The Baltimore Ravens have now finished two consecutive seasons with rushed playoff outings. The team, which opened their 2020 training camp on Tuesday, lost the 2018 AFC wild card game at home to the Los Angeles Chargers before suffering a stunning upset in the divisional round last season in the hands of the upstart Tennessee Titans.
But the way the team finished doesn’t diminish what they did in between those two losses. Head coach John Harbaugh said in a pre-season interview last year that his team would have a revolutionary offense in their first full season with Lamar Jackson under center, and he was right.
Jackson was unanimously voted the league’s MVP, and the team finished the regular season with the NFL‘s best record, league’s best offense, and best rushing offense in NFL history. While the second-year quarterback’s high play was key to the unit’s success, the use of his trio of tight ends and stable of field mates for Jackson allowed the offense to really take off. thrive – especially from heavy formations.
Although the Ravens used a variety of staff sets, their heavy lineups gained national attention because they contradicted the rest of the NFL. While the rest of the league built offenses from extended lineups, Baltimore designed a system that performed nearly half of its plays from heavy lineups, according to ESPN’s Stats and News group. Out of 1,060 total offensive shots in the regular season, Baltimore lined up 453 times (or 42.7% of his shots) in heavy formations that included different pairs of tight ends plus Ricard. Meanwhile, the rest of the league has lined up for just 27% of heavy set plays.
In 2019, Baltimore relied heavily on fullback Patrick Ricard and tight ends Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. The team traded Hurst to Atlanta in the offseason, but undrafted rookie Eli Wolf will compete for that tight third place with Charles Scarff, who spent last year on the practice squad. So it seems likely that the Ravens will continue this pattern this year.
Baltimore’s tight rear / rear crew were reliable blockers for Jackson and running backs (Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill) as well as viable receivers, which allowed the offense to use several group variations in heavy sets for Keep the defenses guessing. In some cases, the team even had all four on the field at once.
Despite having fewer rushing yards and yards per carry with heavy staff than with extended staff (the Ravens rushed for 1,089 yards in heavy sets while rushing to 1,560 yards in sets), the The team’s production in heavy sets was vital to their success as they used them to extend drives and control the clock. But perhaps even more important was Baltimore’s third down conversion rate on heavy pack games: Unity converted 69% of third downs during the regular season. Converting on those drops at such a high rate led the team to almost 35 minutes of possession time on average.
Their on-field production has also regularly opened the passing game by forcing defenses to use personal packages designed to clutter the line of scrimmage. This created opportunities for the offense to capitalize on the mismatches by forcing taller, slower defenders to cover tight ends. Jackson was able to make the most of those moments, as each of the three tight ends recorded at least 20 receptions over 200 yards. Andrews, Boyle and Hurst averaged 12.3 yards per reception, while accounting for more than half of the team’s 1,569 passing yards from heavy formations. While Ricard was primarily used as a blocker throughout the season, he also recorded a heavy set touchdown catch and finished the regular season with eight total catches for 47 yards.
The depth and versatility of the group have allowed them to account for nearly half of the team’s total receiving yards and 15 of Jackson’s 36 touchdowns. Andrews finished the regular season as the team’s main receiver, receiving 852 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, and he led all tight ends in touchdowns.
Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Titans showed what can happen if teams are able to limit the team’s dynamic attack. After allowing the Titans to take a 14-point lead at the start of the second quarter, the Ravens began to focus on the pass in an attempt to cut the lead. Jackson recorded a career-high 22 first-half pass attempts, while the team had just 16 first-half run attempts. Jackson finished the game with 59 passing attempts, another career high.
Jackson and the offense came in at halftime with the lowest of the season in rushing yards and yards per carry. The unit averaged 3.81 yards per carry and gained just 61 rushing yards. After averaging over 37 run attempts per game during the regular season, Baltimore finished the game with 29 runs, tying the second-lowest run total recorded by the team in a game all season.
The Ravens’ struggles were most noticeable on a pair of fourth downs. Heading into the playoffs, Baltimore had converted on eight of eight fourths and one attempts, but failed to convert to fourth and one in the second quarter and again in third against the Titans. The offense posted its third lowest total of slaps and yards gained by heavy formations in loss (17 games for 77 yards) and also completed a season low of 37.5% of passes from heavy sets.
While Baltimore’s last outing was another playoff disappointment, the team’s future is still bright as they head into another season. What remains to be seen is whether the rest of the league will have taken the Ravens’ unconventional offensive approach and devised a way to stop it, or whether Jackson and his plethora of diverse weapons will take them to another post. -season.