OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens spent all offseason hoping no one knew about their offense.
It took just one game for the secret to get out.
After a 59-10 drubbing of the Dolphins, where multiple team and individual records were set, the NFL has taken notice. Lamar Jackson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week and had his MVP odds skyrocket from 50-1 to 18-1.
There’s been national attention cast upon the Ravens, something didn’t seem likely this early just a few weeks ago. Now, they’ll try for an encore performance against the Cardinals.
“You make your biggest improvement, generally, we always say, between the first and second anything,” coach John Harbaugh said. “In this case, between the first and second game, we expect to make our biggest improvement that way, operationally. We’ll really strive for that and work hard for that this week.”
The biggest adjustment the Ravens can expect to make, though, is in how defenses adjust to their offense.
Miami was worried about Jackson’s speed as a runner, which led to dropbacks with little to no pressure on Jackson. With his newfound time, he tore the Miami secondary apart.
Jackson finished 17-of-20 for 324 yards with five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating. The five touchdowns tied a team record and his perfect passer rating was the first in Ravens history.
Now, the evolving nature of the Ravens offense will be about how defenses will attack Jackson. It likely won’t involve letting him throw over the top anymore.
“They’ll (the Cardinals) probably leave one or two safeties back more often than the Dolphins did, now that they’ve seen that Lamar can hurt you when you do that,” Harbaugh said.
Jackson, who only rushed for six yards on three carries last Sunday, still has the ability to burn teams with his legs or with his arm. It’s in that dilemma that the Ravens can exploit other teams.
“It’s a pick your poison type of thing,” tight end Mark Andrew said. “What he’s able to do with his feet, his arm, he’s a complete quarterback. It’s tough on defenses to pick. You want to put guys deep, he’s going to make you pay with his feet. You play man like last week, he’s going to make you pay with his arm.”
Andrews caught all eight of his targets for 108 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. He was one of two receivers (the other was Marquise Brown) that had more than 100 yards receiving and one of five different receivers that caught a touchdown pass.
For an offense with a lot of questions entering the season, the Ravens did their best to answer everything they could.
“We’ve said it all along, that we weren’t showing anything and this offense was different was most anything that’s run in the NFL right now,” Andrews said. “I think it was a little bit of validation. We’ve got a long way to go, we’re not there yet, but we’ve got a lot of great stuff in. We’re going to continue to put that in and show that week-to-week.”
With growing attention on the offense and its quarterback, there will only be mounting pressure and questions.
In just a week, the Ravens offense went from a mystery to an offense led by an early MVP candidate. Jackson said he tries not to focus on that, though.
“I don’t really listen to stuff like that,” he said. “Just a week prior to that, they were just saying ‘running back.’”
But with an offense that now has the attention of everyone in the NFL, the questions will only multiply. And for now, the big question is not what the Ravens offense can be, but what it can do for an encore.
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