Lamar Jackson is must-see TV, but he’s not the only show in Baltimore’s offense.
The Ravens have received contributions up and down the roster all season, but in Sunday’s 41-7 victory over the Houston Texans, some of them took center stage for the first time.
Wide receiver Seth Roberts caught his first touchdown pass of the year, kicking off the scoring after a slow start for both offenses that left the game scoreless after the first quarter.
Running back Gus Edwards led all rushers with 112 yards and his 63-yard touchdown put the final exclamation point on the Ravens’ blowout win.
Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews, running back Mark Ingram II and wide receiver Marquise Brown have gobbled up the vast majority of the Ravens’ offensive touches and stats so far this season.
But it speaks to just how dangerous Baltimore’s offense is when even more players are stepping up and making plays when their number is called.
“We have a lot of guys that are capable of making a lot of plays, and that's what gives me a lot of confidence going forward,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Roberts had just 10 catches for 115 yards through nine games this season as he entered the Texans game. Signed this offseason to a one-year deal after being released by the Raiders, it’s a big drop-off from his previous four seasons in Oakland.
But Roberts has gone about his business, catching whatever comes his way and being a top-notch blocker on the outside. Some of the credit for Jackson’s mind-boggling runs and the ground game’s overall success should go to Roberts and the receivers. Long runs only happen if wide receivers block.
Jackson recognized what Roberts has meant to the team, and on Friday told fans in a Facebook Q&A that his next mission after getting tight end Nick Boyle his first career touchdown was to get Roberts his first of the 2019 season.
Jackson let Roberts go up and make a play with a 15-yard throw into tight coverage. Roberts rose over cornerback Gareon Conley to make an impressive leaping snag. That touchdown catch kicked off the scoring and got the Ravens offense rolling.
“Very thankful, thankful I got in the box,” Roberts said. “Great that Lamar found me. It feels great to contribute.”
After the game, Jackson told MMQB’s Albert Breer that getting that touchdown for Roberts was his proudest moment of the game.
Roberts calls Jackson “Freaky-L” and said he posted that on Instagram on the night when Jackson was drafted by the Ravens – when Roberts was still playing for the Oakland Raiders. He’s always been a fan of Jackson’s game, and now gets a front-row seat.
Part of why some of the role players like Roberts are quite fine with a less glamorous individual season is because they’re bought-in on Jackson and the Ravens offense. Sitting atop the league in scoring, it’s hard to argue with the results.
“Receivers want to catch the ball,” Harbaugh said. “I grade these guys, and I give Seth a lot of pluses for how he runs routes. He runs some great routes out there and gets open. Sometimes the ball doesn't come his way. That doesn't mean he doesn't run a great route the next time, and that's what he does. And he ran another great route and got a touchdown catch.
“And he's always blocking really hard. This guy is a really good football player, a really, really good football player playing really well, and to see him make the play, you're happy as a coach.”
Edwards has similarly had to swallow a smaller role this season after leading the Ravens in rushing a year ago. As the Ravens’ started down their division-winning 2018 run, Edwards averaged 5.2 yards per carry and posted 718 rushing yards.
Backing up Ingram, Edwards has averaged about seven carries per game, but his yards per carry has actually improved to 5.5 yards – just ahead of Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey for third-best in the NFL. Jackson leads at 6.9 yards per carry.
Edwards has built a reputation as a downhill hammer, and he’s still certainly showing that aspect of his game. The 63-yard touchdown Edwards ripped off against the Texans’ stingy run defense displayed that Edwards has finishing speed too.
“Gus is playing at a really high level. He has a very big role on our team,” Harbaugh said. “He takes it seriously, and he wants to produce, too. He wants to make these big runs and he wants to do all of those things. He’s stepped up to the plate very well every time he’s been out there.”
Edwards gave credit to his offensive line, quarterback Robert Griffin III for reading the defense and handing it off, as well as rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin for his extended block down the sideline. “He made that possible,” Edwards said.
It’s plays like Boykin’s block that further highlight how players on this year’s offense may not all get bloated stats – even on the NFL’s top unit – but they’re all buying in.
Just look at tight end Hayden Hurst. Last year’s top Ravens draft choice was picked ahead of Jackson. Now he’s well behind Andrews in terms of targets in the passing game, and is utilized as a Swiss-Army knife blocker/receiver in the Ravens’ dangerous tight end trio.
But when the ball has come Hurst’s way, he’s made the play time and time again. Hurst has been targeted 24 times this year. He’s caught 20 of them for 192 yards and one touchdown. A pair of tough catches early in Sunday’s win helped the offense avoid punts.
At the end of Sunday’s lopsided win, Harbaugh was asked – yet again – what it feels like when he sees Jackson rip off a mind-boggling run like he did on the 39-yarder. That question stuck with Harbaugh, and he brought it up again Monday.
“I just thought later about it,” Harbaugh said. “It feels the same way as it does when Gus Edwards makes a run or Seth Roberts makes a catch or Josh Bynes makes an interception or Tyus Bowser makes a sack. It feels the exact same way, as a coach, when all those guys do those things.”