Through their first eight games of the 2021 regular season, the Baltimore Ravens were averaging nearly 30 points a game on offense and eclipsed that mark four times during that span. It was truly a remarkable feat considering all of the injuries that the team suffered on that side in particular prior to the onset of the season.
Despite being 3-2 since coming off their bye week, the Ravens are 2-2 in their last four games and have struggled to both score points and move the ball consistently. Their Week 13 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers marked their first time scoring more than 16 points in three weeks and they haven’t scored 30 or more since Week 9.
The mercurial play of star quarterback Lamar Jackson, the porous performances by a makeshift offensive line, and the growing list of injuries have been pointed to as valid reasons for regression. However, no single player, coach, or position group is under more scrutiny for the team’s shortcomings and ineptitude as of late than Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.
The harsh critiques of Roman’s scheme and the questioning of his acumen and competency as play-caller/designer dates back to last season. In 2020, the Ravens still managed to finish first in every major rushing statistical category except touchdowns and were a top 10 scoring team in a COVID-19 ravaged season but because they failed to follow up a historic 2019 campaign with another sensational one, some were calling for his job this past offseason.
Contrary to what national pundits like ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky and countless outspoken fans of the team say on talk shows and Twitter, Roman has actually been doing a pretty good job trying to make lemonade out of a basket of bruised, overachieving lemons.
Has he been perfect on all or even most of his calls? No, but who is. Has he been a little predictable at times during games with runs up the middle on first down? Absolutely, but that’s a staple of his offense, and had been working with tremendous success and efficiency the past two seasons with better blockers in addition to more explosive running backs.
Does he need to unlock more plays from his vault so that his unit can get the ball in the hands of their other supplementary playmakers outside of Jackson and tight end Mark Andrew before they lose more ground in a tight division and AFC playoff race? 100 percent yes.
However, the biggest problem for the Ravens on offense more than Roman’s play-calls/designs or what appears to be a lack of adjustments at times is the execution and discipline of the players themselves and they’ll be the first to admit it.
“Just didn’t execute,” Jackson said about missing the throw on the 2-point conversion that would’ve won them the game against the Steelers. “We weren’t on the same page right there.”
“I threw four interceptions, three in the first half,” he said after beating the Browns the week before. “I feel like those drives, when the interceptions came, we could’ve done something on those drives. We could’ve put points on the board.”
“It’s almost like you’re letting your family down,” said running back Devonta Freeman. “We’ve just got to put this in the garbage can and get ready for the next one.”
All anyone seems to want to talk about in relation to Jackson and Roman as QB/OC tandem is how much they’ve struggled to counter pressure from the opposing teams in the form of blitzes, especially Cover-0. Many pundits have lamented Roman’s inability to dial-up “blitz-beaters” to make defenses pay for sending all-out pressure since the Miami Dolphins upset the Ravens on a short turnaround in Week 10.
Beating cover-0. . . just have to make people miss after the catch. pic.twitter.com/ujooqYoMn3— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 8, 2021
There have been several instances since that game where he has called plays allowing Jackson to just dump the ball off underneath to an outlet if nothing develops downfield quickly enough. He just hasn’t taken those easy throws that would be the equivalent to layups in basketball and instead opts to hold on to the ball too long behind an already struggling offensive line for “coverage” sacks or waits until the last minute to decide to attempt to flee a quickly crumbling pocket.
Single high. Hollywood bends back inside. Lamar could’ve thrown with a bit of anticipation and rifled the ball to him. Didn’t like it, throws it away.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 8, 2021
Had plenty of time, clean pocket. He moved Minkah to Hollywood, then Andrews is wide open on the other seam. Lol. pic.twitter.com/6G3e9SgoqR
Steelers run cover-0. Gets cleanly picked up.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 8, 2021
Lamar drifts back and rolls to his right. Andrews blows past his man once, then the defender falls down.
Bateman works back to the ball.
Lamar tries to throw a side arm to Freeman with too much sauce, misses.
Bateman MAD. pic.twitter.com/Qmy1awPlSW
Jackson’s indecisiveness from inside the pocket has cost the Ravens several scoring opportunities during their current offensive slump. He has been uncharacteristically turning the ball over, playing with bad mechanics, missing wide-open receivers, and not spreading the wealth among his much-improved group of pass catchers, wide receiver in particular.
While everything outlined about Jackson’s recent play above is fixable, Roman shouldn’t be blamed because they occurred in the first place. He has been doing his part by calling plays that put his players in a position to move the chains but drops, pre-snap penalties, holding penalties and inconsistent quarterback play have made him an easy scapegoat and target of criticism.
If the Ravens players can start executing more consistently and Roman can continue to dig into his vault and keep defenses on their toes with creative unpredictable play-calling as he did on the Ravens’ first drive against the Steelers this past Sunday, this offense could get things turned around fast. They have the potential to be one of the hottest and most dangerous units down the stretch and will have to be if their defense falters after suffering another debilitating injury in the secondary.