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John Harbaugh: Ravens' 2019 offense with Lamar Jackson will be a revolution, not an evolution

John Harbaugh: Ravens' 2019 offense with Lamar Jackson will be a revolution, not an evolution

In an era of football where high scoring offenses led by pocket-passing quarterbacks reign supreme, the Baltimore Ravens are taking an old school approach with Lamar Jackson.

With speed like a receiver and the intuition to take matters into his own hands, Jackson's 147 rushing attempts for 695 yards in 2018 set the record for most attempts by a quarterback in a single season since the 1970 merger and earned him the QB1 title.

The question among talking heads, however, is how long a run-heavy style of offense will work in a league where defenders are bigger and stronger than ever.

For the Ravens front office and coaching staff, it's not even a question. The team has begun shaping their offense around Jackson's style, starting with promoting former assistant head coach and tight ends coach Greg Roman to offensive coordinator. 

And for head coach John Harbaugh, going back to this style of offense is simply revolution. 

"I mean, to me it's on us as coaches," Harbaugh said on the Pardon My Take podcast. "Like our job is to make sure that we do everything we can to create this offense that, I would say, that well, the league has never seen before since like 1950. So, like what comes around goes around. It's not evolution, it's revolution. So, there's nothing new. Nothing ever new."

But like in any healthy relationship, Jackson will have to make compromises as well. How much the Ravens are willing to reshape their offense is "like 50/50," according to Harbaugh.

"The other part of it's him, too," Harbaugh added. "The thing I like about Lamar is he's a motivated guy. He knows he's a quarterback and he's not gonna be told that he's not a quarterback. And all the naysayers out there that want to sit here and say, 'dude you're not a quarterback' he's gonna be like, 'we'll see. We'll see about that.' He's a major competitor. He's gonna do everything he can do to be the best quarterback he can be. He's gonna be able to throw the ball just fine. Also, when he takes off running, you know what I mean, you better be ready for that too. So, that's gonna open up the whole offense."

For now, the Ravens won't be consulting Jackson on who they draft in 2019, but adding playmakers like wide receiver D.K. Metcalf out of Ole Miss or N’Keal Harry of Arizona State to develop with Jackson is of importance. 

“We’ve got to add playmakers … guys that can work with Lamar, take some of the burden off of Lamar and make plays in critical situations," general manager Eric DeCosta said last week at the NFL Combine. "That will always be a priority for us, I think, going forward and something we hope to do this year.”

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Reading between the lines on Ravens' 2020 NFL Draft approach

Reading between the lines on Ravens' 2020 NFL Draft approach

Just over two weeks before the NFL draft, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, director of player personnel Joe Hortiz and coach John Harbaugh took part in a video conference with reporters on Monday. 

The trio discussed the Ravens’ offseason plans and roster holes headed into the NFL Draft on April 23. 

The key to navigating “lying season,” though, is to decipher what is and isn’t truthful.

Notably, DeCosta gave a lot of information about the wide receivers on Monday that could give some insight into the Ravens’ draft plans.

“We think there's a lot of really good players,” DeCosta said. “Obviously, the receiver class is prolific by many people's standards, and so there's probably 25 draftable wideouts in this draft.”

While that doesn’t necessarily mean the Ravens will pick a receiver - especially early on - DeCosta said there will be about 185 players on the team’s draft board. That’s certainly a deep pool of wideouts for the Ravens to select throughout the draft. 

If the right opportunity presents itself, the Ravens can jump on a potential trade to make it happen. Or, they can be patient and wait for the wide receivers to come to them. They’ll be guaranteed to have a handful of pass-catchers they like in the middle and later rounds.

“We like our receivers, first and foremost,” DeCosta said. “I think Miles (Boykin) and Marquise (Brown) and Willie (Snead IV) and we brought Chris Moore back, Jaleel (Scott) — we have some guys that we think are going to make another jump. We really like that room. So, do we feel the urgency? We probably feel that with every position.”

Should they feel that urgency to move up and select a first round wide receiver, though, they’ll have the ammunition to do so. They currently have four picks on the second day of the draft, which they could use to go get their desired target.

“This year, we do have a lot of (picks),” DeCosta said. “We have the opportunity to maybe go up and get a guy. Normally, when a guy starts to fall, what you find is other teams are trying to trade for him, too, and they're usually willing to give up more than you're willing to give up.”

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They could also sit back and wait to select one of the top wideouts with one of those four picks in the mid-rounds. 

Should the Ravens stay away from a wide receiver in the first round, there are plenty of directions they could go. One option is offensive line. 

The Ravens’ offensive line is a question mark, as they could be without Matt Skura for the start of the season — which would leave no interior offensive line depth and two starters with a combined seven games of experience at center and right guard. 

