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An Innovative Way to Replace Boldin

Anquan Boldin is now in San Francisco, but the Ravens offense must continue to improve. How can they do that?


Training camp is the time to find replacements for the players you have lost. It’s time for players to step up and reach higher than they had the year before. Anquan Boldin is one of these spots that needs replacing. The Florida State product put together four of the best playoff games in history during the Ravens Super Bowl run in January and February. The Ravens offense has been on a great trajectory in the last few years as the defense started to age. If they plan to continue attaining new heights, they are going to have to be creative in finding ways to fill the shoes Boldin left behind.

Torrey Smith is certainly on a path to take the over the top receiver spot, but this leaves another starting slot open. The first option I see is to promote within. Jacoby Jones would be the first option, but in my opinion he simply has not proved himself. Two blown coverages in the playoffs that result in long touchdown catches does not make someone into a number 2 receiver. He is certainly a dynamic return man, but getting open, catching the ball and staying healthy do not seem like three things he will be consistently doing this year. There were 57 plays last year when Jacoby Jones was on the field without Anquan Boldin (seen as one of the top two receivers on the play).

Total Plays Passing Plays Rushing Plays Avg Yards, All Avg Yards, Pass Avg Yards, Rush First Downs Touchdowns Fumbles Lost Interceptions
Jacoby Jones w/o Anquan Boldin 57 27 30 5.42 4.15 6.57 11 0 0 0
All Plays 951 564 387 5.47 5.89 4.12 259 35 4 10

With Jacoby Jones in the game for Anquan Boldin the overall and passing numbers were much lower than the average. The offense only average 4.19 yards per passing play. Jones is seemingly in there as an offensive threat and not to block. The rushing yards are greatly inflated by Bernard Pierce’s 78 yard run against the New York Giants when winning by 23 points in the 4th quarter (some would call a non-competitive situation). Jones was also seen holding Corey Webster’s arm on the play as Pierce ran by. Without that running play, the overall yards per play drops to below 4.1, which would be last in the league in 2012. I understand this is a small sample size; however the Ravens certainly struggled in the passing game with Jacoby Jones in the game for Anquan Boldin.

The second option is to shift the focus of the formation. The Ravens have two very capable tight ends. With the departure of Boldin, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta might get more of an opportunity. Running the two tight end set is not something that is new the Ravens. They actually ran it with great success last year.

# TEs # WRs # of Plays # of Pass # of Rush Total Yards Yards Per Play
2 2 104 68 36 659.01 6.34
1 2 464 240 224 2617.55 5.64
1 3 272 220 52 1457.64 5.36
1 0 69 45 24 331.91 4.81
2 0 44 5 39 141.04 3.21
2 1 69 20 49 165.1 2.39

Of the formations that were run over 60 plays, the two tight end, two wide receiver set was the most successful. I think this is the Ravens best option. If the tight ends continue to get better, they will be able to draw coverage to the middle of the field and enable the second receiver (whoever it may be) to attack one on one coverage. Dickson and Pitta are both capable blockers that can help spring Ray Rice to the second level, as well.

The Ravens receiving core is certainly not as good as it was at the end of last season, but with some innovation the offense could be even more dynamic. The departure of Boldin allowed the Ravens to upgrade and get younger at other positions, so it was not all bad. In closing, I think the two tight end formation is something that Jim Caldwell should look at as a base scheme. We need to design a scheme that fits our personnel and the base formation the Ravens ran last year will not be successful with this year’s core of receivers.