A playoff berth can’t mask what’s been a generally mediocre season for the Baltimore Ravens, especially on offense, where coordinator Greg Roman has come under increasing fire for his conservative play-calling and the performances of a pedestrian unit.
Those are problems the Ravens won’t deal with for much longer, according to Jason La Canfora of The Washington Post. He “would bet the house” the Ravens will part company with Roman this offseason.
La Canfora even named the best candidate to replace Roman, an assistant coach who is well placed to bring out the best in franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Time’s Up for Struggling Coordinator
La Canfora made it clear the Ravens have reached the point of no return with Roman: “Baltimore’s passing offense appears more broken than ever, and whether the Ravens keep or trade Lamar Jackson, I would bet the house on the team moving on from Greg Roman. His tenure has run its course. Roman must realize that on a certain level, although he has been hamstrung by one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL — again.”
It’s tough to argue Roman’s offense has hit the wall in recent seasons, particularly in the passing game. This year’s Ravens rank 30th in yards through the air, with just 3,202. Their 6.6 yards per attempt is firmly in the bottom tier of the league, while Baltimore’s 33 completions of 20 yards or more is the second-fewest in football.
A dearth of talent at wide receiver hasn’t helped, but Roman’s schemes are also limiting how the Ravens attack defenses with the pass. A lack of deep shots, combined with inadequate route spacing between receivers, has made the Ravens one-dimensional and predictable.
For some, including former Ravens wideout Daniel Wilcox, the scheme is more of a problem than personnel. That’s what Wilcox made clear to Press Box Online’s Glenn Clark:
While the Ravens do lack marquee wide receivers, veterans like DeSean Jackson and Sammy Watkins have 1,000-yd and Pro-Bowl pedigree. There’s also plenty of potential among Demarcus Robinson, Devin Duvernay and Rashod Bateman.
Roman’s critics believe he’s wasting the talent at his disposal, but head coach John Harbaugh doesn’t agree. Harbaugh hasn’t been shy about defending Roman, with Ravens.com’s Ryan Mink reporting this quote back on December 19: “All of our coaches including Greg and everybody else, are fully capable of understanding the pass game and what we’ve got to do to get it done and scheming it up and all that kind of stuff. We can do things a lot better, we can look at how much we’re calling, how much motion and stuff we put in, all the football-related X-and-O stuff, we’re definitely looking at really hard.”
Assigning the right portion of blame to either players or coaches hardly matters. The end result is the same, a Ravens offense struggling for points at the business end of the season, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley:
Hensley’s reference to Jackson and his games missed with a PCL injury is telling. The Ravens have struggled with and without Jackson this season.
Although he’s set to be a free agent, if the Ravens bring Jackson back, they must construct a more expansive offense for his dual-threat skills.
Next Play-Caller Has to Elevate Jackson
La Canfora has a solution for the Ravens’ search for a more Jackson-centric coordinator: “Perhaps the Ravens will promote quarterbacks coach James Urban.”
It’s an interesting suggestion with merit for the most important player on the roster. Jackson still doesn’t have a new long-term contract, but he’s likely to be back on the exclusive franchise tag, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports.
Letting his position coach call the offense would help sweeten any short-term, tag-type deal for Jackson. Urban’s been working with Jackson since the latter entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 2018, so they’d be no need for either to adapt to the other.
More important, the coach who has most closely viewed Jackson’s development as a passer is more likely to trust No. 8 to air it out more often. That’s not to say Urban wouldn’t still tailor the offense to what Jackson does best, meaning letting Baltimore’s QB1 gash defenses as a runner.
It’s what Urban helped Michael Vick do with the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2009. Letting Jackson run hasn’t been a problem for Roman, but the ground-heavy offense has come at the expense of Jackson making significant improvements as a passer.
Those strides are crucial for the future of the Ravens, with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders detailing how much more productive the offense is with Jackson than without him:
If Jackson’s back, the onus will be on Harbaugh to put the best people around him to facilitate his success. The first step will be deciding if the quarterback has outgrown Roman’s system.