Subscribe to our newsletter

The Drive That Was Great…Until it Wasn’t

Share
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Welcome back to Tale of the Tape! Much has been made of the second half of the Dolphins game, so I want to go back a little further and focus on the Ravens’ first offensive drive of the game.

But there’s no better way to start than the first play of the game, a 103-yard kickoff return TD from Devin Duvernay. What a way to kick off the season at home, and it’s just a beauty of a run from Duvernay that’s set up by excellent special teams work.

 

It starts with the positioning. The Ravens get five players to Duvernay’s left and three to his right, with Justice Hill and Patrick Ricard joining the numbers advantage on the left. Every player knows where they are supposed to be relative to Duvernay’s return path. Watch Kyle Hamilton force his man to Duvernay’s right to keep the middle clear, then watch Malik Harrison and Tylan Wallace ghost their initial blocks to be Duvernay’s escorts further upfield. Hell of a start.

After a Marcus Williams interception, the Ravens got the ball back at their own 20. They run six plays for two 1st downs and about 30 yards, setting up this 1st and 10, the seventh play of the drive.

The Ravens come out in 13 personnel (I’ll be counting Ricard as a TE) with the Dolphins’ defense showing pressure. Baltimore keeps eight in to protect Lamar, and Rashod Bateman just goes to work on Xavien Howard: inside release, crossover outside, breaks for the sideline and then hits the brakes for maximum separation.

That’s one of the best man coverage corners in the game, and Bateman breaks him down methodically. He also does something that I love about many of the game’s best YAC-getters – he gets his feet ready to explode after catching the ball. He doesn’t have as much room to work with here, but the consistency of his technique across reps is impressive.

On the next play, the Ravens run right into the B gap for no gain. Morgan Moses misses his block, so Patrick Ricard can’t quite seal his, and that’s all she wrote. It’s a shame, too, because this is a really nice blocking rep from Josh Oliver.

I don’t hate the play call on 2nd and 1, partially because it’s a well-designed play overall. Oliver getting inside of his man was supposed to clear a path for Mark Andrews to climb into the second level. Getting those tight ends (and Ricard) to the second level has been a key component of the Ravens’ running game at its best, breaking off chunk plays into the secondary.

But then to come out in an even heavier formation (2 TEs, Ricard and Daniel Faalele as a 6th OL) for another run up the middle into a stacked box is confusing to say the least.

Not only does the defense get a numbers advantage when Jackson hands the ball off, but every defender is already in the box! I really want to see Greg Roman getting back to passing out of heavy formations and running out of spread formations, instead of sending the RB directly into the heart of the defense.

And then Roman opens his vault, with a TE sneak that gets the ball in the hands of his second-best offensive player.

 

I’m not sure if the Ravens will be able to pull this off again, but it’s frustrating proof that Roman has different levers to push in those short yardage scenarios. He just needs to pick the right ones, ideally quicker.

After a delay of game, the Ravens run an RPO bubble to Isaiah Likely on 1st and 15. Not bad, but not great when you need to make up yards and the ballcarrier starts with the ball behind the LOS.

Scheming runners like Duvernay and Likely into open space is another new wrinkle I’m looking for in Roman’s offense. Bateman is excellent at getting that separation for himself, but the other pass-catchers will need a little help.

After a few more plays and another first down, the Ravens again fail to execute on what looks like an inside zone play.

Drake’s jump-cuts work better when he has blocks to read, but in this case, he needs to hit the hole hard and get upfield right away. I am encouraged by the zone concept that lets Linderbaum go hunting for a second-level defender to, well, level.

On the next play, Jackson finds a lane and scrambles for a first down off a bootleg.

Keeping the ball in your best player’s hands seems like a pretty easy path to victory. I’d love to see playcalls like this in short-yardage situations – give Jackson space, and let him go to work.

Drake is too hesitant on the next play – a 1st and goal – and gets bailed out by a Dolphins penalty.

I was very impressed by Jackson’s pre-snap command of the offense, but this was one time that I was screaming for an audible to pass. Give your fastest receiver and best route-runner a chance to make a play!

Roman stays predictable in goal-to-go, and the offense pays the price…

…twice in a row.

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s the same clip twice in a row, and it certainly looks like the same playcall. These plays have worked in the past, but they’re just too predictable! There are so many better ways to do this – one would be to run play-action with Jackson rolling out right and Likely leaking out ahead of him. The rookie TE can block upfield or find an open spot in the end zone, and either way it’s a TD!

It’s only on 3rd-and-goal that Roman goes to QB power, the Ravens’ most reliable short-yardage play in the Jackson era.

