By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens offense could be better than ever in the red zone:
The Baltimore Ravens were very successful in the red zone last year. More often than not the Ravens walked away with a touchdown. The Ravens ranked second in red-zone efficiency last season. That’s amazing considering how back in the day Ravens fans joked to just bring Matt Stover out when they were in range, regardless of down and distance. Heck, we’ve made that joke in the Justin Tucker era too.
The Ravens’ offense mostly got the job done in the red zone, so it’s not a major complaint of the 2020 season. The Ravens converted for a touchdown on 67.2 percent of their red-zone trips. What if that number could be even higher though? The Ravens’ offense should be more equipped in the 2021 season.
One thing the Baltimore Ravens added to the roster this season was tough and reliable hands. Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins have a catch radius that was lacking in the offense last season. Tylan Wallace is a rookie with a lot of confidence when it comes to making the contested catch. Jackson can take more shots. Mark Andrews isn’t the only player he can trust to pull in the football.
Jackson’s connection with Andrews is proof that Jackson likes taking a shot when he believes in his receiver. There are numerous examples of Jackson slinging one up high for Andrews. Jackson isn’t afraid of taking shots, it’s just that his one target with an elite catch radius has been mostly facing bracket coverage.
When passing in the red zone, size, and toughness are important. Miles Boykin had the size, but that was about all he brought to the table. Marquise Brown is a play-maker but his size is always going to be a limitation in certain areas.
Baltimore Ravens that could be secret weapons
Nick Boyle went a long time without scoring an NFL touchdown. When Jackson finally got Boyle into the end zone in 2019, he didn’t stop. Boyle started to become a sneaky good threat in the red zone.
He had two touchdowns in 2019 and another two in nine games in 2020. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but he established himself as a legitimate threat inside the 20. It’s on the menu and if it’s there, Jackson is taking it. If Boyle hadn’t gotten injured against the New England Patriots, he could have scored two or three more touchdowns. Boyle being back will be helpful. He’s a player who has gotten better as a receiving option every year.
One expected improvement from the Ravens’ offense is the amount that J.K. Dobbins helps out as a receiving threat out of the backfield. Dobbins becoming a natural weapon for the passing game will help inside the 20-yard line. There aren’t a lot of linebackers that can keep up with Dobbins. This may be a way to create mismatches. If this becomes a strength for the offense, that equals more touchdowns.
One last thing:
Jackson will have more options. He’ll also have more protection as a passer. The interception in the playoff game against the Bills was a monument to Jackson’s frustration. He’ll never say it, but the team around him was not making life easy. Jackson forced a throw. A little more pass protection and it would have been a touchdown.
The Ravens’ offensive line will be better in the 2021 season. Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva will stabilize the right side of the offensive line. Bradley Bozeman is going to give the Ravens a boost at center instead of the left guard spot. Ronnie Stanley being back makes a huge difference. Jackson has more options. He has better pass protection.
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The Ravens have a built-in advantage in the red zone. They average over five yards per carry and their run game doesn’t stop working inside the 20-yard line. In fact, Dobbins appears to have a nose for the goal line. A very efficient offense has the tools to become more efficient where it counts.