What makes the Baltimore Ravens’ offense so dynamic? Is there any way teams can stop Lamar Jackson? How has this Ravens team been able to improve so much in just one offseason? Four NFL analysts recently joined Glenn Clark Radio to discuss Jackson and the Ravens, and the team now sits as the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a record of 10-2.
Greg Cosell is an NFL analyst for ESPN’s “NFL Matchup” show and a senior producer at NFL Films. When breaking down film of Lamar Jackson and this Ravens offense, one thing that stands out to him is their constant use of pre-snap motion.
Cosell views the pre-snap motion as helping Jackson as he continues to grow as a pocket passer; the offense’s ability to create misdirection and deception is meant to give Jackson an advantage. By being able to analyze the defense and force the defense into making decisions before the snap, Jackson is able to constantly collect the critical information necessary to manage the offense efficiently.
“It really sets up in the pass game by NFL standards defined reads and throws for Jackson,” Cosell said Nov. 29. “We all know Jackson is not Drew Brees, he’s not Carson Palmer. That’s not the kind of quarterback he is. If you ask him to be a true drop-back quarterback, that would not play to what his strength is. In the context of this offense, the throws and the reads become defined and by NFL standards relatively easy and he’s delivering the ball beautifully within the context of that.”
While all the pre-snap motion makes things easier on a quarterback, it also helps when your quarterback is an electric and willing runner. Former strong safety Donte Whitner, who played for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2013, is now an analyst covering the 49ers for NBC Sports Bay Area.
Whitner covers a division with athletic quarterbacks in Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals). Whitner believes that Jackson is a on a completely different level athletically than those two and can’t be defended the same way as Wilson, Murray or any of the league’s other mobile quarterbacks.
Jackson had relatively pedestrian day throwing the ball in the Ravens’ 20-17 win against the 49ers, going only 14-of-23 for 105 yards and a touchdown. But Jackson’s legs were what helped the Ravens seal the game. Jackson ran the ball 16 times for 101 yards and a score, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history with four games with 100-plus yards rushing in a season.
Constantly on the move and willing to use his legs to get first downs, Jackson’s utilized his athleticism best in the biggest moments of the game, including a critical fourth-and-1 on the Ravens’ game-winning drive.
“I don’t think the NFL has seen a guy like Lamar Jackson in recent history,” Whitner said Nov. 29. “A guy who can throw in the pocket, a guy who can beat you with designed quarterback runs and then he can beat you when the play breaks down. Playing against Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, that doesn’t get them ready for this guy. They don’t call designed runs for Russell Wilson. They don’t call designed runs for Kyler Murray. This is a different guy.”
Kevin Harlan was in the booth for Westwood One during the Ravens’ 45-6 win against the Los Angeles Rams on “Monday Night Football” Nov. 25. On a night when former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner and others were commemorating the franchise’s record-breaking 1999 team, it was actually the Ravens — not the Rams — who had Harlan feeling like he was looking at the next iteration of the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
In 35 years of doing NFL play-by play, Harlan says that he has never seen someone play the quarterback position the way Jackson does. Harlan believes that the combination of Jackson’s incomparable playing style and the Ravens’ unique personnel on both sides of the ball allows the team as a whole to always be on the same page and play at a high level.
“It’s the most unique team in pro football on both sides of the ball, and that is a credit to outside the box thinking by John [Harbaugh] and that staff and developing the things that go along,” Harlan said Nov. 26. “… The coaching, the development, everyone’s holding on to the rope and because they’re doing it at the same time and pulling in the same direction, you’re seeing what this is.”
Former NFL defensive back Charles Davis, now an analyst for Fox and the NFL Network, was in the booth for Fox calling the Dec. 1 matchup between the 49ers and Ravens in what he believes was a potential Super Bowl preview. Davis believes that the Ravens’ success against top teams like the 49ers and New England Patriots is systemic and comes from the team’s organizational culture that everyone buys into.
Davis sees the coaching staff and the culture as not only a part of the formula for their success, but also a key to how they continue to win moving forward. Davis has been impressed so far this season with offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, believing they both are innovative play-callers with head coaching potential.
Davis thinks the team’s aggressive play calling, power running game and calmness under pressure are all products of a culture in which the organization emphasizes togetherness and belief in one another.
“These players when they get there, they learn what it’s all about and it gets passed down,” Davis said Dec. 2. “You walk in there, ‘Play Like A Raven.’ Well they find out what ‘Play Like A Raven’ means the first day they set foot in that place. I think that serves them well down the stretch.”
For more from Cosell, listen to the full interview here:
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