Run. The. Ball.
This might sound familiar. If it does, I’d like to personally thank you for being a loyal reader of ‘Battle Plans.’ It looks familiar because the number one key for the Ravens’ offense this week is exactly the same as it was last week. The Ravens’ offense is built on the running game. They have the best running QB in the NFL and a stable of talented RBs. They have a big, powerful offensive line and employ two 280-pound TEs. They need to prioritize running the football.
Against the Chiefs in Week 3, Greg Roman got away from the Ravens’ bread and butter. After a successful first offensive drive highlighted by a 30-yard Lamar Jackson scamper, the Ravens’ focus on running the football mysteriously faded away. A team that rewrote the NFL record book for rushing offense in 2019 handed the ball off to RBs just twelve times against the Chiefs.
Only two teams’ RBs had fewer carries in Week 3!
Against Washington in Week 4, the Ravens’ offense needs to keep back to their roots and run the football. Through their first three games, Washington has given up the 11th most rushing yards in the league. In their game against the Cardinals, Arizona’s starting RB Kenyan Drake and QB Kyler Murray both had good days on the ground. Last week against the Browns, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined to rush for over 150 yards. With both 2020 1st overall pick Chase Young and stout DL Matt Ioannidis expected to be unavailable for Sunday’s game, the Ravens should use Week 4 to get back to the basics and run the football.
Get Andrews Back on Track
The game against the Chiefs on Monday night is a game that Ravens TE Mark Andrews would probably like to have back. With just three catches and a total of 22 receiving yards, it may have been one of the worst games of Andrews’ young career. He didn’t look like himself and had a few very uncharacteristic drops that really hurt Baltimore’s offense. Andrews’ poor performance against the Chiefs came on the heels of another subpar performance a week earlier. Against the Texans, Andrews caught one pass for 29 yards.
In 2019, Andrews was Lamar Jackson’s go-to target. He led the Ravens offense in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches. If they hope to have one of the NFL’s best offenses again in 2020, Baltimore will need Andrews to put up similar numbers.
Andrews should have plenty of opportunities to have a big game against Washington on Sunday. Through three weeks, Washington is giving up the 6th most fantasy points to TEs. In Week 1, Washington allowed Eagles TE Dallas Goedert to catch eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
A big game from Andrews would help the Ravens secure the win and get their offense back on track.
Get Duvernay Involved
The Ravens’ Monday Night Football loss at the hands of the Chiefs exposed some of the shortcomings in Baltimore’s offense. With Andrews unable to find any success, Jackson looked to his best friend on the team, Hollywood Brown. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Brown ended the night with 13 yards on two receptions. On the other side of the field, Miles Boykin was held to a single eight-yard catch. Operating out of the slot, Willie Snead hauled in two passes for a grand total of four yards. When the clock struck zeroes, rookie RB J.K. Dobbins led the Ravens in both receptions and receiving yards.
The Chiefs game is just be one example, but it’s an example of a concerning trend for the Ravens offense through the first three games. After Andrews and Brown, Jackson is lacking options in the passing game. The Ravens don’t currently have a player that they’re comfortable relying on when Andrews or Brown have a down game or are taken out away by smart defensive coordinators.
Against Washington, Roman and Jackson should try to get Devin Duvernay involved. The rookie WR out of Texas showed off his 4.39 speed when he took a kickoff back for a touchdown against the Chiefs on Monday. Duvernay’s tape shows a player who can win in a variety of ways. He can run by a defender to get to a deep ball or take a quick screen to the house. A great runner after the catch, Duvernay is the type of player the Ravens should try to get the ball to on screens or on jet sweeps.
As they continue the search for weapons on offense, the Ravens should give Devin Duvernay a chance to shine in Week 4.
