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Exploring the Ravens’ Run Concepts

Lamar Jackson steps out of bounds as a Steelers defender chases.
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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Reading Time: 4 minutes

I always try to look for patterns and methods that can be identified and analyzed when watching the Ravens. My natural inclination is to watch for personnel, techniques, and automatic calls and coverages on the defensive side of the ball.

But Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman made it hard to focus on the Baltimore defense this year. Everyone – fans, coaches, the media, opposing players – marveled at the big runs and accurate TD passes that Lamar put on display in 2019.

And I was no different.

OC Greg Roman used some simple, yet unique run concepts with Lamar, which I tried to explore in this seven-minute video. Roman went against the grain with committing to a running QB – historically an NFL no-no – but equally important was his willingness to run the ball in situations that caught the defense off guard.

The four main run concepts that I focused on were:

Read Option

(:18 sec-4:23 of the video)

On the Read Option, Lamar Jackson and a RB are in the Pistol alignment, with Lamar reading the playside defensive end to either give the football to the RB (the “Dive” phase) or keep it himself. The Ravens do some very unique things in terms of the way they block the second level on their Read Option and Midline Option plays.

I believe this is one of the base plays that Roman and company practice every day. So, Read Option, and Midline, are covered from the :18 second mark to 4:23 of the video. In a future video, I will cover the unique manner in which the Ravens block this play.

(Note: This diagram is just a basic display of how the Ravens block the Read Option play. It is not necessarily one of the specific plays shown in the video.)

Power Read

(4:24-4:57 of the video)

A similar play to Read Option, “Power Read” actually reverses the Option phases, while still asking Lamar to make a quick read on an edge defender.

A RB – typically Justice Hill – is offset to Lamar’s right or left, and immediately crosses Lamar’s face horizontally to threaten the edge. Lamar puts the ball in the RB’s gut and reads the playside DE or OLB, who could run with Hill. The “reverse” aspect to this play is that the first option – the RB getting the ball – actually threatens the outside edge/sideline, whereas on Read Option the first threat is the Dive back hitting downhill in the B-Gap to C-Gap.

On Power Read, if the DE widens with the horizontal threat, Lamar keeps the ball and runs off-tackle since the offensive linemen are blocking Power. The play shown in the video at 4:24 is from the Ravens’ 37-20 win over the Patriots in Week 9. Lamar has Hill offset to the weakside, his left, in what some coaches call B-Gun. Hill crosses his face while Jackson reads the strongside OLB, # 53.

FB Patrick Ricard deftly reads the OLB, who widens ever so slightly, allowing Ricard to juke inside and block the frontside ILB. Lamar reads it perfectly and slips into the seam, and although the OLB managed to get in on the tackle… it was after a seven-yard gain.

Power Read is a dangerous play, and the Ravens ran it very well in 2019. I only included one example of it in the video because I wanted to spend more time on the Read Option concept.

QB Counter/Counter Read

(4:58 to 5:56 of the video)

With an athletic QB, this is an extremely difficult play to defend for defenses under normal circumstances. When the Ravens ran it on third-and-Medium/Long, defenses often had Dime personnel on the field. On those occasions, it was borderline unfair when Lamar got to the second level behind pulling linemen. The plays I highlighted were from games against Seattle and San Francisco, two solid defenses.

These plays show how Lamar was able to find seams when the OL executed the Down-Down-Kick blocking scheme. Lamar nearly converted this 3rd-and-15 against Seattle. This run was followed by his legendary 4th-down TD run – highlighted later in the video – that put the Ravens ahead 20-13 late in the third quarter.

An interesting aspect of this play is Nick Boyle’s fake outside release at 5:19, which opened up the playside DE just a little further for the Kickout block. The Ravens tend to run either to Boyle’s side on Stretch or Zone plays, or behind his block on Read Option.

Direct Snap – Be an Athlete

(5:57 – 6:50 of the video)

Typically, the Ravens used this concept on fourth-down plays where they attacked to their right (the defense’s left). Most of these plays were QB Stretch or QB Power, and the Ravens had success with it right up until the playoff flameout against the Titans.

These three plays show how the Ravens would simply direct snap to the best athlete on the field, and let him find the seam. He was able to convert 4th Down plays against some good defenses by simply threatening the sideline, before making a vertical cut downfield. Lamar doesn’t typically get to the edge on these plays; his downfield cuts are often more explosive than him running to the sideline.

There are other run concepts that the Ravens used to run with Lamar. One of the most effective was simply having him drop back to pass, then take off once the LBs and DBs had got depth into their pass drops.

In a future video I will cover the Ravens’ Read Option and Midline Option plays in detail.

In my opinion, those are the foundational plays of this offense – along with Power – that will be run again in 2020.

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