With every Lamar Jackson spin through a defense, every Mark Ingram carry for 20-plus yards, and every Mark Andrews touchdown reception this year, the Ravens offense has slowly become the talk of the NFL.
They’re led by an MVP-candidate at quarterback, a tantalizing group of skill position players and an offensive line that’s been as consistent as any in the NFL.
But behind the scenes, there’s Greg Roman, the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, the one pulling the strings behind the NFL’s most lethal offense. And he might be the Ravens’ most valuable weapon.
“He’s got the biggest playbook I’ve ever seen,” Marshal Yanda said. “We do a ton of stuff, keep defenses on edge every single week. He’s going to throw new wrinkles at them, keep them honest and that’s what you’ve got to do. Defenses are too good to where if you’re too predictable or too vanilla, they’re going to take advantage of that.”
Yanda is apart of Baltimore’s offensive line that, through the first 10 games of the season, is on pace to break some significant NFL rushing records.
The Ravens currently average 203.1 yards rushing per game, first in the NFL. They’re on-pace to be the only team since the creation of the 16-game regular season to rush for 200 yards per game.
Baltimore, if the season were to end today, would end at a 5.65 yards-per-rush clip. That would tie the record for second all-time, the best rate since the 1963 Cleveland Browns.
And for Roman, that’s what he’s done his entire career.
“It’s unique how he does it, but he does it based around the players that we have – quarterback, offensive line, tight ends, all of our guys,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He does a great job with that, according to what he thinks he’s going to see on defense. There are so many factors to it, it’s hard to even just sit here and list it all, because it’s not ever going to be one thing.”
In previous stops, Roman’s offenses, and in particular his rushing offenses, have been among the league’s best.
With the 49ers from 2011-2014 and the Bills from 2015-2016, his offenses have always shared the same characteristic. From 2011 through 2015 (Roman was fired in Sept. 2016), his rush offenses have ranked: eighth, fourth, third, fourth and first.
“When he was in San Fran, they were lethal,” Willie Snead IV said. “His creativity in the run and just to keep teams off-balance to respect both run and pass. Our run scheme is so unique, he takes a lot of time and effort to put that together. He’s a genius when it comes to that.”
This year, the Ravens’ offense has been the NFL’s most dangerous offense, led by one of the most dangerous players in the sport at quarterback.
They rank first in points (34.1), second in total yards (428.6), third in yards per play (6.4), first in third-down conversion (49 percent), first in TOP (34:36).
On the ground, Baltimore has the most rushing touchdowns (16), is first in runs more than 20 yards (15) and tied for first in runs over 40 yards (five).
The reason for the success is simply that the Ravens have built around what Roman has available to him, which is a quarterback that can beat opponents with his legs.
“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Always be a first-rate version of yourself, rather than a second-rate version of somebody else,’” Roman said. “So, I think we just went to work and really tried to figure out who we were. We just kind of stay in our lane and do our thing, and that’s what we’re focused on — improvement, trying to get better — and we recognize the challenge we have.”
Jackson, the NFL’s best rushing quarterback, is currently on-pace to break the single-season rushing record for a quarterback previously set by Michael Vick. Jackson is on pace for just under 1,250 yards on the ground. In Roman's scheme, Jackson has flourished.
“I think what he’s (Roman) done such a great job of, is he’s adjusted the scheme to fit the personnel and to maximize guys’ opportunities to make plays and do what they do best,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “That’s a sign of a great coach.”
And when defenses prepare for the run, the Ravens have burned opponents over-the-top with deep shots to Marquise Brown, Andrews, or even runs from Jackson or Ingram.
“We have a physical team, a team that is explosive and has playmakers all around,” Ingram said. “G-Ro does a great job of getting all the playmakers in position to make plays, scheming up plays, scheming up the same plays in different ways.”
The Ravens’ offense isn’t one of passivity, either, despite the rushing-nature of the offense — they average the most rushing attempts per game of any team in the NFL.
“I think he’s aggressive,” Miles Boykin said. “If he sees something, he’s going after it. We’re not one of those teams that’s going to sit back and just wait and wait. We go out there and we take a shot when we can.”
But perhaps the biggest issue with defending the Ravens’ offense is how versatile Roman can make his scheme.
It’s been difficult to stop Jackson in space, or Brown’s speed down the field, yes, but it’s Roman who has orchestrated the NFL’s most dominant offense through the first 10 games of the season.
“It just puts a stress on the defense, they have to prepare for multiple looks, multiple schemes, multiple ways we can attack you out of different formations, out of different personnel groups,” Ingram said. “I think just the variety and being able to switch up our looks, it makes it strenuous for a defense to prepare for.”
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