Ravens are committed to Lamar Jackson and their style of offense long term
In his first three years in the league, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has a 31-10 record as a starter including the postseason, has guided the team to two division titles, made the playoffs each year, became the second-ever unanimously voted league MVP, and is the first quarterback to record more than one 1,000 yard rushing season.
Despite his numerous accolades and clear and obvious talent as the most electrifying and dynamic athlete in the sport, there are still some that continue to doubt him and his ability to have sustained success at the NFL level.
Prior to their Divisional Round matchup with the Buffalo Bills this past Saturday, news broke that the organization would explore signing Jackson to a lucrative contract extension this offseason.
The Ravens came up short and did not look sharp in a 17-3 defeat, and even before he left the game on the disastrous last play of the third quarter due to a concussion, Jackson wasn’t having his best game.
He had just thrown his first career red-zone interception on the previous drive that was returned for a playoff record-tying 101-yard touchdown and even though his incredible athleticism helped the offense overcome several gaffes to that point, the lack of consistency in the passing game was glaring.
While some members of the media have questioned whether committing to Jackson long term is still the best route for the team to go at the most important position for the foreseeable future and have even mentioned Baltimore as a potential landing spot for DeShaun Watson via trade, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said that they are fully committed to sticking with the reigning league MVP for the long haul.
“Of course. Absolutely we want Lamar to sign a long-term deal and be with us,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “I’m totally certain that’s going to happen. When it happens, that’s the details.”
The actions of the team over the past two years from roster construction to offensive philosophy and scheme support Harbaugh’s unwavering faith in the young signal-caller as the face of the franchise.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman designed an offense with Jackson as the focal point and one that allows him to use his dual threat skill set to their advantage. The Ravens have been the most dominant running team in NFL history over the past two seasons with back to back years of recording and eclipsing 3,000 yards as a team.
General Manager Eric DeCosta has used the draft and free agency to surround him with offensive skill players and blockers that fit their unconventional yet revolutionary identity on the offensive side of the ball.
While the Ravens have been the best rushing offense by a wide margin during Jackson’s first two seasons as the full-time starter, their aerial attack has ranked at or near the bottom during that time.
Even though Baltimore wasn’t a high-volume passing offense during Jackson’s MVP winning campaign in 2019, his 36 passing touchdowns led the NFL, and his 25 from inside the pocket was tops in the league as well.
However, if it wasn’t for their ability to bludgeon their opponents with their punishing rushing attack down the crucial final stretch of the season, they likely would’ve missed out on the playoffs this past year.
The Ravens averaged a league-low 171.2 passing yards per game in 2020 and in the days following their playoff loss to the Bills, pundits and even some of their own pass-catchers have spoke out about their lack of balance on offense.
“Whenever you’re the No. 1 rushing [offense] and the [No. 32] passing [offense], that’s not right. That’s not balanced,” wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. “So, we’ve got to find a way to balance our game. Even with our great rushing attack, we’ve got to be able to throw the ball, we’ve got to be able to move the ball through the air.”
While Harbaugh admits that improvements and strides need to be made, the team will not be abandoning their run-centric formula to appease the fan base or any other critical outside entity that is clamoring for a more pass-happy approach.
“All of our drop-back passes, yeah we’re not going to be as complex as a Pittsburgh or a team that throws the ball 40-50 times a game because we don’t throw the ball as much as they do. I think that just stands to reason,” Harbaugh said.
Instead of undergoing sweeping internal changes that include firing Roman and adopting a more pass-oriented offensive philosophy like some have suggested, the Ravens will continue to improve upon, tweak and add to what they already have.
“We build the passing game around our players and our talent, and around our quarterback, and around our running backs, and around our offensive line, to suit our players to play winning football and score points.”
Considering all the adversity that the team underwent in 2020 from being ravaged by injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, it was impressive and a testament to the resiliency and fortitude of the coaches, players, and executives alike that they were able to make it as far as they did and finished in the top 10 in scoring for a second straight year.