By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens offense has to do some heavy lifting against the Detroit Lions. It’s hard to know what to expect from the defense with so many players being out due to Covid-19 on top of their injury concerns. So how can the offense continue to step up to the challenge in the third week of the season? How can the offense give the Ravens as easy of a win as is still possible? Let’s dive into the offense here:
Baltimore Ravens key 1: Run the ball
The Baltimore Ravens have never been shy about running the football. While the Ravens want to keep expanding the passing game their bout with the Lions is the perfect excuse to lean into their ground and pound identity. The Ravens literally can’t run the ball enough in this game- providing they have anywhere near their normal success on the ground. The more the Ravens take the air out of the ball, the more they can run the clock out. The more the offense has the ball, the less their stretched-thin defense can be exposed.
It’s not rocket science and just about every pundit is going to ask the Ravens to lean on their ground game. It’s exactly what you expected me to say and sometimes the obvious idea is obvious for a reason. The Ravens have to find a hot hand in the run game and they need to open rushing lanes up. Ben Cleveland played 32 snaps this season and according to his Pro Football Focus grade did much better in pass protection than in the run game. If the Ravens are going to keep tinkering with their left guard rotation in this game it must be to prioritize success on the ground.
Ty’Son Williams has been exciting for good and bad reasons. He’s made mistakes and his fumble against the Chiefs was a lucky one that didn’t ruin a touchdown run. Williams has looked like the most explosive and effective running back the Ravens have. He hits the point of attack with a full head of steam and when it works it really works. Williams has to clean up the other parts of his game (pass protection, receiving out of the backfield, ball security) because he’s the best running back the Ravens have.
Key 2: No Lamar Jackson turnovers
Lamar Jackson has been great this season. He’s the biggest reason the Ravens beat the Kansas City Chiefs and the only reason the Ravens had a chance in a tough loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. That being said, Jackson needs to do a better job protecting the football. Jackson had two interceptions against the Chiefs and two fumbles against the Raiders. Even if you take the opening pick away from the Chiefs game because Sammy Watkins slipped, Jackson has been a little uncharacteristically unsafe with the football.
Jackson cannot force throws in this game. Against the Chiefs, he threw a pass into triple coverage. He has to show that not only did he understand it was a dumb play, but that he’s not going to have to learn his lesson the tough way again. Jackson needs to be disciplined because when he’s on point he’s the best player on the field.
Key 3: Greg Roman has to have a nuanced game plan:
So we know the Ravens want to run the ball and have long drives that bleed the clock. We know that, so the Detroit Lions know it also. Roman boasted about the number of runs he used against the Chiefs and that he had more. Great. The run game is great. The key is to have nuance to the play-calls. If you’re going to overdo it with the run game you have to have calls that surprise the opponent. Timely play-action passing is important. It’s important to let Jackson make an impact as a passer and to take advantage of a defensive over aggressiveness against the run.
When the Ravens are on offense they need to avoid becoming predictable. They need to keep the passing game involved while keeping the offense on the field. Roman also can’t call the game exclusively to keep the offense on the field for long drives.
When a shot is there, he has to know to go for it. The Ravens game plan isn’t complicated or unpredictable so serving it in a nuanced way will be a big key.