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The Baltimore Sooners? Ravens offense could feature four players from Oklahoma

Former Sooners getting playing time is no coincidence

NFL: APR 25 2019 NFL Draft Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the release of Alex Lewis, the Ravens could potentially be starting four Oklahoma Sooners. Over the past two seasons the Ravens have drafted Orlando Brown Jr., Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and Ben Powers. Each of these players were key starters for the Sooners offense under Lincoln Riley. There is no coincidence that the Ravens have targeted Oklahoma players, as their offense should mimic many aspects of Riley’s innovative offense.

Lincoln Riley has taken a stable and successful Oklahoma football program and transformed them into an offensive juggernaut. His expansive playbook is run entirely out of shotgun. Aside from shotgun, there are no limitations.

The foundation of Riley’s offense starts up front. Oklahoma has trotted out truly dominant offensive line combinations over the past few years. Orlando Brown Jr. was a consensus first team All-American. Dru Samia, Cody Ford, Ben Powers and Bobby Evans have all been selected in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft over the past two years. Creed Humphrey, a sophomore center, could be the best NFL prospect of them all. He will be drafted high in 2021-22.

Riley likes massive maulers up front and uses them to pull and attack defenders in space. Once this has been established, the option and other wrinkles are built off of these pulling lineman. A guard and tackle might pull (GT Counter is a staple play) which causes the front-seven to crash in the direction those lineman pulled. This frees up the backside, where the quarterback can pull the ball and find plenty of grass.

Above is the staple play. This has already made its way to the NFL in heavy dosage.

The play can also just feature the QB as the runner, which puts two lead blockers ahead of them quickly. The QB can use ball fakes, pump fakes and other bells and whistles to make read defenders jump before taking off.

This is essentially the foundation of Riley’s offense. He uses screens, RPO, options and unique route combinations to exploit defenders. Each play typically attacks one defender and forces them to make an impossible decision.

These concepts create conflict for one defender, which allows the QB to make an easy “if, then” decision. If the safety plays the run, then throw it behind him. If the safety drops into his zone, then hand the ball off.

This simplifies the game for QBs who just have to locate the conflict defender pre-snap and take what they’re given. The Ravens have already started to incorporate some of these concepts into their game plan.

This play put Jackson 1-on-1 with a safety. Bates made a nice play and brought Jackson down, but pinning him with safety to reach the endzone isn’t a bad idea.

The better idea, though, is to place Marquise Brown on the weak side and have him run an in-breaking route beyond Bates, so that Lamar can flick the ball over his head in the endzone. That would make Bates ‘the conflict defender’. That’s how Riley’s offense works.

Riley and Greg Roman both love to use motions to force a defense to show their hand. Roman loves to bring blockers in motion to create advantages that defenses can’t account for quickly enough.

Riley uses tons of wrinkles in the screen game and with motions to force defenders to think as opposed to react. The name of the game is to get key defenders flat footed. Take a look at this fake screen pop pass and watch how it created an easy throw for a first down.

Riley’s play designs just leave wide open receivers on a consistent basis. It’s no wonder that the Sooners have been atop FBS offensive efficiency and scoring ranks during his tenure at the helm.

He has been an offensive genius. The following play is a read option where the RB takes the ball, then runs a speed option and pitches the ball back to the QB.

This is pure creativity and inventiveness. Perhaps Riley stole these ideas from other play-callers at different levels, but no one has used them at such an advanced stage.

Drafting Brown, Brown, Powers and Andrews gives the Ravens players that are already familiar with these concepts. They will have a much smaller learning curve than other players, and they’ve already experienced success in this system. The former Sooner standouts will be ready to contribute almost immediately because of their precious experience with Riley’s offense.

The Ravens would be wise to continue dipping into the Sooner well to find talent. They would be even smarter to use his offensive concepts and apply them at the highest level.