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Rushing Attack Claws at Bengals

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The Coordinators is a two-part weekly recap of the Ravens offensive scheme brought to you through a collaborative effort by:





Welcome back to Week 6 of The Coordinators, where we’ll take a look at the rushing attack from the Ravens’ 23-17 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Before we jump into it, The Coordinators wanted to take an opportunity to thank our loyal readers. We’ve received a lot of messages of support for the series and we’re happy that you’re enjoying it!

Run-Pass Splits


The play calling from Sunday was perfectly balanced, like all things should be. Okay, enough of the Thanos quotes.

One thing to note is that Lamar Jackson was credited with 33 pass attempts, but one of those was a spiked ball when the Ravens stopped the clock at the end of the first half.

So really we should be looking at 32 pass attempts, which knocks the called pass plays down to 36, but nonetheless, it’s still a balanced approach for the Ravens.

Many thought the Ravens didn’t run the ball enough given that the Bengals featured the 31st overall rush defense in the NFL. I have to respectfully disagree. I thought the play calling was good. Most notably, they were using the run game to set up play action and it worked well.

The only time the Ravens went pass heavy was in the second quarter when they had 12 dropbacks + one spike to four runs, but seven out of 12 came with 2:18 or less left as the Ravens pushed for points before the half.

The 4th quarter was spent mostly running out the clock (12 runs to five drop backs).

Running with the Ravens

A week after the Ravens were held to under 5 yards per carry for the first time this season, the rushing attack bounced back with 6.26 yards per carry.

The rushing attack really was the Lamar Jackson show, as the QB accounted for over half of the rushing yardage. He routinely showed an outstanding ability to find a rushing lane, including this beauty where he actually looks back at the defensive lineman before going for a scramble.

That may not be impressive to many, but it shows strong awareness to know a defender isn’t in front of you. It highlights how the game slows down for Lamar when he’s using his legs.

I decided to track the number of rushing attempts where Lamar took contact. On 19 rushing attempts, he took contact on 11 of them.

This is the hot topic when it comes to Jackson. No one wants to see him get hurt, but one thing you have to factor in is that he does do a good job of positioning himself to lessen the impact when he does take contact.

Still though, 11 hits on 19 rush attempts is more than I want to see. Last week Lamar did a better job of getting out of bounds or down. Plays like this are what Ravens fans enjoy seeing:

A 3rd and long where Lamar uses his vision to find a running lane, gets the first down and avoids contact all in the process is pretty picture perfect.

Some Ravens fans will be left feeling like Lamar ran the ball too often. I understand where you’re coming from, but in the read option game you have to understand that if the defense keys in on Mark Ingram (which they did) than Lamar has to pull it and run (which he did). So while we all want to see fewer hits, there is an acknowledgement that pulling the ball was often the correct read given how much attention Ingram received from the Bengals defenders.

The other takeaway from the rushing numbers is the rise of carries for Justice Hill. I don’t think you can call a 31-yard game a breakout game, but I will call it a rising performance.

I’ve been calling for the committee approach all year, but Hill didn’t really stand out until Sunday.

With both Hill and Edwards averaging over five yards per carry, and Ingram giving strong reps, the possibility of a committee rises and that’s nothing but good news for Ravens fans. We’ll get into the usage more in the play type section, but the complementary skillsets are what make this possibility so exciting.

Running Game by Direction

One of the real standouts since doing this project and breaking down the run direction has been noticing how effective running to the left has been this year.

When you’re not pigeonholed into running behind your right side all game it makes the defense’s job that much more difficult. Factor in that the Ravens have the dual threat with Lamar and I can only imagine the headache defenders have trying to defend this rushing attack.

In fact, on the 25-yard gain by Gus Edwards, you can see the LBs shift to Jackson’s side as they were taking him into account. This opens the whole left side for Edwards to exploit. He beats one tackle from the EDGE and he’s off.

What stood out in the left side runs is that runs around the left end were wildly effective. Of the 16 carries for 122 yards to the left side, nine of them went for 93 yards went through the left end hole.

Of those carries, five were zone reads with Lamar carrying the ball. However, the toss sweep to that side worked well with Ronnie Stanley making a highlight block on the nine-yard carry by Justice Hill:

Stanley’s ability to develop as a run blocker has been huge for the Ravens.

Of course, in addition to the success on the left side, the Ravens ran well to the right. The main gap that the Ravens ran at to the right side was behind Orlando Brown Jr (10 carries for 47 yards).

Running Game by Run Type

I just wanted to take a second to acknowledge Michael Crawford, who leads our run charting. His understanding of diagnosing a run play is fundamental to the success of this series, and it could not be done without him.

The read option, for the 3rd week in a row, was the vehicle for success in the rushing attack with a 9.6 average on 10 carries and Lamar’s beauty of a touchdown on the Ravens opening drive.

From there, Roman used his standard approach of mixing inside zone and power. The powers weren’t overly effective, but they did score on the Ingram touchdown with a power right.

Bradley Bozeman made the crucial block to seal the gap and give Ingram space. Ingram turned around and handed the ball to Bozeman for his efforts so that he could have the celebratory spike.

On another power right later in the game, Bozeman again showed off his pulling ability to make the crucial block on a 12-yard scamper by Ingram:

Bozeman’s pulls stood out to me at least, and in a game where he took some heat because of his penalties, it’s always nice to acknowledge something he’s doing very well.

We highlighted one of Justice Hill’s sweeps above, but it was interesting to see them run four total sweeps with three of them going to Hill. As mentioned, this is the skillset he brings to the table. Not to say Ingram and Edwards can’t run sweeps, but getting Hill out in space allows him to use his quickness and vision which are both strengths. Here’s another beauty:

Awesome formation too, that I don’t think Ravens fans have seen yet. Also worth noting the highlight block Matt Skura makes out in space.

One more for Hill, once again showing his ability to get outside:

Alright, that’s enough of me fan-boying over Justice Hill. All of this to say, he can carve out a role, which just adds more speed to the offense and another big play element. His ability to catch the ball only adds to the number of reads the defense have to make.

Moving Forward

Well, I’m not taking this game lightly:

It is a massive game against the Ravens of the NFC. What I mean by that is that the Seahawks offense is primarily best accomplished by using their run game as a catalyst and controlling the clock. It’s going to be fascinating to see two similarly-styled teams square off in a league that is so focused on the passing game now.

The Seahawks have a great defensive line that was bolstered by the addition of Jadaveon Clowney, who is a fantastic run stopper. They currently are the 11th best rushing defense in the NFL based on yards per game.

That said, the Ravens have the playmakers to get it done and the offensive line will look to take a big step against a tough opponent.

In terms of play calling, I wouldn’t go away from what’s working. Read options and the mixture of zone and power plays would be my approach. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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