It can be easy to get caught watching Lamar Jackson be Lamar Jackson – a juking, spinning human highlight-reel.
However, the Ravens know that if they’re going to make the most of Jackson’s unique talents to elude defenders and extend plays, they need to get open for him.
Baker Mayfield and the Browns are one of the best teams in the league in making off-script plays, and it’s a major point of emphasis for Baltimore’s defense entering Sunday’s game.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman talked Thursday about the Ravens’ desire to make more of those kinds of big plays on extended plays as the season progresses.
“It’s like going to a double feature when you’re a kid,” Roman said. “The first movie is good, but we want to make the second movie good, too. Two for the price of one.”
Roman said that roughly 30 percent of touchdown passes in the red zone, league-wide, are made on extended plays.
The Ravens have watched Ben Roethlisberger pull off countless back-breaking completions when things break down over the years. Jackson clearly escapes pressure much differently than Roethlisberger, but the damage he can inflict is just the same.
Baltimore has the No. 1 offense in the league and is hitting a lot of big plays. However, most of those plays have been from the pocket from Jackson. That’s a sign of his development as a passer, but imagine when he starts mixing in more throws off broken plays.
Jackson said he felt he didn’t do a great job of throwing on scramble drills in practice. He said he would tell his coach that he would wait until gameday to make something happen if he needed to get out of the pocket.
“But it starts on the practice field, and we’re going to practice it, try to execute it better, and we’ll be on the same page,” Jackson said. “It starts with me. That’s my fault.”
It takes chemistry between the quarterback and his receivers. The Ravens are still feeling each other out when it comes to knowing when Jackson is about to run or throw when he’s running around in the backfield.
“You have to try not to watch his amazing abilities, but be able to help him create using his amazing abilities,” running back Mark Ingram II said this week.
“You see him kind of break out of some crazy pile of people that you don’t know how he got out of. Then, you don’t know where he’s going, so you’re like, ‘Do I need to get open? Try to give him a place to throw? Do I need to block, because he looks like he’s about to run full-speed down the field?’ We all have to get on the same page, because those scramble plays could be huge for us. That’s a point of emphasis for us.”
Martindale Hopeful More Sacks Are Coming
For as many playmakers as the Browns have, their offensive line may be their Achilles heel. It will go a long way in keeping Cleveland’s offense down if the Ravens can get to Baker Mayfield.
The Ravens’ seven sacks this season rank tied for 16th in the NFL – right in the middle of the pack. However, Baltimore sits atop the league in quarterback hits.
So, can we expect more sacks to come?
“I hope so,” Martindale said. “But like I said, the stat of hitting the quarterback, we’re leading the league in it. So, I do think there will be sacks that come, yes.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh and Martindale were clear that the Ravens need more production from third-year pass rushers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. Neither has a sack yet this season. It’s about making the most of their opportunities to prove that they deserve more.
“They just need to join the party,” Martindale said. “We’re working on the right chemistry, the right looks to get more one-on-ones, which we’ve done.”
Martindale Wants Fewer Snaps for McPhee
A big part of the Ravens’ desire to get more from Bowser and Williams is to put less on Pernell McPhee.
The 30-year-old veteran has been exceptional so far and has two sacks after not notching any last season with the Washington Redskins.
However, McPhee is playing more snaps than the Ravens really want at this time. He saw 56 snaps (82 percent) of the defensive action in Kansas City, compared to 15 and 13 snaps for Williams and Bowser, respectively.
“He’s holding up great, but this is only Game 3,” Martindale said of McPhee. “I want to make sure we get him to 16. I said that today in the meeting. I want him to be effective in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, but especially in that fourth quarter, of what he can do. And we’ve all seen what he can do.”
Rookie Jaylon Ferguson could be part of the answer. He played nine snaps (13 percent) in Kansas City.
“We want to get him playing more,” Martindale said. “For the first game, it was OK. He knows the mistakes that he made. I think he’ll just get better and better the more reps that he gets.”
Ravens Emphasizing Improvement on Two-Point Conversions
The Ravens may or may not go for two a lot against the Browns like they did versus the Chiefs. As Harbaugh said earlier this week, the strategy is game specific.
However, the Ravens know that if they do remain as aggressive, or if the offense wants to be continued to be trusted to do so, they need to improve on their execution.
In Kansas City, Baltimore moved the chains on fourth down three of the four times it went for it, but did not convert on any of its three two-point conversion attempts.
“I think we have to coach better and execute better,” Roman said. “There’s a lot to learn from that, but yes, we have to be ready to execute and win the situation. We spend a lot of time on it, and there’s a lot to learn from that. So, moving forward, we have to be on it. We weren’t happy about those results.”
Whether the Ravens attempt more two-point conversions or not, it’s clear that Baltimore will continue to be aggressive in short-yardage situations in general, including on fourth down. The Ravens won’t play scared, Harbaugh said.
Roman said going for it more on fourth down does affect his play-calling on third down.
“Yes, I definitely think when you know you’ve got four downs, you’re going to call it a little different,” Roman said.
Hayden Hurst Ready If Mark Andrews Is Not
Tight end Mark Andrews missed his second straight day of practice Thursday, putting his status for Sunday’s game in question. Andrews missed practice time each of the past two weeks and still played, but he only sat out one full practice each of those times.
If Andrews can’t play, fellow second-year tight end Hayden Hurst would be the player who would likely step into his role.
“Nothing really changes for me,” Hurst said. “I go out every week and run the stuff the coaches want me to run. I do a lot throughout the week in the pass game.”
Hurst has six catches for 56 yards and a touchdown so far this season. The first-round pick whose rookie season was derailed by a preseason foot injury is still looking for his chance to break out after he fell behind Andrews in the pecking order last year.
“The competitor in me wants to get out there and show what I’ve been doing in practice and doing in camp,” Hurst said.