But because he’s sent out three tight ends and a sixth offensive lineman, the LOS is too congested for Jackson to find any space. Again, running out of a more spread formation here would give Jackson more room to maneuver and find the end zone.

And that brings us to 4th-and-goal, the final drive of a 74-yard, 11-minute drive that showcased the best and worst this offense has to offer.

A fumbled snap isn’t great, but I’m not worried in the long-term, as Linderbaum and Jackson’s chemistry will continue to improve. Part of the problem of sustaining long drives is that your offense has more opportunities to make an error!

Here are some of my final takeaways from this drive and the Dolphins game as a whole:

I think Roman needs to go back to what made early iterations of this offense so successful: passing out of heavy formations and running out of light ones. Get mismatches for your athletic tight ends against slower linebackers when passing, and spread the defense out to give Jackson and the RBs more room to work with on the ground.

Overall,  I’m firmly convinced that it’s time for the Ravens to embrace a much more pass-happy offense. Lamar Jackson has become that guy passing the ball – as wonderfully explained by Spencer Schultz – and it’s a mistake to not lean into that, especially when most defenses are expecting a run-heavy gameplan.

The run game has its place, but I’m doubting more and more that it should be the calling card of this offense, especially handing off to replacement RBs. Get the ball in Jackson’s hands, and let him use his arm and legs to keep the offense humming. He has such excellent command of the offense now, too, so he should be fully empowered to break down opposing defenses as he sees fit. More often that not, that’s going to be through the air, especially with the continued breakout of Rashod Bateman to provide another elite pass-catcher along with Mark Andrews. Don’t look now, but if the Ravens commit to their air attack, they have everything they need to be among the league’s best passing offenses – and that will help reinvigorate their rushing attack, too.

There’s huge potential for this offense, but it’s on Greg Roman now more than ever to capture it.

Tyler Huntley at practice
Injury Report

Injury Report: Ravens @ Steelers (Wednesday)

Ravens Did Not Participate: WR Devin Duvernay (NIR-rest); QB Lamar Jackson (knee); CB Marcus Peters (NIR-rest); DE Calais Campbell (NIR-rest); OL Morgan Moses (NIR-rest); G …

Read More →
Ravens Steelers OTL
Out To Lunch

OTL: Steelers Hate Week Finally Upon Us

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, happy Wednesday! It’s not just any Wednesday, however, because the Baltimore Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers this week! That’s …

Read More →
Street Talk

Here Come the Bengals

The Ravens are going to have to hold off the Bengals over the final five weeks of the season.  The teams are tied for first …

Read More →
Harbaugh WTF OTL
Out To Lunch

OTL: Ravens Too Complacent with Ugly Wins?

Growing up playing a lot of sports, I got used to the concept of carrying bumps and bruises. After particularly rough outings, I might feel …

Read More →
Greg Roman entering M&T Bank Stadium
Street Talk

We All Need to Step it The Flock Up

I’m not here to defend the job performance of Greg Roman. The lightning-rod offensive coordinator has authored some tremendous offensive performances during his tenure in …

Read More →
Street Talk

These Are The 3 Basic Bet Types In NFL

There’s no denying the fact that the NFL is among the most popular sports on the planet. The viewership statistics are there to prove that, …

Read More →
Injury Report

Injury Report: Ravens @ Steelers (Wednesday)

Ravens Did Not Participate: WR Devin Duvernay (NIR-rest); QB Lamar Jackson (knee); CB Marcus Peters (NIR-rest); DE Calais Campbell (NIR-rest); OL Morgan Moses (NIR-rest); G …

Read More →
Out To Lunch

OTL: Steelers Hate Week Finally Upon Us

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, happy Wednesday! It’s not just any Wednesday, however, because the Baltimore Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers this week! That’s …

Read More →
Street Talk

Here Come the Bengals

The Ravens are going to have to hold off the Bengals over the final five weeks of the season.  The teams are tied for first …

Read More →
Out To Lunch

OTL: Ravens Too Complacent with Ugly Wins?

Growing up playing a lot of sports, I got used to the concept of carrying bumps and bruises. After particularly rough outings, I might feel …

Read More →
Street Talk

We All Need to Step it The Flock Up

I’m not here to defend the job performance of Greg Roman. The lightning-rod offensive coordinator has authored some tremendous offensive performances during his tenure in …

Read More →
Street Talk

These Are The 3 Basic Bet Types In NFL

There’s no denying the fact that the NFL is among the most popular sports on the planet. The viewership statistics are there to prove that, …

Read More →
Don’t Miss Anything at RSR. Subscribe Here!
Latest posts
Join our newsletter and get 20% discount
Promotion nulla vitae elit libero a pharetra augue