Quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked before the Bengals game what he saw from their defense on film. He said he saw a lot of single-high safety looks.
But he also said he knew not to put much stock into what he saw from the Bengals in previous weeks, because what he’d likely see on Sunday would be different. And it was.
The Ravens scored 20 points offensively in a 27-3 win over the Bengals, but it was yet another week where they were forced to adjust on the fly to a defensive look they hadn’t seen on film.
“They ran a true college four-three type of a look,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They were playing quarters with the safeties low. They played that in the past, but they hadn’t played it yet this year. So, it was a new defense that we thought we might get, but we didn’t get a chance to rep it out very much, just because they hadn’t done it yet this year. And that happens to us quite a bit. So, that’s something we’ve got to learn to deal with and handle as an offense, because we run a unique scheme.”
The Ravens run one of the league’s most unique offenses with some of the most unique players at the forefront — Jackson being the main focus. It’s only natural to see unique defenses too.
“We never know what we’re going to get each week,” tight end Nick Boyle said. “Each team has their own little wrinkles they want to put in to try to stop us, because we can attack them so many different ways. From what I see, I think a lot of people are loading the box up, doing a little different things to stop our run game, stop our QB-driven game by maybe having lower defenders where they’re supposed to be deep.”
Multiple players have said they’ve seen opposing defenses be more aggressive in moving defenders towards the line of scrimmage to stop the run. At the first sign of a running play, defenders are crashing the line of scrimmage harder than they did a year ago.
“When I watch film, I see guys are actually coming downhill trying to stop the run,” wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown said. “But from my perspective at receiver, I can’t really see that during the play. A couple plays, I’ll ask what happened there, or what happened. [Lamar's] like, we had pressure on this or that. So, it’s our job to adjust, and we watch the film. Each week, we’ve just got to learn from it and get better.”
So far this season, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he’s had to make more in-game adjustments than he did a year ago due to the changing nature of opposing defenses. And it hasn’t been too much of an issue.
The Ravens haven’t hit their stride offensively yet, but they’ve still been above average. They’re eighth in the league with 29.8 points per game. But they rank 31st in passing and, despite all the hoopla surrounding the play-calling and talk of getting away from the run game too quickly, they’re third in the league with 160.8 rushing yards per game.
The offense hasn’t necessarily suffered because of the different looks they face each week, but it’s certainly made game plans much harder to draw up.
“We kind of get into a game and see how teams are playing us,” Roman said. “We’re generally ready for different stuff than we see on tape. But we’re seeing a little bit more of this, a little bit more of that, a little bit less of this, but there’s not a whole lot different we’re seeing. We’re seeing a little bit on how they play certain things, and then we have to be able to make adjustments to account for that as well.
Now that Jackson, and the Ravens’ offense, is a known commodity, defenses won’t overlook the talent or scheme in Baltimore. After all, the Ravens preparing for a new-look defense from opponents each week means they’re doing something right.
“I think even last year, teams were trying to stop our run,” Boyle said. “I just think it’s more of a consistent thing this year. When you really look back at it, though, all the teams, they can do whatever they want. They can load the box up, do whatever they want. At the end of the day, our plays will still work as long as we execute our plays, as long as we do what we need to do.”