Everybody wants to peek behind the curtain at what the Ravens’ reimagined offense will look like.
So Greg Roman was asked Wednesday to sum it up in one, two, or maybe three sentences.
Here’s one word: unpredictable.
“We have a lot of different boxes we can pull things out of,” the Ravens’ first-year offensive coordinator said.
“You’re going to see some elements of things you’ve seen in the past. You’ll see some new stuff, some new stuff that looks like old stuff. We would like to be pretty multiple in the problems we can try to create for a defense.”
At the start of Organized Team Activities, quarterback Lamar Jackson said it was a "totally different offense." On Tuesday, left tackle Ronnie Stanley described it as a "revamped version of what we did last year."
In reality, the Ravens will of course deploy elements that made them highly successful in the second half of last season, when they won six of their final seven regular-season games. Roman will stay true to his roots of attacking opponents on the ground to soften up the defense for an explosive big-play attack.
But there is a lot more going on to make the offense easier to operate for the Ravens' players while still throwing opponents off the scent.
Roman and his staff tore down and rebuilt the Ravens’ offense after a deflating Wild-Card playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that left lingering questions about the scheme’s sustainability.
Baltimore found a ton of success running the ball a lot with quarterback Lamar Jackson and a stable of ball carriers, but struggled when all eyes shifted to Jackson and the ground game was bottled up.
Thus, the Ravens reinvented themselves under the leadership of Roman, who took over the coordinator job from departed Marty Mornhinweg. Roman gave his staff the opportunity to reimagine an offense given Jackson and the rest of the roster’s strengths.
“There are several coaches on our staff that have always wanted to do this. ‘What would I do if I could start from square zero?’” Roman said. “We’ve been granted that opportunity, and we look forward to taking advantage of it.”
They streamlined everything – quicker communication and the ability to play quicker at the line of scrimmage, Roman said. They reimagined their schemes, personnel groupings and plays. They can play fast, they can play slow.
They reached out to coaches outside of Baltimore with expertise. For example, former Navy and Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson – the master of the option offense – came to Ravens OTAs to share some of his thoughts.
Baltimore’s defense went through the same process last year under then first-year coordinator Wink Martindale. The move paid off, as the Ravens’ creative schemes and deception caught offenses by surprise and played a big part in their No. 1 ranking at season’s end.
Can the Ravens’ offense pull off a similar trick this season? Count Baltimore’s defenders as impressed.
“I think the offense is doing a much better job this year of changing things up,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “They’re definitely not a predictable offense. …I’m loving it. It’s a good time in Ravens Town to see the offense moving like that.”
The offense has had some tougher practices, including Wednesday’s session when the defense had a handful of interceptions. That’s not all that surprising for this time of year, and especially because the offense is in the middle of an install.
Roman said he’s “not looking to win the practices.”
“I think it’s been productive and I’m really excited about what this group can become on offense this year,” Roman said.
“It’s kind of like a blank canvas and we get to throw a lot of things on that canvas and test this out. ‘That might not be us,’ or, ‘Wow, that really is us.’ We’re really not competing against our defense as much as we’re competing against ourselves.”
Roman has more tools at his disposal this year than the unit has had in the past. General Manager Eric DeCosta added workhorse, pass-catching running back Mark Ingram and lightning-fast rookie Justice Hill to the backfield stable, then drafted a couple speedy wide receivers in Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Miles Boykin.
The Ravens haven’t seen much of the benefits of that added speed yet because Brown has yet to take the field and Boykin has been slowed by a hamstring injury. And it’s hard to gauge the running game before the pads come on in training camp.
But once all the pieces come together, it should give a more complete picture of the Ravens’ versatility.
One unit that has stood out so far has been the tight ends. After grabbing Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews in last year’s draft, then re-signing Nick Boyle this offseason, that group is a major cog in the offense’s wheels. Roman, who coached the tight ends directly last year, loves to utilize them in creative ways.
“We’re looking forward to deploying all kinds of different personnel groupings,” Roman said. “I think we have the ability to put a lot of tight ends out there on the field, and make it look non-traditional at times, too. I think we can put people in a lot of different places. That’s a lot of fun.”
So what exactly will the offense look like?
“Basically, what we’ve done is, we’re doing some things that Greg has already done previously,” said David Culley, who is in charge of the passing game and wide receivers.
“We’re doing a lot more of two- and three-man concept-ype stuff. That’s a little different than what they’ve done in the past. But other than that, it’s still basic football.”