Ravens John Harbaugh wants to create more problems for defenses in the passing game
Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh told PSL owners in a video conference call last month that the next step for reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson and the offense is to take more advantage of and capitalize on the one on one opportunities that their receivers and tight ends will have in the passing game because opposing teams will be dedicating more defenders to crowd the line of scrimmage to slow down their potent rushing attack.
Members of the media, including myself, took away from that quote that he was eluding to the deep downfield passing game being the key to unlocking the next level for the Ravens offense. However, in a conference call with reporters on Monday, Harbaugh clarified his comments to incorporate more than just the traditional downfield deep passes.
“Well like anything else that was misinterpreted by the headline writers…it wasn’t just deep balls,” Harbaugh said to Bo Smolka of PressBox. “We’re talking about pushing the ball to spots where the defense is not…The idea is to force people to defend certain things and hopefully, they can’t do it in a balanced way and they have to overcommit resources to certain aspects of the game.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman proved to be a master manipulator of exploiting leverage in the ground game to scheme up big plays that helped the Ravens become the most prolific rushing offense in league history that broke the single-season record. Since they ran roughshod over almost everyone they came up against in 2019, teams on their 2020 schedule will be prepared to slow down their rushing attack but could leave themselves vulnerable to getting beat through the air at all levels all over the field if they sell out to stop the run instead of playing a more balanced attack.
There were times last season where the Jackson had plenty of wide-open targets downfield, underneath and at the intermediate level to choose from on his regular drop backs or off play-action because the defense was sold out to stuff the run or was afraid of the electrifying quarterback taking off and making them pay for guessing wrong with his legs.
“That’s the chess game,” Harbaugh said. “A lot of times the way our offense sets up sometimes, those throws will be outside, intermediate, or downfield down the middle or down the sideline. It can be down the sideline with outs and comebacks, deep curls, deep stop routes. It could be deep stop routes over the middle.”
Those are the kind of routes that Harbaugh says that the offense had time to throw and was able to hurt teams with last season when they finished as the top offense in the league in both scoring offensive efficiency.
“That’s an area where we want to really see if we can make people defend those parts of the field even more than they have in the past and just try to create more problems and put them in more conflicts even more than we did last year,” Harbaugh said.
With the return of every starter from last season except recently retired right guard Marshal Yanda, the return to full health of 2019 first-round pick Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, the maturation of his fellow rising sophomore receiver Miles Boykin and the addition of rookie receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche as well as running back J.K. Dobbins, the Ravens’ offense is equipped with all the weapons they need to generate chunk and scoring plays all over the field through the air as well as in the ground.