Harbaugh Expects Big Plays From the Ravens Offense
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has a keen sense of how teams will try to shut down Lamar Jackson next season.
The first order of business will be containing the Ravens’ record-setting ground attack. Opponents will want to make Jackson drop back and make plays downfield.
That strategy could backfire because Jackson has already shown he can effectively attack a secondary. While there is admitted room for improvement, Jackson threw a league-high 25 of his 36 touchdown passes from the pocket last season, ahead of Drew Brees (24), Jameis Winston (23), and Dak Prescott (22), according to research by Pro Football Focus.
“Lamar, last year, was one of the best pocket passers in the league statistically,” Harbaugh said. “That’s because he made a big jump [from his rookie year] and also because of all the other things he’s able to do makes the defense more honest. They just can’t tee off and run a bunch of pass-blitzes at him.
“We should have guys more open and we should have bigger plays and we should create more opportunities in the passing game because of that run game. We’re not going to scrap the run game. But we’re not going to become a conventional offense. That’s the last thing we’re going to do.”
Overall, Jackson completed 265 of 401 passes for 3,127 yards with the NFL-high 36 touchdowns, which was also a franchise record. However, his passing efficiency was overshadowed by the Ravens running attack that set the NFL’s single-season rushing record with 3,296 yards.
As a result, teams will try to slow down that ground attack, which could be even more effective this season with rookie J.K. Dobbins in the mix. Jackson does struggle to throw outside the hash marks and has some challenges breaking down a zone defense. However, he has worked this offseason to improve both of those areas.
Harbaugh welcomes the idea of teams trying to make Jackson beat them through the air.
“When they want to load that box up, we want to make them pay for that even more, especially when they load it up with zone coverages,” Harbaugh said in a conference call with season ticket holders. “Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws. We have to make them pay for that. We absolutely have to make them pay.”
The Ravens have the playmakers at wide receiver to create matchup problems. A fully healthy Hollywood Brown is expected to have a breakout season and Miles Boykins should take the next step with his development. The Ravens also added a pair of solid receivers in the NFL draft within Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
“The ability to make them pay for tilting their defense toward stopping our run game with a really, really efficient passing game. I do believe … that’s the next step of this offense from an execution standpoint. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step and our receivers will take the next step with doing that.”