Ravens OC Greg Roman says offense will “forge a new identity moving forward”
Typically, the Baltimore Ravens are among the foremost teams in the league that religiously preach and whole faithfully live by the “next man up” mantra and embrace the resilient mentality that comes with it wholeheartedly.
However, after losing veteran tight end Nick Boyle to a season-ending knee injury he suffered this past Sunday, Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman acknowledged that their rushing attack and offense as a whole will look vastly different without one of the best blockers at the position in the entire league.
“We’ll kind of forge a new identity moving forward. That’s just how it goes sometimes,” Roman said in a Thursday presser.
“Nick has been a very integral player for us. His understanding and knowledge of the offense and all the adjustments going without saying. His attitude, his toughness, and what he brought every single day really should be emulated. He’s a very valuable player.”
So, what will the Ravens’ offense look like without one of their most integral pieces in both the running and play-action pass game?
Roman believes this most recent injury in what has been a continuously growing list for the Ravens creates a “great opportunity for others to step up” but it remains to be seen who those “others” are and what the offense’s modified identity will be going forward.
To get a glimpse of what that might look like, look no further than the final quarter and a half of last week’s loss to the New England Patriots on the road to after Boyle went down.
Despite the torrential rain that wouldn’t late up, the Ravens still opted to go with a more pass-heavy attack try to comeback from behind.
What was so telling about that small sample size was the fact that the Ravens were only trailing by six points entering the fourth quarter yet opted to pass the ball 13 times and run it 10 times after Boyle went down.
If you count two scrambles by quarterback Lamar Jackson then the ratio is even greater in favor of the passing attack over the run game that was effective at times in the game when they were able to get into a rhythm and didn’t shoot themselves in the foot with drive stalling penalties and momentum-killing errant snaps.
The Ravens passing offense ranks second to last in the league behind only the winless New York Jets but that metric doesn’t tell the entire story because even though their passing game hasn’t lacked constancy since the season opener, they still throw the second-fewest of any team in the league.
While their passing numbers and metrics up to this point in the season have been below pedestrian, they will need to step up and raise their game collectively down the stretch because it appears the offensive approach post-Boyle’s injury will slightly favor the pass in close games where they are trailing or going back in forth with a potent offense.
As far as the aforementioned “others” that Roman was referring to in his previous comments, there are a handful of players that will certainly and could possibly be in store for larger roles in the offense as the Ravens try to find their new identity.
With Boyle being placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week, 2019 Pro Bowler Mark Andrews is the only true tight end left on the roster.
However, the Ravens do have three players on the practice squad at the position that could get called up and play a similar role to Boyle or just back up Andrews who won’t be able to hold up if he has to play close to 100 percent of the offensive snaps.
The trio of tight ends on the practice squad include fourth-year pros Sean Culkin and Xavier Grimble and eight-year veteran Luke Willson who was signed with the team on Tuesday. Head Coach John Harbaugh has liked what he has seen from Willson and left the door open for him to make his Ravens debut this week against the Tennessee Titans.
“We’ve got guys on the practice squad at tight end and other positions that certainly could come up,” Harbaugh said. “I’ll have to see how the week of practice goes. But I really like Luke. He’s a guy that our personnel department knows really well, and of course, we’ve played against him before so we know him a little bit. Good guy, experienced player. So that helps us. It’s good to have a guy who’s been out there before, knows how to play. We’ll just have to see how he fits in with what we’re doing.”
Andrews receiving stats have been down recently, but he has raised his game immensely as a blocker and even had a highlight block on a touchdown run by Jackson against Indianapolis in Week Nine.
He lined in the backfield at times after Boyle went down on Sunday in the same hybrid U-back role and blocked well in the run game.
The Ravens could also opt to spread opposing defenses out more by involving more of their wide receivers in the offensive game plan moving forward.
Veteran Willie Snead has stepped up and played well which will only continue to keep him heavily involved since he has proven to be a dependable pass catcher in addition to being a superb blocker in the run game.
Rookie Devin Duvernay has flashed at times in a multifaceted role and has seen his snap count on offense increase more and more each week so expect more out of him as the season progresses.
Second-year wideout Marquise Hollywood Brown has had a quite last few games but could be the key to unlocking the passing game if he and Jackson can connect on more big plays whether it is deep downfield or getting the ball in his hands more in catch and run situations where he can rack up more YAC (yards after catch) with his blazing speed.
The Ravens also have a stable of four healthy running backs that they will want to utilize now veteran Mark Ingram has recovered from the high ankle sprain that kept him out of the previous two games prior to the loss to the Patriots.
However, it all starts and ends with Jackson who is the focal point of the offense and the engine that makes everything go both in the passing and running games.
He has struggled with consistency, turnovers, and decision-making at times this season following his unanimous MVP winning campaign but if the Ravens are going to forge a new identity on offense, he will be at the center of it.
Jackson will have to raise his game as well which will most likely require him to be more decisive and surgical in the passing game from here on out if the running game can’t take over and dominate like they have grown accustomed to doing.