The Baltimore Ravens are a franchise that built their reputation on defense, but over the past year and a half, their identity has been changing, becoming an offensively-oriented team under Lamar Jackson, who helped the team lead the league in scoring last season, going 14-2 while building significant leads frequently.
And they did this while setting a new NFL rushing record. In 2019. Jackson only threw 401 passes on the season. The 440 passes as a team were the fewest in the entire league—and yet they also led the league in passing touchdowns with 37, one more than the New Orleans Saints.
Baltimore is hoping to take an efficient passing game and also make it prolific in 2020, as Jackson continues to mature and they surround him with young and talented pass-catchers. Tight end Mark Andrews has already developed into a notable player, but the star, they’re hoping, will be Marquise Brown, the wide receiver they took in the first round last year.
‘Hollywood’, the cousin of Antonio Brown, was the first wide receiver taken in that draft, in spite of the fact that he had a foot injury that he played through all season, with a screw and everything. That limited him significantly, but he still managed to catch 46 passes for 584 yards and seven touchdowns, and John Harbaugh believes that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“The biggest issue was the fact that he really was limited in practice”, he told The Fan about Brown’s limitations as a rookie. “He really couldn’t practice the way [he wanted]. He’s really motivated, driven. He gets out there early, stays late. But he couldn’t put a lot of pressure on that foot day in and day out”.
“I think that’s gonna be really interesting to see, because his talent is at a high level, his motivation’s at a high level”, Harbaugh added about the second-year progress his young star makes. “His hands are really kind of a lot better than we thought. Not that we didn’t think he had good hands, but he’s got really good hands. So all those things, I can’t wait to see him when he gets back”.
Miles Boykin is another second-year wide receiver ready to take a step forward this year as a former third-round pick. They also added Devin Duvernay via the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, in addition to James Proche later in the same class.
Coming of an MVP season, Jackson is the face of the Ravens, and they know that they have to surround him with the tools to maximize his abilities. Already he has gone 19-3 as a starter in the regular season. But the next step is conquering the postseason, and that will require advancements in the passing game.