How to Overhaul a Mediocre Offense: Ravens Editionby Ryan Potts February 9, 2019 0 comments
Approaching the 2019 offseason, the Baltimore Ravens are in an interesting situation that has gone foreign to them for a few seasons.
On one hand, the 2018 season should be viewed as a success due to Baltimore making their way back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season. On the other hand, certain aspects of the offense and defense need to be overhauled in order to remain a playoff contender into the future.
Considering the defense appears to be one of the most effective in football, most of the improvements can be made on offense. All things considered, the team must be built around quarterback Lamar Jackson and the strong rushing attack that finished the end of the 2018 season as one of the best in the history of modern football.
While Jackson has shortcomings in the passing game, his rushing ability appears to be a major strength moving forward. With the hiring of Greg Roman, Lamar Jackson and the rushing offense should reach its peak. However, the Ravens certainly need some help in skilled positions at running back and wide receiver.
Last season, the Ravens showed a commitment to bolstering the offense, acquiring Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown in free agency. They also selected two receivers in the draft in Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley, along with Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews at tight end. While both tight ends look solid, the rest of the receiving corps needs to make improvements. Considering there’s a chance that Crabtree and Brown may be on their way out this summer, keeping Snead around for his third down proficiency appears very necessary.
While Crabtree and Brown had flashes in the first half of the season, the Ravens still need receivers to fill-in when Jackson is forced to throw the football. Crabtree could easily be replaced in this summer’s draft. Guys like A.J. Brown or D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss could be names to watch for.
But the Ravens will more than likely approach wideouts in free agency. Atop the list of priorities for GM Eric DeCosta should be acquiring a number one running back and a number one wide receiver in order to have a triumvirate with Lamar Jackson to hopefully move into the future and repeat as AFC North champions in 2019.
The Baltimore Ravens have been without a number one running back for quite a few years. This past season, the emergence of un-drafted free agent Gus Edwards and the resurgence of Kenneth Dixon came to fruition. The former Louisiana Tech product Edwards had an effective 2018 season, but there are questions as to whether he or Dixon can be a number one back.
Dixon and Edwards were effective for just about half of the season as both came into the spotlight when Jackson took over in Week 11. The need for number one running back has not been for filled since as far back as Ray Rice in 2012. With Rice, the Ravens had an effective ground game which they could count on week in and week out. However, this offseason allows the Ravens a chance to strike gold with a true number one, as this free agent class is loaded with running back talent.
Tevin Coleman of the Atlanta Falcons looks in a position to leave Atlanta. The former Hoosier is coming off of a tale of two seasons last year. In one half, he was the backup to Devonta Freeman. In the other? He was the feature tailback since Freeman suffered a season-ending injury. Overall, he finished with 4.8 yards-per-carry and four touchdowns. However, he is in a position to potentially leave the Falcons this summer –– especially with the emergence of Ito Smith.
Freeman, who is currently in the midst of a five-year, 41 million dollar deal, is the set number one option in Atlanta, at least for the time being. The presence of a number one back in the Ravens offense could unlock new potential so that the system becomes less important and the actual abilities of the players become paramount.
As with any system with the true number one option, the player can be more impactful than the system. With a true number one back, the Ravens can have increased versatility with backup running backs in callbacks to a Danny Woodhead or a Buck Allen. With increased versatility and an effective third-down back, the number one running back can get rest while also being at their most effective. In 2019, the Ravens could establish the rushing game as a means to a Super Bowl rather than a flash in the pan.
As far as wide receivers are concerned, Tyrell Williams of the Los Angeles Chargers appears to be posturing for a move out of Los Angeles. While Williams is due to turn 26 at the end of February, he’s made it clear that he wants to be the number one option. The Ravens are in a clear position to add a number one wide receiver as they do not have one who has consistently proven they’re capable.
Williams may not get the targets he would in a situation with a pass-heavy system, but he could certainly be the feature wide receiver for the Ravens. With the likely departures of Michael Crabtree and John Brown, both options as a deep threat and red zone receiver are open in Baltimore.
Williams excelled in the deep threat option on limited snaps in Los Angeles due to the immense depth of the Chargers. In Baltimore, Williams would almost certainly be the number one option on first, second, and fourth downs, with Snead as the number one on third downs, and the tight ends intermingle throughout the game.
If Jackson were able to get a number one target like a Tyrell Williams, he could evolve into a much better passer than he currently projects as. Jackson may never be an upper-echelon passer, but a number one receiver option would contribute to the meteoric rise of the former Heisman trophy winner. While Jackson and the rushing offense will almost certainly remain at the forefront of the Ravens, especially in 2019, the arrival of a potential big-time player in Tyrell Williams would be a gigantic boon to the Ravens offense.
As a whole, the Ravens are in a good position moving forward. Despite the presence of the Cleveland Browns in their division, the Ravens are favored to win the AFC North in 2019. The offense, while ineffective against the Chargers outrageous seven defensive backs system in the playoffs, appears to be getting better. However, with eight months to prepare for defenses, it is a question of whether the high flying rushing offense with Jackson, Dixon, and Edwards will be effective in 2019. The Ravens must stay ahead of the curve and work to have the best offense possible in 2019. Over the off-season, Jackson should work endlessly to improve as a passer and as a runner. For the backs and receivers, they must continue to build camaraderie and chemistry with Jackson as number eight will soon be the driving force for the Ravens organization.