During a conference call with season ticket holders on Thursday, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talked about what he sees as the next step for the offense. Last year, the franchise set a new NFL record for rushing yards in a single season, in fact gaining more yards on the ground than they did through the air. Yet their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, was the very rare unanimous league MVP, who also led the league in passing touchdowns.
“The ability to make them pay for tilting their defense toward stopping our run game with a really, really efficient passing game. I do believe that’s the next step of this offense”, Harbaugh said. “I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step”.
“Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it. We absolutely have to make them pay”.
Last season, Jackson only attempted 401 passes, completing 265 for 3127 yards, with 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He was the most efficient scorer in the league, throwing a touchdown on nine percent of his passes. He also averaged 7.8 yards per attempt.
On deep passes last year, Jackson completed 22 of 55 attempts for 694 yards, with 11 touchdowns to two interceptions. His adjusted accuracy percentage of 41.8 percent ranked 20th in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 20 deep pass attempts on the season.
“We should have guys more open and we should have bigger plays and we should create more opportunities in the passing game because of that run game”, Harbaugh said. Second-year wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin should be coming into their own, for one thing, while tight end Mark Andrews is still developing, and they also brought in two new receivers in the draft, including third-round pick Devin Duvernay.
Still, they’re not going to suddenly become a passing team. “I wouldn’t say we’re going to scrap the run game and I wouldn’t say we’re going to become a more conventional offense — that’s the last thing we want to do”, their head coach said. “We didn’t change the offense to scrap the idea that we want to cause people problems. We just want to get better at taking advantage of weaknesses”.
The Ravens averaged 33.2 points per game last season, the highest in the NFL, and among the 15 highest points per game totals in NFL history. They went 14-2 on the strength of their prolific running game—including Jackson’s mobility, who led the team in rushing—and an efficient passing game. But they believe the passing game can and must do even more.