The Ravens' hiring of Todd Monken early this week has been met with a wave of support from those who played for him, were around his program, or have done their homework. This week has been a Monken education for all of us as we await his introductory press conference on Tuesday.
Among those with two thumbs up is former wide receiver Dez Bryant, who played for Monken at Oklahoma State, former Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, an SEC Network college football analyst and Bulldog alum/fan, and Eric Zeier, a former Ravens and Georgia quarterback who is now a Georgia football color analyst.
The outpouring says something about Monken, and it has shed good insight on what he'll bring to Baltimore. Here's what I've learned, all in 50 words or less:
Zeier said Monken is "as good as anyone in the country" at adapting scheme to his players. That's been evident in every one of his stops. It just so happens that the Ravens' offense currently stands similarly to Georgia's (heavy on tight ends, light on wide receivers), minus quarterback.
Lamar Jackson is one-of-one. There's never been a quarterback who can run like him, so it will be interesting to see how Monken utilizes that threat. It bears mentioning that Stetson Bennett often used his legs effectively, especially around the red zone, where he scored 10 rushing touchdowns last season.
I expect that Jackson will have fewer designed quarterback runs moving forward, but the threat will always be present. Primarily, Monken should help maximize Jackson's premier arm talent. As Watson said, any offensive coordinator must help develop their quarterback and Monken has a track record of doing so.
Under Monken in Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick set career highs in yards per attempt. Monken helped Baker Mayfield throw for a career-high 3,827 passing yards in 2019. At Georgia, he boosted walk-on Bennett into a Heisman finalist. Bennett's accuracy improved every season.
Watson doesn't expect the Ravens' run game to look too similar to how it did last year under Greg Roman, when every offensive lineman was a potential puller. Watson said Monken leans more on duo power scheme run concepts. "I still think the Ravens will be a run-first offense," Watson said.
This hire is good news for Ben Cleveland, who will be a frontrunner for the starting left guard job if Ben Powers departs as expected in free agency. Cleveland was on Monken's starting offensive line in 2020 at Georgia. Familiarity with Monken's schemes gives Cleveland a leg up.
The Ravens' tight ends and strong running game set Monken up for an offense that could maintain a familiar identity. But that doesn't mean Baltimore won't still look to make major advancements at wide receiver to give Monken and Jackson more weapons for the deep passing game.
Monken uses the run to tee up shots, particularly play-action, an area where the Ravens struggled last season. "Just because he wants to run the football and find some balance doesn't mean he doesn't have the ability or the mindset to be super aggressive in the pass game," Zeier said.
NFL offense these days is largely about creating advantageous matchups, often with pre-snap motion. The Chiefs' Super Bowl LVII win was case in point. "When you've got tight ends that have the ability to move around in formations and create matchup problems, he's an expert in doing that," Zeier said.
Georgia tight end Brock Bowers put up 942 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last year, leading the Bulldogs. Mark Andrews' numbers dipped after a historic 2021 season. It would not be at all surprising to see those stats rebound in 2023.
An under-the-radar component of Monken's Georgia offense was throwing to the running backs. Kenny McIntosh finished third on the team in receptions and receiving yards last year. J.K. Dobbins seemed primed for that in his second season before his ACL tear. With Dobbins healthy now, maybe that's utilized more.