Building a new offense takes time, something the Ravens have this offseason.
Head Coach John Harbaugh is taking the same approach with the offense that he took last offseason with the defense, “building from the ground up,” looking at every aspect from a fresh perspective. The Ravens want to incorporate the best system for Lamar Jackson as a young, developing franchise quarterback. A system that will mesh with his running talents, while helping the passing game become more consistent and explosive.
A similar offseason strategy paid dividends for the Ravens’ defense in 2018. Under first-year coordinator Wink Martindale, Baltimore’s defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Now with Greg Roman taking over as offensive coordinator, and David Culley hired Tuesday as Assistant Head Coach/Receivers/Passing Coordinator, Harbaugh views this as the right time for an offensive reboot.
“We’re building the offense from the ground up,” Harbaugh said. “I think you should do this every year, I don’t know that we all do this every year, and I don’t think enough coaches do this every year. But we built the defense from the ground up last year, we’re going to build special teams and we’re going to build the offense from the ground up this year. That’s what’s kind of exciting, and we’ll see what comes of it.”
When Jackson took over as the starting quarterback midseason, there wasn’t time to practice and retool the offense as much as the Ravens would have liked. They still won six of their last seven regular-season games to make the playoffs, and Baltimore had the NFL’s most effective running attack once Jackson became the starter.
However, with an entire offseason to review and refine the offense, the Ravens expect Jackson to be more comfortable with the ball-handling and reads required running the read-option offense. They also plan to add elements to the passing game, possibly more play-action and screens.
The Ravens aren’t buying the theory that opposing defenses will solve the Ravens’ read-option running game featuring Jackson, or that his propensity to run will lead to issues with his durability. If the Ravens’ offense becomes more diverse, perhaps Jackson can avoid running as much as he did this season.
Having Jackson gives the Ravens a weapon most teams don’t have, a quarterback who must be defended as big-play running threat. That’s another playmaker on offense who must be accounted for.
“It’s going to work if we call it at the right time against the right defense and build the right system around it, where we can get to the right play when we want against the right defense,” Harbaugh said. “They can’t stop everything. If you think there’s a defense that’s going to line up and stop Lamar running plays and us executing really well, that’s just not the case. You can’t put 13 guys out there. They have to play their 11 against our 11.”
Harbaugh says the Los Angeles Chargers deserve credit for their playoff victory over the Ravens in January, holding Baltimore three points until the fourth quarter. However, the offense Los Angeles saw in January won’t be the exact same offense the Ravens unveil next season. They plan to spend this offseason making sure that next year’s offense is better.
“The Chargers out-played us that game and out-coached us,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no doubt about it – I said that after the game. They deserve all the credit in the world. We need to do a better job of attacking what they did that day. What they did that day is not going to work next game. But we have to be ready for the next thing that’s coming, just like they have to be ready for the next thing that’s coming.
“The offense that we’re going to put together is going to be very diverse. It’s going to include elements that weren’t in there this year, that maybe we aren’t there with or didn’t get to or hadn’t learned about yet. I do appreciate the fact that we saw something that we hadn’t seen exactly that way personnel-wise. I’d like to play the game over, but you don’t get to do that. We’ll play it again starting next year against somebody.”