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Should Baltimore Fans be Worried About the New Offense?

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The big news out of Baltimore’s OTAs is the implementation of a brand-new offense. 

Jamison Hensley of ESPN characterized quarterback Lamar Jackson’s performance as “off” for the first day. Even Jackson was critical of his own performance, saying he “sucked” in Hensley’s initial report. While Jackson improved over the next few days, the new style offense caused fans some alarm.

Naturally, Ravens Nation felt a tinge of doubt with the sophomore quarterback being asked to learn an entirely new offense. As a rookie, Jackson excelled in the Ravens’ run-heavy scheme. He racked up rushing yards at a rate which the NFL had not seen since the days of leather helmets. With a new, more balanced offense, is it time to question Jackson and his abilities?

The simple answer is no. Jackson succeeded in a pro-style offense at Louisville under Bobby Petrino. Jackson proved in high school and in college that he dramatically improves entering his second year; his NFL tenure should be no different from his capabilities at Louisville. 

The most nuanced answer is yes. While Jackson was incredibly effective at breaking down defenses with his legs, he has to make massive strides as a passer for Baltimore to remain competitive in 2019. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is taking a monumental risk in the Ravens offense. On the most basic level, Roman removed the high floor and low ceiling combination from the 2018 offense. Under that offense, the Ravens’ baseline effectiveness rivaled most of the NFL. However, the offense lacked the electricity as shown in Kansas City and Los Angeles’s offenses late in the season; those offenses succeeded into the postseason. As brilliant as the Baltimore rushing attack was at times, there was a tangible limit to how effective it could be without Jackson being a phenomenal thrower.

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The 2019 offense resembles a high-risk, high-reward for Roman and company. While the offense could falter if Jackson does not make the necessary strides, an improved Jackson with ample pass catchers could propel to their best-ever offensive season. The new offense removes the middle ground of perpetual effectiveness and replaces it with a coin flip.

In the draft, the Ravens attacked the need for speed on the offense. With Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and Justice Hill, the Ravens addressed speed in a big way. While Hill will not feature, especially in the presence of a running back by committee with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Kenneth Dixon, he can be a highly effective scat back in the Ravens offense if he is used in such a manner. Hill’s speed can be utilized on the edge and in the short passing game while the speed of Brown and Boykin should open up the field for underneath targets. Slot receiver Willie Snead and tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst should all benefit from this system. 

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On the surface, a new offense could spell disaster for Baltimore. On the other hand, the payoff could be massive based on the new personnel donning Ravens uniforms.

There are valid concerns based on Jackson’s accuracy and consistency as a passer, or lack thereof, but the Ravens should be more exciting to watch in 2019. As a worst case scenario, the Ravens do know that the run-heavy system worked wonders in the final seven games of the 2018 season, so there is an effective contingency plan just in case of emergency.

Hopefully, with the guidance of Robert Griffin III, Jackson will continue to progress and develop as a passer. He holds the key to the Ravens being an elite offense in the 2019 season. Roman and head coach John Harbaugh are asking a lot of Jackson in the off-season, but if it pays off, February football will feature the purple and black brigade.

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