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The ’21 Ravens Are a Passing Team

Lamar Jackson pregame against the Cardinals.
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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Hot take #1: Ty’Son Williams should lead RBs in carries most weeks.

Not sure if this is much of a hot take, as many people feel this way, but I think it is one of the topics that needs to be discussed.  Ty’Son Williams certainly has his issues. Pass protection has been spotty and he doesn’t see running lanes open up as much as he should but he clearly has the most explosion of any of the backs on the roster and he is the only one the Ravens have that can challenge teams on the perimeter.

Yes, Lamar can obviously do that as well, but the Ravens need one of their actual running backs to be able to do more than just ground and pound in between the tackles. 

Hot take #2: Lamar is better this year than 2019.

In 2019, Lamar Jackson was the unanimous MVP of the league, but this year, he is showing more upside than he did that year. The way he is getting the ball downfield is tremendous. He is challenging teams all over the field and his deep ball accuracy has been on point. He is easily the NFL leader in air yards per throw and, of course, he is still arguably the most dangerous player in the open field in the sport. As someone who has been against a Lamar extension, he is showing me a lot and is moving me into the “extend him” column very quickly. 

I wanted to see more of him getting the ball down field and challenging defenses on all levels and he is doing just that right now. 

Hot take #3:  Tee Martin and Keith Williams are looking like brilliant hires.

In the offseason, the Ravens made a concerted effort to do what was needed to help the passing game. They spent resources on the offensive line (even though they dealt Orlando Brown Jr.), they drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round, and signed Sammy Watkins.

A move that went under the radar a bit (though our own Dev Panchwagh was on it) was that they brought in two new coaches to help the wideouts and the passing game in general. Both Tee Martin and Keith Williams came in with excellent reputations and the results are starting to show. The passing game, while still archaic in some ways (still looking for more screens, slants, etc.), is way better than it has been and the receivers are seemingly playing at a higher level, as a group, than we have seen in a while. 

The routes seem to be better, there is more separation, and the production is up. 

Kudos to John Harbaugh for bringing these guys in.

Hot take #4:  The offense will transition from a running offense to a passing offense.

Yes, this will always be a team that runs the ball and will never be a 40-50 pass per game offense, but the running back situation isn’t great and they will want to limit the hits Lamar takes, especially with the extra game. As mentioned, the wide receivers are playing well and they are about to add Bateman and Miles Boykin to the mix, not to mention Nick Boyle. Add in the idea that Tyre Phillips and eventually Ronnie Stanley will return and the line should get better at pass blocking as the year goes on. Couple that with Lamar playing well and I think this team gets more pass happy. It seems like they are running more play action this year and Lamar is excelling at it. 

This team will always run it 25-30 times a game and maybe more certain weeks but I think the days of this team running for 3000 yards are over, especially this year. I think the running game will still remain very good but it won’t be the best in the league – and it won’t need to be. This season was always about the passing game and whether or not it take a big jump. So far it has and there is no reason to think that will change. I think there is a good chance this was going to be the case this year anyway but with the injuries at running back and the lack of explosion in the running game, it seems even more likely that this is the path the offense will go on for the rest of 2021.

Hot take #5:  Hollywood Brown has ended (or at least tabled the discussion) the idea that the Ravens can’t draft and develop a WR

Marquise Brown is really taking his game to another level right now. He is one of the league leaders in TD receptions since the second half of last year. He is up to over 17 yards per catch this year (despite the drops last week that would have that number much higher). He is on pace to improve on every stat from 2020 and he is on pace to be one of the top pass catchers in the league overall. The Ravens have, deservedly, gotten a bad reputation for drafting and developing WR, but Brown is ending that talk. One player doesn’t change everything and we will see what happens with Bateman, but I feel pretty good about Brown right now and I would say he is quickly becoming the best all-around WR this team has ever drafted.

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