The Baltimore Ravens have certainly had an interesting offseason this year with respect to comings and goings in personnel. There has been a good amount of turnover on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball—a new set of wide receivers, for example, imported straight from the college ranks through the 2019 NFL Draft.
But will young starting quarterback Lamar Jackson actually be throwing the football around? New offensive coordinator Greg Roman has said on multiple occasions this offseason that he was re-designing the focus to be on the run game.
Jackson himself was a critical component of the run game last season, recording over 140 rushes, setting a new season-long record for attempts in a season, even though he only started seven games. During his time as a starter, he averaged 17 rushes per game for about 80 yards. 119 of his career 147 rushing attempts came during his seven starts at the end of the year, for 556 yards and four touchdowns.
That’s not the plan for 2019. At least according to owner Steve Bisciotti, who will not be running nor dictating the offense. So frankly, he could well be wrong.
During a conference call with fans yesterday, Bisciotti said, “I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that Lamar is not going to be running 20 times a game”, according to Jamison Hensley for ESPN. “That’s not what this offense is about”.
When Jackson took over as a starter, the Ravens were sitting at 4-5 and staring down yet another lost season, with their starter, Joe Flacco, having suffered a hip injury that would keep him out for a couple of weeks.
But Baltimore just kept winning with Jackson in the game, and when Flacco finally got healthy, the rookie was named the starter. They were winning. The playoffs were still a possibility. Anything that would help them win must be attempted.
Hensley writes that Bisciotti also said Jackson’s high degree of touches during that stretch had much to do with just that. He gave them a better chance to win than did Flacco, but part of that was because of his mobility, and the threat of his mobility. He used his legs as often as he needed to (and often, more than he needed to as well), because it was helping them win.
Realistically, however, they should be able to get it done in a more traditional manner in 2019. Running back Gus Edwards, an undrafted rookie who started the season on the practice squad, emerged alongside Jackson last year, and they brought in Mark Ingram during the offseason, so they should be doing most of the heavy lifting for their quarterback.
“We realized as much as anybody else did that we had 11 eyes on Lamar at the end of the year”, the Ravens’ owner said. “I think they were focused on him, and in order to make him grow, we had to put some speed around him”.