Going into the NFL Draft, and throughout his first couple of seasons, Lamar Jackson and his style of play has been highly debated. Could he get the job done? Why would the Baltimore Ravens adhere to this college like offensive style? Lastly, is it sustainable?
That last question has stuck out, now more than ever. With an everchanging NFL style on offense, the Ravens have done well to accommodate to Lamar Jackson. He has enjoyed a fabulous start to his career, and it can still continue to grow. Today, we will focus on the misconceptions of the Baltimore running game, while focusing on Jackson. How can the Kansas City Chiefs attempt to stop the attack on Monday night? We plan to find that answer at the end.
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Buying And Investing
For so many NFL teams, establishing the run is easier said than done. There are multiple units who struggle to gain consistency. That may be due to a coach’s decision, or the unit is seemingly not good enough to get the job done. There also has to be a commitment made by the coaching staff and players to buy in. While Baltimore has long found winning success as a team, they were able to stay afloat and elongate their team lifecycle when catering to Jackson.
When Joe Flacco was constantly injured, it allowed the Ravens an opportunity to explore their options. Drafting Lamar in 2018 was not just a gimmick. And neither is their offensive style. Taking a chance that they did, and being able to hit the reset button on the offense only made the team better. For Jackson, he has entered into a rarified environment, that most quarterbacks never get to experience at the NFL level.
In addition, this investment into the offense itself and Lamar Jackson, is different than most run orientated offenses. We are not watching a triple option team from the college ranks. Overall, this is very much an NFL style of offense. The Ravens do not become dependent on the ground game. Simply, it is a good job of continuing to push forward and evolve, while forcing opponents to adjust and scheme up multiple blueprints.
Spreading The Wealth
It is important to have ample depth at your skill positions. For running backs, it is often stated that they do not matter. Of course, this is suggesting that you can stick any player into that given spot and good things will continue to come. The Ravens utilize this suggestion to keep the opponent guessing. Whereas with other teams, there are clear cut roles in which runners fill.
The trio of Mark Ingram, JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards are all built and play similarly. Moreover, this group is all given much more freedom than most backfields. When I say that, people may think about snap counts and touches. Not so much. In fact, Ingram never reached 20 touches in a game last year. The fact of the matter, is no one is being leaned on. By staying fresh, these runners have a greater opportunity to cash in. And for Lamar Jackson, he is the best dual threat quarterback in the league. Having the confidence and trust from those players makes life much easier for Baltimore’s decision makers.
Maximizing On Strengths
Piggybacking off of that last paragraph, the Ravens could have just been content with their rush attack entering 2020. But somehow, Ohio State’s Dobbins falls into their lap in Round Two of the 2020 NFL Draft. This makes life and decision making more challenging for opponents.
With adding another piece to the puzzle, defenses are forced to account for more than they already had to. How does this affect Lamar Jackson? For one, this opens the door up for even more opportunities for him to produce. The Ravens also benefitted by Dobbins being a schematic fit. Jackson can continue to go about his business, just as he would with Ingram or Edwards. As a result, the good teams in the NFL stay good by reinforcing their strengths and not allowing good players (Ingram, Edwards) prevent them from taking even better players (Dobbins).
The final aspect surrounding Lamar Jackson and the running game that I wanted to touch on involves injuries. The aura amongst quarterbacks with running abilities, is that they are going to get hurt too often to see or stay on the field. This could not be more false.
Thanks to Sports Info Solutions, I was able to find out this set of data. Quarterbacks get hurt more on knockdowns (1 out of 67.3 plays), sacks (1 out of 92.5 plays) and scrambles (1 out of 91.7 plays), than they do on designed runs (1 out of 236 plays).
How is this possible? As a runner, players are more aware of protecting themselves. Quarterbacks also have the benefit of being highly preserved by certain penalty calls. On the other hand, defenders have a much more difficult time setting up hits and angles against quarterbacks who run, especially Lamar Jackson. When quarterbacks stand in the pocket, there is a greater abundance of chaos happening with blockers and collisions they cannot see coming.
What Can Kansas City Do?
The easy answer, is that the Kansas City Chiefs must employ more than one way to attack in the game plan. Stacking the box and getting home may suit this Chiefs team well. Based off of speed and instincts from Tyrann Mathieu and others like Damien Wilson, Kansas City can spy Jackson if they feel comfortable. This test of the running game from Baltimore will hopefully lead to learning points and future success later in the season, win or lose on Monday night. Kansas City will need to answer Lamar Jackson’s bell.
Be on the lookout for our game preview podcast and article that will drop on Saturday. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.