Pardon my enthusiasm, but the Baltimore Ravens’ plan to play Lamar Jackson under center more this season is something I’ve been hoping to see for a while. After spending the first three years of his NFL career working extensively from the pistol formation, the electric dual-threat passer will have more opportunities to operate out of a traditional pro-style offense in 2021, according to offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Since becoming the Ravens’ starter midway through the 2018 season, Jackson has taken the fewest snaps under center (127) among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts, including just 36 of 889 snaps last season, per ESPN stats. Although Baltimore’s shotgun-heavy approach helped the team feature the No. 1 rushing attack in football in each of the past two years, thanks to Jackson’s flawless execution of the read-option, it also limited the diversity and multiplicity of the offense overall. Moreover, the approach stunted Jackson’s growth as a quarterback at the pro level.
As an electric athlete nearing the prime of his career, the 24-year-old can rely on his speed, athleticism and running skills to torment defenses. But what he knew five years ago still rings true today: relying solely on those dynamic traits isn’t a recipe for long-term success. He needs to expand his game to continue ranking among the elite at his position into his 30s.
Will Ravens’ Lamar Jackson start ‘letting it rip’ as a passer in 2021? – Jamison Hensley
What will it look like in the end? The Ravens may not be as run-centric as the past two seasons, when Baltimore called a run play on a league-high 51% of plays (the next closest was the Minnesota Vikings at 46%), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
This style of offense has led Baltimore to average an NFL-best 31.2 points over the last two years. But it hasn’t translated in the playoffs, where the Ravens have scored a total of 32 points in Jackson’s three playoff losses.
“I really think the way things are structured this year, we’re going to have a chance to get our preparation done this time of year and this summer to where we can have a more balanced attack,” Roman said. “Who knows? There might be some games this year where we’re really letting it rip.”
Determining Aaron Rodgers, Julio Jones future headline biggest remaining offseason priority for each NFL team – Tyler Sullivan
The former league MVP is eligible for an extension for the first time in his career this offseason and the Ravens should be doing everything they can to lock the dynamic quarterback down for the long term. Baltimore did exercise Jackson’s fifth-year option so he is under contract through the 2022 season, but an extension eliminates any potential bad blood forming over the next year or so. Jackson recently stated that he’d love to be in Baltimore forever and also noted that he and GM Eric DeCosta have spoken about an extension, so things appear to be on a positive track. Of course, this will likely be one of the biggest contracts in NFL history so it’s no small task to hammer out, but it should be something that the Ravens put an emphasis on getting done before the 2021 season.
50 Words or Less – John Eisenberg
It’s too early to start handicapping that competition, but I can say this much: Even though McSorley is a former draft pick (unlike Huntley) and has one more year of experience, Huntley looks very comfortable in the offense in his second season and is making some big-time throws.
If the Ravens didn’t already have what looks like a full complement of wide receivers, I would put Deon Cain on a list of longshots with a chance to make the roster. The former Clemson star is tall and fast and made several nice catches in this week’s open OTA.
In the open practices, Ben Powers, not Ben Cleveland, has taken the most snaps at left guard with the starting offensive line. I wouldn’t read much into it, as Cleveland, being a rookie, hasn’t even practiced in pads. But clearly, the Ravens have an open mind about who’ll start there.
Bradley Bozeman “Pumped” About Switch to Center – Clifton Brown
“I played (center) four years at Alabama. I played a little bit in high school,” Bozeman said on ”The Lounge” podcast. “I feel like it’s my natural position. I think I really thrive there. I’m really excited about the transition and moving back in.”
During OTAs, Bozeman has begun the process of reacclimating himself to the position. The center is the point person on the offensive line, responsible for changing blocking assignments and helping the quarterback anticipate blitzes. That was something Bozeman didn’t do as a left guard, but he enjoys the mental challenge of playing center.
“That’s the biggest key to center is knowing the playbook, knowing what to do, knowing where to put people,” Bozeman said. “Whenever you get a funky look on defense, getting guys on the right page and the right people. It’s just preparation. Knowing what to do, where to be, how the running back’s going to react, how the tight end’s going play, how our tackles are going to set. Knowing the whole operation and making sure everyone’s on the same page. If we’re all on the same page, we’re all right or we’re all wrong together.”
Top storylines to follow for all 32 NFL teams in 2021 – James Fragoza
Baltimore Ravens: Who is WR1?
The Ravens have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Mike Wallace (1,017) in 2016. Only Mark Andrews has broken the 800-yard mark (852 in 2019) and he is a tight end! Part of the reason is Baltimore’s run-heavy scheme. Yet, maybe if they possessed a true No. 1 receiver, they wouldn’t be so run-heavy? Newly acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins is not the answer, but first-round selection Rashod Bateman might be.