Finding a Middle Ground on Expectations Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

Street Talk Finding a Middle Ground on Expectations

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Since the 2018-2019 NFL season ended for the Baltimore Ravens, fans have fervently debated the merits of the team’s starting quarterback, Lamar Jackson. No matter which side of the fence one sits on in regards to the flashy play-making quarterback, one thing is for certain: the Ravens will have to tailor an offense to fit the Louisville product’s strengths.

There have been two schools of thought as pertains to the offense moving forward into this season, both of which are highly debatable. This first school is for the crowd that think Jackson is a mix of Brett Favre, Steve Young, and any other Hall of Fame quarterback they can name. This popped up on Twitter and admittedly, this was only one person stating these claims but boy, was this a doozy.

This isn’t uncommon. There are Jackson superfans that will walk to the ends of the earth to proclaim how great he is and how the entire NFL is in for a treat this upcoming season. This may end up being true, but it is important to head into the season with reasonable expectations. Asking Jackson to toss the rock for over 4,000 yards, and rush for 1,000, all while continuing to work on his passing ability is a bit of a reach.

A reasonable measurement of success will not be scored in completion percentage (within reason, of course) or passing yards. Now, you are reading this thinking “man, this John Langley hack is a moron! How else can you measure the success of a quarterback?!”

Well, the answer is much simpler than many think. Many of the detractors (we will get to that a bit later) will say the Los Angeles Chargers put the blueprint out on how to stop the Ravens offense in the playoffs – get seven defensive backs out there and use speed to combat the speed on the Ravens offense.

The measure of success for Jackson and the Ravens offense will be how effectively they can push the ball down the field. These plays are not high percentage, so I do not expect Jackson to eclipse the 62% completion percentage threshold many want from him. In order to prevent what happened in the playoff game in January, Jackson is going to need the freedom and ability to attempt passes down the field.

Why is this so important? Again, the answer is very simple: this will open up running lanes not just for the running backs, but for Jackson as well. This can be done out of every personnel the offense will employ, from 11 personnel to empty.

Don’t mistake this for me saying the offense is going to pass a lot more than last season. They will pass more, but this is more about mixing it up rather than passing more. Rather than keeping everything short and keeping the completions easier, Greg Roman is going to have to mix up the pass calls from short crossers to deep shots to keep defenses honest. With this mindset, defenses will not be able to stack the box with all their speedy defensive backs and key on the run game.

So to those who think Jackson is all of the sudden going to come out and toss the football for over 4,000 yards, I say keep dreaming. That isn’t going to happen this year. I do, however, expect Jackson to be given more freedom to take shots down the field to loosen up the defense and allow the offense to pound the rock as much as possible.

Now, the detractors are going to take the above as to say Jackson isn’t good, can’t throw, and will make it tough for the offense to move the ball. If the Ravens have to mix things up and prevent defenses from stacking the box, how can anyone possibly have any confidence in Jackson to command this offense?

As stated before, the answer is very simple. First and foremost, the notion that Jackson is a nothing more than a runner is simply absurd. The guy can throw the football, and he can do it down the field when given the opportunity. While I fully expect the offense to revolve around having two tight ends most of the time, this doesn’t mean the offense will be run-heavy with little passing attack.

One thing detractors cannot seem to wrap their heads around is the fact that what fans saw last season is very likely not going to be what they see next season. The change at offensive coordinator was done for a reason, and it was to play to Jackson’s strengths as a quarterback. While many of the concepts will be similar, the likelihood they trot the same offense, same calls, same sequences out there is slim-to-none.

Another popular argument from these flockers is that the Chargers wrote the book on how to stop this offense. Did they, though? Because if you think teams hadn’t thought of stacking the box with defensive backs before that game, think again. That is by far the easiest solution to stopping a speedy offense that the Ravens possess.

Here is the problem: very few teams have the skilled defensive backs to actually put this into the game plan!

The Chargers, Ravens, Patriots and Broncos may be the only AFC teams with the secondary to pull this off. What gets lost in all of this is the fact a defense needs a plethora of defensive backs with the ability to tackle and shed blocks effectively to stack their box and try to stop a fast-paced run offense.

A lot has been thrown out here from both sides of the argument regarding the Ravens offense, but the moral of the story is fairly simple: the Ravens offense is not going to be just like last season and should improve, but it is not going to take some unrealistic leap some fans think it will. Jackson will improve and the offense should run smoother, but it will not eclipse these record-breaking numbers some think it will.

Fans need to settle back and have a reasonable outlook on the upcoming season.

While things will not be exactly the same as last season, don’t expect some huge jump to unreasonable proportions.

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John Langley

About John Langley

John is a former sports editor at Canisius College, and an avid Ravens fan for as long as he can remember. Analyzing draft prospects and overall Ravens-related items is what he does for fun, so he decided to come out of writing retirement and join RSR. More from John Langley

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