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Offseason Adjustments

Street Talk Offseason Adjustments

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The Ravens’ offense has been a lightning rod for criticism since the season ended in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs against the Bills.

Baltimore was shut down in the 17-3 loss to Buffalo and fell to 1-3 in the postseason over the past three years.

The Bills stayed in a zone defense to contain quarterback Lamar Jackson, who suffered a concussion late in the third quarter. 

Several NFL analysts, such as former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith and two-time MVP quarterback Kurt Warner, have blamed the struggles on the play-calling for the passing attack. 

Both Smith and Warner said the routes-running of the wide receivers are too simplistic and they’ve not done an effective job getting separation from opposing defensive backs. 

Coach John Harbaugh defended the team’s play-calling and said the team played to its strength, which is running the football.

Over the past season, the Ravens ranked last in the NFL for passing attempts (406) and passing yards per game (171.2). However, Baltimore had the league’s top-ranked running attack for a second consecutive season and was ranked seventh with 29.3 points per game.

“We throw it less than most teams do because we run it so well,” Harbaugh said. “I know that Kurt would probably love to see us be a drop-back passing team that gets the ball out on time in a West Coast-type style, or a ‘Greatest Show on Turf’-type style, but that’s not the offense that we run. We’re not going to change an offense because it doesn’t fit his eye. 

“But we have all the concepts; there’s nobody that has more effective movement passes and more effective play-action passes off of a run game than we do, because we had the most complete run game and we have all the play-action and movement passes off of that. We’re not going to be as complex as a Pittsburgh, or a team that throws the ball 40 to 50 times a game because we don’t throw the ball as much as they do. I think that just stands to reason.”

One year after being named NFL MVP, quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for 2,757 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions (99.3 rating). He became the first quarterback in league history to run for 1,000 yards in two seasons.

Jackson, however, is also being scrutinized for his shortcomings in the postseason. Over four games, he has completed 55.9% of his passes for 900 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.

Jackson needs to spend the offseason improving on several areas, most notably with throwing outside the numbers, becoming more accurate with his downfield passes, improving his footwork and avoiding crucial turnovers. 

“The truth is he needs to get better – just like all the players,” Harbaugh said. “But as a quarterback, it’s the toughest position, and he’ll tell you, he needs to get better at everything, and everything that goes with playing quarterback.”

The Ravens also have to provide Jackson with more playmakers. The team needs to add a veteran playmaking wide receiver, depth on the offensive line for improved pass blocking, and a more dependable center.

The NFL is sorting out its salary-cap situation because of the challenges with COVID-19. Baltimore also has 22 unrestricted free agents to address, so this offseason is setting another critical time for the franchise. 

[Related: Our 2021 Ravens Salary Cap Preview]

“We do have a tough salary cap situation this year across the league, as you guys know, because of the pandemic,” Harbaugh said. “The salary cap is unpredictable and it’s probably going to drop right now. So, I think the guys that negotiate those, for all these contracts for all these players across the league, that’s going to be a real question mark – how that’s going to play out.”

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About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich
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