I’m going to keep talking about it until people start understanding what’s happening, because the clues just keep on coming: The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson are going to throw the football a lot more this year.
The Ravens understand that in order to take the next step and to try and dethrone the Chiefs in the AFC, they are going to have to step up their passing attack. Everything they have done this offseason supports this.
Before the draft, I said:
“Much like the Buffalo Bills last year, who made a splash trade for Stefon Diggs to give Josh Allen a legitimate weapon to help him grow as a passer, I expect the Ravens to use the same approach in this year’s draft. For Jackson to progress, he needs better weapons.”
They did exactly that. Not only did the Ravens take wide receiver Rashod Batement with their first pick in the first round (No. 27 overall), they doubled down by taking another wide receiver, Tylan Wallace. Their draft was built around the premise of adding weapons for their young quarterback.
I also wrote that three yards a cloud of dust will no longer cut it in the AFC North anymore. The entire division is shifting in this direction, putting a priority on skill position players. The Cincinnati Bengals took receiver Ja’Marr Chase as the first receiver in the draft, the Steelers brought back Juju Smith-Schuster as a free agent and drafted running back Najee Harris in the first round, and the Browns will be adding the recovering Odell Beckham Jr. to their receiving corps. The talent investment on offense is noticeable.
Not only did the Ravens add two wide receivers that can both excel at all levels of the field, but they also reportedly want to get their skilled running backs more involved in the passing game as well. When asked about second-year running back J.K. Dobbins and his involvement in the passing game, head coach John Harbaugh said:
“He’s made strides. It’s been one of the main points of emphasis, to involve our running backs in the passing game more going forward here in this offseason. J.K. is obviously going to be a focal point of that and of course, Justice [Hill], and Gus [Edwards] does what he does in the passing game. I think J.K. and Justice specifically, that’s what they should be really good at.”
Dobbins only logged 18 receptions for 120 yards in his rookie season. However, as an explosive athlete in open space, getting him the ball in the receiving game would be a beneficial wrinkle in their offense. Clearly, Harbaugh agrees.
Easily the best asset in the passing game for the Ravens over the last two seasons has been tight end Mark Andrews, who has been an efficient and dominant red zone threat and favorite target of Jackson’s. Andrews has 17 receiving touchdowns over the last two years, which is more than Travis Kelce (16), George Kittle (7), and Darren Waller (12).
Yesterday, Harbaugh said about Andrews and how he’s practicing:
“Really good. He’s practiced very well,” Harbaugh said after the Ravens wrapped up their third open practice of organized team activities. “I told him today, I really feel like he’s running routes the best that I’ve seen him run routes since he’s been here. Very crisp and very sharp and explosive and all of it. I’m just happy he’s here.”
So, to recap: the Ravens traded for draft picks that helped them draft two wide receivers, they want to include their running backs in the passing game more, and their best threat, Mark Andrews, is healthy, thriving, and running the best routes he’s run in the last few years.
The Ravens, who led the NFL in rushing attempts per game last season (34.6), have gone about this entire offseason telegraphing to the rest of the NFL that they are preparing to take a leap as a more versatile offense. Lamar Jackson will have all the pieces around him to remind the league that he’s an MVP-level quarterback.