The Baltimore Ravens are 6-2, the same spot that they were halfway through the season a year ago. Only by this time they were already on an extended winning streak, and would win all of their remaining eight games to finish 14-2 and with the number one seed in the conference.
Somehow that prospect does not seem as likely in 2020, in no small part due to the fact that they have already lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are 8-0 and hold a two-game division lead with a game in hand. Three current AFC division leaders have better records than they do, including their own.
On top of that, like the Steelers, they understand that they are not a finished product. And the offense certainly is not running as smoothly as it was a year ago, even if they were able to put up 265 yards on the ground against the Steelers. That, of course, came in a game in which they lost, and in which quarterback Lamar Jackson recorded four giveaways, including two interceptions.
For starters, they are averaging nearly five points fewer per game than they were last season, though they still rank seventh in scoring this year, and last year’s average was among the highest in NFL history. But even Jackson is seeing how things have changed.
Earlier this week, he appeared on the Rich Eisen Show, and he talked about how teams are beginning to catch up to their offense. “They’re calling out our plays, stuff like that”, he told his host. “They know what we’re doing. Sometimes stuff won’t go our way if they’re beating us to the punch”.
Eisen would follow up with Jackson to confirm that he is indeed hearing opposing defenses calling out what they’re going to run, and he said “yeah, they definitely do”. Defenses are picking up on their tendency queues and calling out to teammates what to watch for on a given play with a certain key.
We already knew this was happening, because even Steelers rookie Alex Highsmith talked about it two weeks ago, noting that he made a halftime adjustment based on a play he was beaten on in the first half which led to him getting an interception when he saw the same thing in the second half.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was not concerned about what he was hearing from his quarterback, though. “Calling out plays is nothing new”, hew told reporters on Thursday when he was asked about Jackson’s remarks on the subject.
“They’re going to be right sometimes, they’re going to be wrong sometimes. I think we know that. But that’s definitely an element of the game. It always has been and probably always will be”, he added. He also said that this is something he and Jackson discuss, and that there are plays where there are audibles to get out of plays that are correctly read by the defense.
“Some quarterbacks audible or have the freedom to audible every play”, he said. “Sometimes that works out well for them, sometimes it doesn’t. Some people don’t do it at all. I would say we’re somewhere in between there”.