After the Ravens led the NFL in scoring in 2019 and set the single-season team record for rushing yards, opponents spent a large part of the offseason studying ways to defend Baltimore.
Four games into the 2020 season, the Ravens offense is not yet operating at peak efficiency, despite their 3-1 record. They rank 25th overall in total offense (341.5 yards per game), third overall in rushing (160.8 yards per game), but next-to-last (31st) overall in passing.
In the most important stat, scoring, the Ravens rank seventh (30.5). Still, MVP Lamar Jackson said Wednesday that he's "not happy" with the passing game so far, especially on deep connections.
The cat-and-mouse game remains ongoing between the innovative Ravens offense and the sophisticated defenses trying to stop it. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was prepared to combat any defensive strategy this season, but through four games, he says the Ravens haven't seen a ton of different looks that they didn't see last year, but there has been more in-game adjusting this season than last.
"We didn't really know what to expect," Roman said. "We kind of get into a game and see how teams are playing us. We're generally ready for different stuff than we see on tape.
"I think there's not a whole lot different we're seeing. We're seeing a little bit on how they play certain things. We've got to be able to make adjustments to account for that. There's been some plays that I've called, looking back on, I'm going to tweak moving forward if we see certain things. Try to make them a little bit better for the adjustment they're making. I think that's definitely part of the process this season. We knew it would be, quite frankly. That's a week-to-week thing. There's definitely some things that people are doing slightly different that we've got to adjust to as coaches."
The Ravens hoped to produce more long passing plays this season, but Jackson and Marquise Brown have barely missed connecting on several deep ball opportunities. Roman believes more of those plays will be made moving forward, and that Baltimore's offense will eventually become more consistent through the air.
"We've got to start hitting on some of our downfield throws," Roman said. "When you run the ball a lot, you definitely need to be able to attack the intermediate and downfield parts of the field. Guys are working hard. We've hit all those passes before, we'll hit them again. We just have to get into a rhythm."
Roman Likes Spreading Touches Among Multiple Backs
Who's carrying the football for the Ravens remains a hot topic, with Mark Ingram II (34 carries), Gus Edwards (27 carries) and rookie J.K. Dobbins (15 carries) sharing the workload through four games. Edwards led the running backs with nine carries Sunday in Washington.
That might make it tough for fantasy football players to figure out who to start. However, Roman lives in the real world, and he believes the Ravens' running back depth is a blessing that should be utilized.
"I think it will be different every week," Roman said. "There could be a different focus as the season progresses, how guys are dealing from week to week. How their bodies are doing. How everybody matches up with the other team. We've got some flexibility there, and I think we're prepared to use it."
With Jackson also averaging 6.0 yards per carry and leading the team in rushing (235 yards), the Ravens remain a team with multiple players who can make big plays on the ground. For Roman, that's not a problem, it's a plus.
Ravens Are Not Sleeping on A.J. Green
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is hearing his share of criticism after a slow start at age 32. With 14 catches, 119 yards and no touchdowns through four games, some are questioning how much Green has left.
However, those questions are not coming from the Ravens, a team he has hurt badly over the years. In 11 career games against Baltimore, Green has 53 catches for 886 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 80.5 yards per game. During a 2018 game against Baltimore, Green scored three touchdowns before halftime.
The Ravens only know one way to treat Green – with the utmost respect.
"We know A.J. Green," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. "He's A.J. Green. He's going to come running out of that tunnel ready play and we've got to be ready to play. He's a force to be reckoned with."
Green is part of a hot offense featuring running back Joe Mixon, who ran for 151 yards and three touchdowns in Week 4, and quarterback Joe Burrow, the first rookie to pass for overall 300 yards in three consecutive games.
"He's the first pick in the draft and he's playing that way," Martindale said. "He's making all the right reads, you can tell he's coached well. He's doing a nice job of running that offense and he's got a lot of talent to work with."
Pernell McPhee Calls Patrick Queen the 'Future of the Defense'
First-round pick Patrick Queen has received plenty of props for his career-high 12-tackle performance in Week 4 against Washington. He was all over the field and made an impressive goal line stop to keep Peyton Barber out of the end zone. Veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee believes Queen is headed for stardom.
"I think he's the future of the defense," McPhee said. "I get very excited when I get a chance not only to watch him in person, but to watch him on film to see how good his instincts are. (General Manager) Eric (DeCosta) made a great decision when they drafted him."
McPhee has been a mentor to second-year outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, who got his first sack against Washington. Now that Ferguson's in the sack column, McPhee is expecting more.
"It was great. I hope he has many more to come," McPhee said. "Credit to our DB's (defensive backs). As long as they stay healthy and keep covering the way they're covering, Jaylon's going to have a big season and a lot more young guys are going to have a big season."