With the 15th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Washington selected Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins. The Bullis School (Potomac, MD) graduate started seven games during his rookie season. As was expected from a QB who was only a one-year starter in college, Haskins went through some growing pains as he got acclimated to life in the NFL. He completed 58.6 % of his passes for 1365 yards, and finished the season with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Still only 23 years old, Haskins is early in his development as an NFL QB. Through three games in 2020, Haskins has completed just 56.4% of his passes. He has thrown for 208.3 yards per game to go along with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Against Cleveland in Week 3, Haskins completed 56.7% of his passes and finished the game with 224 yards. He connected with Dontrelle Inman for two touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball twice.
The Ravens defense should be able to take advantage of a young QB like Haskins. Wink Martindale should try to disguise coverages to confuse Haskins and force some ill-advised throws. Martindale should also bring pressure from various spots on the field. Besides the possibility that a sack could lead to a fumble, the Ravens may be able to force a few bad throws from Haskins if they can get some pressure in his face. If the Ravens defense can make Haskins uncomfortable and force a few turnovers, they could run the score up on Sunday.
Matchup with Gibson
In the 3rd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Washington selected Antonio Gibson from Memphis. At Memphis, the 6’0”, 228-pound Gibson played both RB and WR. In his senior season, Gibson had 38 catches for 738 yards and eight touchdowns. He also added 369 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. When Washington drafted Gibson, the team spoke about his versatility and his ability to help them in multiple positions. It was noteworthy that Gibson was drafted to a team who had a new head coach, Ron Rivera, who had coached Christian McCaffery with the Panthers.
After releasing both Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson before the start of the season, speculation ran wild that Washington might go with Gibson as their starting RB in 2020. Through three games, Gibson leads the team in rushes, rush yards and rush touchdowns. He has also caught six passes.
After Clyde Edwards-Helaire caught five passes for 70 yards against the Ravens, there is little doubt that other teams will attempt to attack the Baltimore defense with their RBs. Martindale and the Ravens defense need to make sure that they’re comfortable with their matchup against Gibson. Patrick Queen is a fast LB who can more than hold his own in coverage. Against a hybrid player like Gibson, though, a LB may not be enough. Martindale should consider using Chuck Clark or DeShon Elliott in man coverage against Gibson to try to take away one of Washington’s more dangerous weapons.
Experiment with the Pass Rush
Patrick Mahomes is the best QB in the NFL. Among the NFL’s signal callers, Mahomes sits alone at the top in a tier of his own. In Week 3, Mahomes made a very good Baltimore defense look like an average unit. Mahomes and the Chiefs’ talented offensive weapons also exposed some of the weaknesses in the Ravens’ defense.
One of the things that the Chiefs exposed was the Ravens pass rush. Despite frequent and often “exotic” blitzes, the Ravens had difficulties impacting Mahomes in the pocket. They didn’t record a sack for the box score and only tallied four QB hits. For the most part, Mahomes was able to sit back in the pocket and pick apart the secondary. When the rush did get to Mahomes, it was rarely effective. On a few occasions on Monday night when the Ravens did pressure Mahomes, he escaped from the pocket but picked up key yardage with his legs.
In key moments this season and in big games like the playoffs, the Ravens are going to need to be able to get the QB in the pocket. The Ravens must prepare for those situations by experimenting with different blitzes and personnel packages to try to find what works best for them. Martindale should start experimenting with different personnel by increasing the snap counts of Tyus Bowser, who leads the Ravens with two sacks this season, and Jaylon Ferguson.
A game against an inferior opponent like Washington is the perfect opportunity to work on the pass rush.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch
Washington WR Terry McLaurin versus Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey
Washington is a team without many dangerous offensive weapons. After Gibson, Washington’s RBs are replacement-level options. Starting TE Logan Thomas is averaging 31 yards per game through three weeks. Their most dangerous weapon, by far, is WR Terry McLaurin. In his rookie season, McLaurin hauled in 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns. The 2019 third round pick out of Ohio State was so impressive that he earned the nickname “Scary Terry.” With the ability to play both outside and in the slot, Marlon Humphrey is likely to frequently draw the matchup with McLaurin.
If the Ravens’ $98.75M man can shut down McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins is going to have a tough time moving the ball down the field.