By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens run game is tried and true. Nothing is as consistently good as the Ravens run game. Since Lamar Jackson took over in 2018 it’s arguably been the best ground game the NFL has ever seen.
In 2018 the Ravens rushed for 2,441 yards and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. It’s worth noting that the run game in the Joe Flacco offense was not the same run game as with the Lamar Jackson offense. When Jackson took the job the offensive game plan switched on a dime.
In 2019 the Ravens rushed for 3,296 yards and 21 touchdowns. That was the most rushing yards any team had ever racked up in a single season. They averaged 5.5 yards per rushing attempt. Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram both had over 1,000 yards rushing. The big three (Jackson, Ingram, and Gus Edwards all averaged over five yards per carry).
In 2020 the Ravens rushed for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns. They averaged 5.5 yards per carry for the second season in a row, with J.K. Dobbins picking up six yards an attempt. Jackson had 1,005 rushing yards, making him the only quarterback to ever have two 1,000 yard rushing seasons. Edwards had 723 yards on the ground and Dobbins picked up 805.
No matter what happens in the 2021 season, it’s a safe bet that the run game will be superb. For all the talk about NFL defenses figuring out Jackson and the Ravens, the run game has been stunningly consistent.
The Baltimore Ravens run game is a constant, not a variable:
What’s amazing is that the 2020 season was a lot harder than the 2019 season and the Ravens weren’t far away from their own record. Ronnie Stanley and Nick Boyle went down with injuries and missed a huge chunk of the season. D.J. Fluker and Tyre Phillips were awful on the right side of the offensive line. The 2019 offensive line was mostly non-problematic. The 2020 offensive line was a disaster and they missed Marshal Yanda badly.
The Ravens run game is seemingly impervious to the problems that would sink the ground game of many NFL teams. The passing game was impacted by the injuries and the struggles on the offensive line. The running game didn’t miss much of a beat.
Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva will now form a much stronger right side of the offensive line. Zeitler is a former Pro Bowl guard who fits perfectly in the Ravens’ offense. The Ravens don’t have Marshal Yanda back, though they suddenly have veteran leadership at the right guard position. If the Ravens could rush for nearly 3,000 yards last year, you know they can do it this year.
Better pass game, better run game
As long as Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman are in Baltimore it will stay this way. The ground game may not have reached its peak yet. A stronger passing game is only going to help the Ravens stay dominant running the rock.
The Ravens had the fewest passing attempts in the NFL last year. Everybody knew what was coming, a heavy dose of Baltimore running backs and the fastest quarterback alive. This was almost a singular focus for their opponents every week.
The Ravens’ offense isn’t going to adopt Peyton Manning’s Colts model. The run game will still be front and center. The run game is going to benefit though from more passing attempts and a more balanced offense. If you can’t stop it when you know it’s coming, how do you stop it when the Ravens have you guessing? If utilized correctly, Jackson is more equipped to make you guess than any other quarterback in NFL history.
In 2019, Jackson led the NFL in touchdown passes and had 3,127 passing yards. Jackson had 401 passing attempts in his MVP season. In 2020 Jackson’s passing attempts went down to 376 and his yards dipped under 2,800 as a passer.
Baltimore Ravens bottom line:
The Ravens are always going to tilt their balance more towards the ground game. Still, the difference between 2020 results and 2019 numbers shows you what 25 fewer passing attempts did for the offense.
It’s a presumption that the Ravens are going to get the passing game going to a completely different level in 2021. They have a lot to prove there. With or without a new high-flying passing attack, the ground game is basically unstoppable. The NFL knows what’s coming. They’ve had this whole thing figured out a couple of times, remember? They can’t stop the Ravens’ run game from being historically good.