Quarterback Lamar Jackson made headlines Wednesday when he said opposing defenses were calling out the team’s plays at the line of scrimmage.
But even if opposing defenses know what’s coming, they haven’t done a great job defending the run.
Through eight games of the season, the Ravens lead the league in rushing yards per game with 170.1. Four rushers have more than 225 yards on the ground and no qualified rusher has worse than 4.4 yards per attempt. They still run the ball more than they throw it and even with that knowledge opposing defenses haven’t completely shut down the Ravens’ offense.
The Ravens’ offense has flaws, of which there are plenty significant ones to deal with. Jackson hasn’t ascended in the pass game like once hoped over the offseason. No receiver has taken a leap forward into a dominant, ball-demanding role. The offensive line hasn’t stayed healthy, nor has it found the answers after the retirement of Marshal Yanda.
So as the offense looks for answers, the rushing game is the facet of the offense they don’t want to change. But as they look to become more dynamic, the running attack still has questions to answer.
“That’s kind of where it gets interesting, because if you’re not good at anything, you have no tendencies,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday. “So, you really want to work to be good at everything. If you’re in the best possible situation, you can do basic things very well and people still can’t stop you. I think that’s what you’re always striving to do, but that doesn’t always work in the NFL. That doesn’t work all the time, you have to change it up. So, we work hard at changing it up.”
The Ravens will get Mark Ingram, who suffered a high ankle sprain in October, back this Sunday. And as the math changes in the Ravens’ backfield as far as numbers go, so does the calculus on running back touches.
In the two games without Ingram, the Ravens’ rush attempts out of the backfield were as even as could be. Jackson carried the ball 29 times. J.K Dobbins carried the ball 27 times. Gus Edwards carried it 27 times. They gained 265 yards on the ground against the Steelers and 110 against the Colts.
Now as the Ravens head down the stretch and Dobbins gets more comfortable and the passing game looks to get on track, its impact on the run game is something to monitor.
If Jackson is able to get back on-pace to what he expected the season would look like, it’s fair to assume the running game could take a step forward no matter who takes the carries. Multiple Ravens throughout the year have said throughout the year they think the offense is close to a breakout and close to being what they were a year ago.
The plan all year has been to get Dobbins more involved as the year goes on and he could very well see an increase in his role through the last half of the season.
But as long as the Ravens are able to keep the rushing attack on track in the second half, it won’t even matter if opposing defenses know what’s coming.
“Calling out plays on the defense is nothing new,” Roman said. “I can talk about Ed Reed and Ray Lewis; every play, they’re trying to guess what play you’re going to run, based on what they’re seeing. That’s the chess match.”