The Ravens 2019 offense was unlike anything we had ever seen. It produced more yards through the ground in NFL history while also being the most efficient passing offense in terms of EPA per play. However, the offense came to a screeching halt in the playoffs, where the Titans installed a game plan focused around containing league MVP Lamar Jackson, which worked to perfection as the 9-7 underdogs took down the 14-2 Ravens, who had the best record in all of football in 2019. It’s no secret that to run a successful offense over an extended period of time in the NFL, you need to innovate and counter adjustments made by opponent defenses. With the Ravens run heavy scheme, many analysts around the league that they had been figured out by the Titans and that other defensive coordinators would follow suit. Jackson’s personal QB coach Joshua Harris, told Bleacher Report in an interview that Lamar Jackson told him “They’re preparing for me, but I’m preparing more for them. I’m going to keep a chip on my shoulder.” Jackson isn’t the only one that has prepared for a bit of an offensive shift in 2020, as GM Eric DeCosta’s team building and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have designed an offense to counter defensive adjustments.
Prior to the NFL draft, DeCosta traded tight end Hayden Hurst and a 4th round pick to the Atlanta Falcons in return for a 2nd round pick and a 5th round pick in the 2020 draft. The Ravens selected Ohio State RB JK Dobbins to add explosiveness and have a potential superstar running back long term. This left the Ravens with just two tight ends, Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. The Ravens also looked to improve in the receiving core, with potential breakouts from Marquise Brown, Willie Snead and Miles Boykin; and through the addition of Devin Duvernay as a run after catch slot presence. It was evident that heading into the season, that the Ravens, who used more tight ends than anyone in the league, planned to shit to a more traditional set of personnel with more receivers in 2020.
3 Ravens tight ends saw over 40% of snaps in 2019, which was the same amount of receivers that did. Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin are seeing significantly more snaps per game, and the Ravens lost a big role in the TE group with the Hayden Hurst departure. Tight end usage in the offense decreased from 13.84% to 20.64%, while receiver usage jumped from 19.73% to 20.64%. Another thing to note is that defenses are giving much more attention towards Mark Andrews in order to decrease his effectiveness, and without Hayden Hurst, the Ravens lack some of the vertical explosiveness that they got from the tight end position in 2019. To adjust, the Ravens have begun to lean on the receivers more. Marquise Brown is emerging as one of the leagues best deep threats, and keeps defenses honest with his threat to score on every play. Willie Snead and Miles Boykin are starting to receive very little attention, and as a result have been able to be schemed open in Greg Romans new offense and have contributed to the evolution of the passing game, which requires Lamar Jackson to sit in the pocket and go through progressions more and get the ball out of his hands quickly on blitzes. The Ravens have also managed to get Devin Duvernay involved a little bit as a threat on screen passes and as another headache for defenses to worry about. Roman said that Duvernay has earned more reps in games and I expect his role to only grow in this offense.
There are still many elements from the pistol read option offense that was so dominant in 2019, and even if there is a counter for it that teams are implementing, Lamar Jackson’s elusiveness still makes it incredibly dangerous. But now with Lamar Jacksons growth as a pure quarterback from the pocket, and the Ravens increased usage in wide receivers and advanced passing concepts, the Ravens offense looks to be as scary as ever in 2020.