride a collection of veteran running backs and had a hampered offensive line that left the ground game a little lackluster. Thus, the Ravens pivoted to being a more aerial attack.

This season, the Ravens started the year in a somewhat similar situation as J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards rehabbed. I expect that as Baltimore's running back room gets stronger (and the weather colder) the Ravens will tilt into being a little more run-heavy like the 2019 squad. Plus, the offensive line is becoming a real strength of this offense. With Ronnie Stanley back, Tyler Linderbaum growing, etc., Baltimore may lean on the called run game.

Downing: There are multiple layers to this question. First of all, it's inaccurate to say the Ravens haven't invested at wide receiver. They have used two first-round picks on receiver over the last four years – Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman – and they may have gone that route again this year if the top three receivers weren't off the board before the No. 14 pick. Now you can argue that the Ravens should have taken a different receiver in the 2019 draft, but the fact is that they did make a major investment of a first-round pick on Brown. It's also worth pointing out the jury is still out on Bateman, but he has undoubtedly shown top-flight potential this season before his injury.

Now in terms of bringing in top-notch veterans, the Ravens have opted against acquiring star pass catchers like Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill or A.J. Brown. All those players were traded in recent years, but the Ravens would have needed to part ways with first-round picks in those instances and then signed the receivers to expensive long-term extensions. That's a major commitment in both contractual and draft value. Now maybe having a player like Diggs or Hill would transform the offense and take the Ravens to the next level, but they would have to give up a player (or multiple players) in exchange for that pass catcher. For example, the Ravens have to decide if they prefer to have a receiver such as Hill, or if they would rather have Tyler Linderbaum, Calais Campbell, and Marcus Peters. That's a difficult decision to make. And with the Ravens' run-heavy offense that's dominated by premiere tight end Mark Andrews, it's hard to argue that the investment in receiver would be more beneficial than the investment in other areas. This is all a good debate, but it's a nuanced discussion with many layers to the story.

Mink: We're really looking down the road here. Yes, it will become more difficult to compete the higher Jackson's salary goes, but that's just the business. If you want an elite quarterback like Jackson, you're eventually going to have to pay him as such. That means he needs to play like that elite player to lead the team to victories with more inexpensive players around him.

Usually, a player has a lower cap hit on long-term extensions during the first couple of years. For example, Josh Allen had a cap hit of about $10 million last year and $16 million this season. If the Ravens were to build a Jackson extension in a similar way, that would give them another couple years to put more pieces around him.

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