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Are Ravens Being Too Stubborn With Offensive Approach?

  • Justin Melo
  • May 10, 2022
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The Baltimore Ravens continue to move to the beat of their own drum. While NFL offenses are becoming increasingly pass-happy in today’s high-scoring league, the Ravens seem hellbent on remaining true to the run-first identity they’ve created under offensive coordinator Greg Roman. It’s a development that should concern Ravens fans in regards to the direction of their offense. 

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta has made several offseason additions that seem to indicate the continuation of what we’ve come to expect from Baltimore on Sundays. Despite already rostering the highly capable duo of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards at the running back position, DeCosta used a sixth-round selection on former Missouri running back Tyler Badie. Sixth-round picks are often best described as dart throws, and Badie was undeniably one of the most talented players on the board at pick No. 196. Given that both Dobbins and Edwards suffered season-ending knee injuries prior to the 2021 campaign kicking off, DeCosta’s desire to draft some insurance at the position qualifies as understandable. 

DeCosta doubled down on that line of thinking by reportedly signing free-agent running back Mike Davis on Tuesday afternoon.

Baltimore’s offseason decision-making further cements their commitment to the run, and the examples extend far beyond what they’ve done to revamp their running back room. DeCosta made an astounding six selections in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Two of those selections were utilized at tight end in particular, with Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely joining the Ravens as rookies in 2022. Kolar was often described as an impactful traditional in-line tight end throughout the pre-draft process. Kolar’s tape reveals a physical and competitive blocker. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this is trending.

Perhaps the most notable development occurred when the Ravens stunningly traded away their No. 1 receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals in a draft-day deal that landed them a second first-round selection. Brown enjoyed the most fruitful campaign of his three-year professional career in 2021 by surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time. DeCosta previously announced plans to exercise Brown’s fifth-year rookie option. 

Brown’s breakup with the Ravens qualified as a surprise, but Brown would later reveal he requested a trade due to longstanding frustration with Baltimore’s offensive system and approach. With long-term contract negotiations looming large for Brown, his desire to play in a pass-heavy offense that would allow him to produce the type of numbers he could eventually leverage into a larger payday is straightforward to wrap your head around.

More shocking than Brown’s departure may be Baltimore’s willingness to ignore a dire need at receiver in the wake of his absence. The Ravens would eventually trade down with the Buffalo Bills but ended up essentially using the selection they acquired from Arizona in exchange for Brown on a run-blocking center in Tyler Linderbaum after using their original first-round selection on safety Kyle Hamilton

The Ravens made a league-leading 11 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, yet still managed to bypass all opportunities to draft a single receiver. It qualifies as rather shocking given the number of selections they possessed, Brown’s departure, and the current make-up of their depth chart at the pass-catching position. DeCosta seemingly preferred to draft a punter in the fourth round rather than address a newfound hole at receiver. They also drafted offensive tackle Daniel Faalele in the fourth round, a 6-foot-8, 384-pound mammoth blocker that projects as a road grading run blocker at the next level. That’s what we call doubling down on your identity.

Second-year receiver Rashod Bateman now steps into a starring role on the boundary while taking the reins from Brown as Baltimore’s new No. 1 pure receiver. Bateman is a promising talent that may be capable of producing big-time numbers in a passing offense, but the initial idea behind drafting Bateman in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft was to pair him with Brown as opposed to serving as his eventual replacement. Baltimore ultimately couldn’t control Brown’s wish to be traded, but they are responsible for cultivating the offense that made him feel underutilized to begin with. It’s a development that forces DeCosta back to the drawing board at receiver. 

Bateman may be an ascending talent, but he’s not yet a proven one. Relying on the likes of Devin Duvernay, James Proche II and Tylan Wallace behind Bateman is extremely risky as this trio of unproven pass-catchers may be miscast into sizable roles. Wallace (2), Duvernay (53) and Proche (17) have combined for 72 career receptions. Bateman brings that total to a minuscule 118, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a less experienced receiver room across the league (Atlanta qualifies, but is that what we’re striving for?).

Baltimore’s passing offense actually flashed signs of progress throughout the campaign. The Ravens finished the regular season with an average of 233 passing yards per contest. It was the 13th-best output across the league and represented a marked improvement on their 2020 campaign in which they averaged a league-low of 171.2 passing yards per game. Jackson showed exciting signs of growth as a pure thrower of the football. Jackson threw for 316 yards in a dominant Week 4 victory over the Denver Broncos. He followed that up with a career-defining performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 by throwing for 442 yards and four touchdowns in a stunning 31-25 come-from-behind overtime victory. 

Baltimore would have been wise to further invest in Jackson’s development as a thrower this offseason, but they’ve painfully made a decision to travel in the opposite direction instead.

The presence of Mark Andrews likely calms Baltimore’s concerns about a lack of additional proven pass-catchers internally, but the situation is likely heading toward a one-dimensional offensive attack. Jackson is prepared to return to the field with added pressure on his shoulders after missing a crucial stretch of the 2021 regular season due to an ankle injury suffered in a crushing late-season loss to the Cleveland Browns. 

The AFC is now loaded with high-end quarterbacks that should spearhead several high-scoring offenses. Jackson and the Ravens have to deal with Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson within their own division alone, both of whom have a plethora of pass-catching talent available at their disposal. Baltimore may lack the horses to keep up.

Written By

Justin Melo