After last season’s record-setting performance, Lamar Jackson and the rest of the Ravens face lofty expectations to perform at an even higher level.
Instead, the offense has been out of sync at times and is still looking to establish an identity.
Are the Ravens a fun-first team or are they looking for more quick strikes with deep passes downfield?
Coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are trying to establish a balance to keep opposing teams on their heels.
The Ravens have met that goal as far as the play-calling.
Entering Week 6, Baltimore has attempted 138 passes and run the ball 144 times.
However, there is a wide disparity statistically between their success throwing and running the football.
The Ravens rank 31st in the NFL with 178.8 yards passing per game. The rushing attack is having much more success, ranked third with 160.8 yards per game.
“I think what we all want to do is just continue to improve execution and how we attack defenses that we’re going against,” Harbaugh said. “So, like I said last week, we’re still very much a work in progress. We have a lot to improve on. Run, pass, run-pass options, quarterback-driven, play-action pass; all those things are things that we have to chase all areas and continue to improve.
“And I think the game planning, and in the end, the run-pass numbers will take care of themselves.”
Jackson has completed 86 of 135 pass attempts for 949 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions (100.7 rating). Those are decent enough numbers, except when considering he is averaging just 7 yards per completion. That means he’s been checking down more than completing passes downfield.
Last week against the Bengals, Jackson completed 19 of 37 pass attempts for 180 yards with two touchdowns in the 27-3 victory. He was also sacked once and threw an interception for the second straight week (71.9 rating). He averaged 4.9 yards per pass attempt.
The Ravens ran for 161 yards rushing on 24 carries (6.7 ypc), but the offense was held to just a field goal in the second half.
Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates III provided some insight on how they were able to contain Jackson. The Bengals were determined to shut down the read-option with cornerback Darius Phillips spying Jackson, who had just two carries for three yards.
In addition, Cincinnati was determined to take tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Hollywood Brown out of the game because the secondary didn’t feel threatened by any of the other receivers.
Jackson did miss two days of practice last week because of a knee injury and an illness, but he said that didn’t affect his performance.
“I think that we had a really good game plan going into it to stop that zone read and the quarterback stuff, but we didn’t do well on third down, which we didn’t really emphasize on,” Bates said. [It’s] emphasized every week, but we didn’t do that well today. Early in the game, it was 3-0, and I think we had third-and-15, and they completed it, and I think they scored that drive as well. So, that’s a huge, huge game-changer right there.”
The Ravens also need to do a better job making in-game adjustments. Jackson has said several times this season that opponents are giving him different looks than what he sees on tape. Harbaugh confirmed the Bengals might have caught the Ravens off-guard with the defensive game plan.
“They did do something completely different,” Harbaugh said. “They ran a true college four-three type of a look. They were playing quarters with the safeties low. They played that in the past, but they hadn’t played it yet this year. So, it was a new defense that we thought we might get, but we didn’t get a chance to rep it out very much, just because they hadn’t done it yet this year.
“That happens to us quite a bit. So, that’s something we’ve got to learn to deal with and handle as an offense because we run a unique scheme.”
The Ravens are 4-1 heading into a Week 6 game against the Eagles. They control their playoff destiny and there’s time to get the offense on track.
If the Ravens can get their attack revved up, they can make that expected surge into the postseason.