The Ravens have added more speed, with the intention of producing big plays and more points.
Despite winning the AFC North last season, the Ravens had just 13 passing plays that gained more than 25 yards. That tied the Chicago Bears for fewest in the NFL.
The Ravens had 49 running plays that gained more than 10 yards. That ranked 13th in the NFL, well behind several other playoff teams like the Philadelphia Eagles (64), Seattle Seahawks (60), Dallas Cowboys (59) and Los Angeles Rams (59).
Once Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback, the Ravens were excellent at running the football and controlling time of possession. But big plays didn’t come often enough, and the Ravens only reached 30 points twice in their 17 games, including the playoffs.
That is something the Ravens intend to change, after drafting wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Miles Boykin and running back Justice Hill. At the NFL Combine, Hill ran the fastest 40-yard time (4.40) among running backs, Boykin (4.42) was ninth fastest among wide receivers, and Brown would have surely been among the Combine’s fastest players if not sidelined by a Lisfranc foot injury.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman did not downplay how much the influx of speed could mean, as the coaching staff continues to redesign the offense. Trying to negate Jackson’s speed already keeps opposing defensive coordinators awake at night. The Ravens believe adding speed at other skill positions gives them a better chance to become more explosive.
“It changes everything,” Roman said. “It changes angles, it changes what we can do. We can kind of hit the defense at every level.”
When breaking down tape of Brown prior to the draft, the Ravens became enamored with his ability to evade tacklers, his acceleration and his open-field vision. Instead of relying on 10-to-15-play drives next season, the Ravens would love to see Brown strike quickly, shortening some of their scoring drives with explosive plays.
“The one thing that really stood out about him, as opposed to some of the other guys, was that when the ball was in his hands, there was always a chance for a touchdown to be scored,” said David Culley, Ravens Assistant Head Coach/Wide Receivers/Pass Coordinator. “He puts you on the defensive right away.”
Hill showed explosiveness in college as well, averaging more than six yards per carry in six of his 10 games last year. In addition to his touches at running back, Hill did enough pass-catching at Oklahoma State (49 career receptions) to show he could be valuable as a third-down back. Ray Rice is the only running back in team history to catch at least 50 passes in a season. But Hill could give Jackson a valuable weapon, a running back who can take a simple throw and turn it into a first down, or more.
“He’s got the athletic skillset and catches the ball well, cleanly,” said Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz. “He’s not a guy who is fighting to catch the ball, so we think he’ll add a dimension in that area as well.”
In 2018, the Ravens’ often relied on their running game and methodical drives to produce points. Next season, the Ravens hope to bring more pizzazz with the power.
“The idea of adding speed with Lamar is just an exciting thing to think about teams having to defend,” Hortiz said. “I know Greg is excited about it and (Head Coach) John [Harbaugh] is excited about it. It’s a chance to really put fear into our opposing defenses.”