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Offensive expansion is on the horizon for the Ravens

With better weapons comes greater schematic flexibility

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman received more than his fair share of criticism for the teams’ (more specifically his units’) shortcomings in the postseason the last two years, despite having one of the most potent scoring units in the regular season and the most dominant running game over that span.

Fans and pundits alike have been clamoring for an overhaul or at least a seismic shift in the psychology to his system to achieve more balance and put more emphasis on the passing game in particular.

Much to the chagrin of those aforementioned disgruntled individuals, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta remained adamant the team would be staying true to the current offensive approach.

And why should they? It has won them 32 of a possible 43 games since Lamar Jackson became the starter and has ushered in a golden age of electric and explosive offense, the likes of which the franchise never experienced and only witnessed from afar.

However, this offseason and honestly since taking over as head of the Ravens’ front office, DeCosta has devoted a considerable amount of high draft capital to the wide receiver position. He’s taken two in each of the past three years including a pair of first-rounders including Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown in 2019 and Rashod Bateman this year.

Not even the addition of former first-rounder Sammy Watkins in free agency could stop him from doubling down on wideouts last weekend when Tylan Wallace fell in their lap in the fourth round. With the most talent and quality depth at receiver that he’s had since becoming the offensive play-caller, Roman expects and is excited for the expansion of his scheme.

“I don’t want to call it an embarrassment of riches, but when you talk about Hollywood and Devin and Miles, I really feel good about the guys we have,” Roman said. “This offense is really one that runs through Lamar. We’re always going to do what gives us the best chance to win. When you add talent like that, it’s really going to expand our profile quite a bit, actually. To play with the kind of balance that we really want to play with.

“I really think it will probably take some pressure off guys that have been here like Marquise, free him up a little bit as well. The field’s about 53 yards wide, and I think people are going to have to defend all 53 yards of it.”

As a result of having a historically dominant rushing attack, opposing teams will often load the box in an attempt to limit its high efficiency, leaving their secondary’s shorthanded in the process. Roman believes taking advantage of those compromised coverage units more consistently will be integral in improving not just the passing game but the offense as a whole.

“There’s more passing plays per year than running plays,” Roman said. “We want to be great at both. There’s times when people from a numerical standpoint are just going to dare you to throw it and just commit more to defend the run than you can possibly hope to have sustained success against. That’s where we really want to take a big step this year. I think that’s really going to be key to us taking a big step offensively.

The Ravens have to and fully intend to evolve and expound their offensive attack to keep pace and hopefully surpass the other elite teams in the AFC such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, both of which they lost to in 2020.

“Definitely some things that people are going to see from us that they haven’t seen before,” Roman said. “Our staff is working really hard and diligently on that. When you really look at who we have to beat in the AFC these days, you’ve got to have talent everywhere. There’s some really good teams out there. I really feel great about what we’re building here. Schematically wise, we’re always going to change it a little bit. I’d probably say more so this year than we did last year.”

Roman and the Ravens weren’t able to expand and implement many of the schematic changes they had in store for the offense coming off a historic 2019 season because of the pandemic. It robbed them of the crucial on-field practices prior to training camp that is used to introduce and implement new wrinkles.

With proper health protocols now in place, vaccines available nationwide, more playmakers at receiver, and a revamped offensive line, the Ravens are equipped with the time and personnel to both expand and elevate their offense in 2021 and beyond.

As far as what the Ravens’ schematic expansion might look like, we will all have to wait until the regular season rolls around since no team tips their hand in the preseason. However, we should expect to see the new and returning receivers used in a multitude of ways that complement and open up more opportunities for one another like Roman alluded to above.

I’d like to imagine that some of the wrinkles include more multi-receiver sets, better utilization of bunch formations, and more intricate and quicker developing route concepts now that they have more route running technicians in Watkins, Bateman, and Wallace.