By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have been absolutely rocked by the bad news machine that is the injury bug. Gus Edwards isn’t available for the purple and black this year. What does that mean for the offense? It means they have to move on in a hurry. The Ravens take on the Las Vegas Raiders in three days (Not counting today). What are the keys for a Gus Edwards-less offense against the Raiders? Let’s dig into that.
1. See what you can get out of Ty’Son Williams
Whether you like it or not, Ty’Son Williams has basically become the top back in Baltimore. He’s an undrafted free agent and this is going to be his first regular-season action. The Ravens got a strong performance from him in the preseason, though the regular season is a whole different animal. Can Williams really be RB1? The Ravens need to find the answer to that in week 1.
The Ravens have always prioritized experience and Williams is basically a rookie. The thing is he’s the readiest to rock and roll for this offense. Le’Veon Bell just got signed to the practice squad. Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman got into town after he did. Willams is the back who’s been here and is the most familiar with the offense despite his lack of experience in games that count.
There’s nothing the Ravens could get in the Raiders game that would make Baltimore more confident than a 100-yard performance from Williams. That doesn’t have to be the bar, and it’s important to note the other backs the Ravens have active will factor into it. Still, the more the Ravens get out of Williams the better off the offense is. If Williams can be a solid starter, the situation isn’t dire for the run game.
2. The Ravens have to stick to what they know:
The Ravens’ experience at training camp can only be described as chaotic. With players dropping like Watermelons in a game of Fruit Ninja, the Ravens have to stick to what they know. KISS is a great acronym, Keep It Simple Stupid. The Ravens don’t need to show off an evolution of the passing game. They don’t need to get new players involved. Let Lamar Jackson cook in his comfort zone and get Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown heavily involved.
People forget how much of the heavy lifting Jackson has always done for this offense. In 2019, the receiving group was filled with players like Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Seth Roberts, and Chris Moore. Jackson led the NFL in touchdown passes. In 2020, the offensive line was a trainwreck. Jackson getting the Ravens to 11 wins with help needed upfront and a clearly un-elite group of wideouts has to show you something. The Ravens need to run this offense as if Edwards didn’t go down. They have to stay the course and not try to act like something they’re not. Jackson will always amaze, it’s what he does.
The Ravens needed to pass the football more one way or the other. That was probably already in the works for this game. It may sound like a dumb thing to say, but the game plan didn’t change that much after Edwards went down. The cast and crew can change, but the next iteration of Jackson x Roman is upon us. The Ravens can focus on growing in the passing game this season. They can expand the main cast of targets this season. For week one, let Jackson do his thing. Expect tons of Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown.
3. Keep the Raiders honest but simplify things in the backfield:
Jackson doesn’t have his established running backs in this game. The Ravens love to run zone-reads. They love to do the whole run-pass-option thing. The Ravens need to stay true to themselves, but understand that there is no chemistry between Jackson and the running backs at this point. Even in the preseason, Jackson really only got to work with J.K. Dobbins. Miscommunication in the backfield, especially on zone reads can cause turnovers that should never happen.
If I’m Greg Roman, I’m not expecting the running backs to get this offense perfectly. That standard can’t even go to Williams because he has a lot on his plate. Minimize the risk in week one with the mesh point in the backfield. The who has the ball game creates hesitation in the defense, but it has to be done right. A dumb turnover isn’t what anybody ordered. This is surely something to keep in mind.
These are the key things that the Ravens have to think about heading into this game. This really is a game to keep it simple. If Baltimore gives an authentic Ravens performance, they can show that they have more going for them than these injuries allow you to realize. Go get it, Action Jackson!