The Baltimore Ravens have been a relatively stable team who you knew what to expect from year in and year out. They always had a dominant defense, and they had Joe Flacco at quarterback. Flacco was usually productive and loved targeting tight ends, but not generally someone who opposing coaches lost sleep over trying to defend.
Now things have changed. The Ravens have one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the league
under center four yards behind the center and he has been paired with a speedy rookie wide receiver. This would seem to put the Ravens on a Super Bowl trajectory, but as you will see they are not without flaws on either side of the ball.
In this first clip, Lamar Jackson throws a dime to rookie Marquise Brown. Jackson can make a lot of plays with his legs (and we’ll get to that), but he also has a great arm. Brown has incredible speed and with time the pair could rival the Kansas City Chiefs duo of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill.
No call aside, there were 5 Steelers there, what’s he doing? pic.twitter.com/dZJUlMSk7N— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 8, 2019
Jackson had accuracy issues in college which have presented themselves in the NFL from time-to-time, as has poor decision making. This is to be expected as he is in his first full year as a starter, but is definitely something the Bengals should look to capitalize on,
After throwing no interceptions in the first three weeks of the season, he has thrown five in the past two weeks. The clip above shows him throwing one of his three picks against the Steelers.
Most impressive 7 yard run I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/9y3gr3IEns— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 8, 2019
Of course, Jackson is also an absurd athlete. Kyler Murray‘s athletic ability proved fatal for the Bengals last week and this week things are unlikely to get better.
The clip above is one of many ridiculous scrambles Jackson has had this season. The Bengals will need to rush the passer with discipline and keep him in the pocket.
This is an empty formation. Last week the Bengals showed a couple of different defensive looks to empty; one of which involved two high safeties. In that look the Bengals had five players lined up against each of the Cardinals’ five receivers and four pass rushers. This left zero linebackers in the box.
On what ended up being the decisive play of the game, Murray took off up the middle of the field against this look. With no linebacker spying him, he was able to get his team into field goal range.
Of course, a lot of guys can run. What makes an athletic quarterback really special is when he keeps his eyes downfield, always looking to make a play with his arm rather than his legs.
In the clip above, Jackson is flushed out of the pocket and scrambles to the right. Miraculously he manages to find Willie Snead IV on the complete opposite side of the field for the first down,
In the offseason, the Ravens claimed to be making great innovations offensively that would be completely unique.
In all honestly, what they are doing is very similar to what head coach John Harbaugh’s brother Jim Harbaugh was doing with Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers in the early part of the decade. It’s no coincidence that Greg Roman, the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, was Kaepernick’s offensive coordinator as well under the other Harbaugh in San Francisco.
Full backfields are prevalent in this offense. In the clip above, Jackson has a player to either side and a running back behind him. It is once again an option play. Jackson reads the end man on the line of scrimmage and either gives to the running back up the middle or keeps it himself to take around the edge.
In the clip above the end man on the line of scrimmage stays wide, so Jackson gives the ball to the running back.
In the clip below, the end man on the line of scrimmage crashes down to tackle the dive, so Jackson keeps it and takes off around the outside.
While the Ravens may be much more exciting and dynamic on offense, their defense is not what it used to be. The losses of C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle have hit this team hard.
While adding Earl Thomas III was a great move, the loss of the defensive leaders listed above has taken its toll.
This defense has had a number of blown coverages. In the clip above they are in a three-deep look defensively and the slot receiver is inexplicably allowed to run freely up the field. He is open for a long touchdown.
Their problems defensively are not only about understanding their jobs. They have also had problems tackling in both the run game and the pass game. In the clip above they miss four tackles and give up the score to Nick Chubb .
For better or worse, this is not the same old Ravens. They have shown some very good things offensively, but Jackson has not been cautious enough with the ball in recent weeks. Defensively they have talent, but have not played to their potential.
In short, this is a team that could be one of the league’s best, but has not yet shown their best selves. To win this game the Bengals will need to show great discipline defensively and turn mistakes by the Ravens defense into points.