That certainly will be a priority for the Ravens in the draft in two weeks.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges, it’s probably job one or two,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to make sure that we do a great job of making sure the interior offensive line is all set. How you do it, you do it the old way. I don’t think we necessarily have to concern ourselves with what the rest of the league is looking for in the offensive line, or any other position really, but just what we’re looking for and the type of player we want.”

If the Ravens are looking for the type of player they want, a bruising offensive lineman who can run block well is likely in the cards. Additionally, they’ll likely look for a player who can be versatile. The team released James Hurst at the outset of free agency, a versatile offensive lineman who could have filled in at tackle or guard. 

Baltimore will certainly try and find his replacement at some point in the draft.

“There are some tackles that we think can play inside, play guard,” DeCosta said. “There are some really good guards, some centers in this draft. I think we’ve shown in the past that we can find guys in the second, third, fourth, fifth rounds, offensive linemen who can come in and play.”

Aside from the offensive line and wide receiver positions, the biggest position of need for the Ravens is linebacker. But while there are a few three-down linebackers available in the first round — namely Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma) and Patrick Queen (LSU) — the Ravens are versatile enough defensively to afford to look for more specialized defenders.

“I think when we look at the board, there's obviously guys who can do all three things — play the run, cover and blitz — but I think when we look at the guys throughout the draft, there are players that can help us in specific roles,” Hortiz said. “There are guys in the mid-rounds that can come in and cover, maybe play the run.”

The Ravens certainly could still add Murray or Queen if either is available, or - if they would like to trade up - make a move to get one of them as well. But the Ravens have options.

“But I think with our versatility and the way [defensive coordinator] ‘Wink’ [Don Martindale] and those guys use guys in their specific roles, it helps us evaluate players that maybe can't do all the things but can do one thing well,” Hortiz continued.

All of this is to say that the Ravens have done a good job through free agency and roster-building already — they haven’t hemmed themselves into a corner. 

But through various non-committal answers, the Ravens gave a brief glimpse into their draft process: the offensive line will be a key priority, they don’t need to select a receiver in the first round unless one falls, they have the ammunition for a trade and, most importantly, they have options. 

“We try to look at each draft and just stay true to the mindset, ‘What can we do to build our best team moving forward?’ Every roster is different," DeCosta explained. "You lose players in free agency, you gain players, guys retire, be that as it may, and you’re just trying to adjust. We’re trying to find the best guys and kind of assess what our strengths and weaknesses might be.”

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NFL analyst thinks Tom Brady would have won 10 Super Bowls in Baltimore

NFL analyst thinks Tom Brady would have won 10 Super Bowls in Baltimore

Tom Brady is, according to just about everyone who evaluates football, the greatest quarterback of all-time.

He's certainly the most successful, having won a record six Super Bowls with the Patriots. Some might argue head coach Bill Belichik played a larger role in New England's dynasty than Brady, but either way, most agree where No. 12 stands in the NFL's all-time pecking order.

According to former Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, however, Brady may have actually been held back by the Patriots of the mid-2000s.

During his appearance on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday, Jeremiah was asked what question he would pose to Brady if guaranteed an honest answer.

"Tom, if you were the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, with their personnel, how many Super Bowls would you have won there?" Jeremiah answered after some consideration. "If he was telling the truth, he’d say 10."

The answer understandably shocked host Dan Patrick, who could only laugh and respond with a single word.

"Really?" he asked.

"I mean, look at the personnel, Dan," Jeremiah said while doubling down. "Compare the personnel of those two teams, outside the quarterback position, for the 2000s decade. I think he would have won 10 Super Bowls."

Again, Patrick had just one word to follow up: "Wow."

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"People might forget about this," Jeremiah continued. "But you’ve got arguably the greatest middle linebacker of all time [Ray Lewis], arguably the greatest free safety of all time [Ed Reed], you’ve got Terrell Suggs who’s probably a Hall of Famer, you’ve got Haloti Ngata who’s a perennial Pro Bowler, you’ve got Chris McAllister, you’ve got a top three left tackle in NFL history in Jonathan Ogden. You’ve got a Hall of Fame tight end [Shannon Sharpe], plus his backup Todd Heap was a perennial Pro Bowler, a 2,000-yard rusher [Jamal Lewis], you don’t think Tom Brady would have won?"

"I think he would have won 10 Super Bowls. I don’t think that’s crazy, he won six with the guys they had in New England!" he said.

Patrick once again told Jeremiah that his mind was blow, and warned him that he might go viral with a take like this.

He was also quick to point out that Jeremiah was working from experience, having been in the Ravens front office during the decade.

"Yeah, we saw we couldn’t beat them," he admitted. "And we’d look at the rosters on paper and go ‘we feel pretty good about everyone but this guy,’ and we couldn’t stop them."

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