Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh have had their say on the Baltimore Ravens surprisingly inability to run the ball through two games of the 2022 NFL season. The Ravens, usually the groundhogs of the league under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, have mustered 218 rushing yards during games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.
That number has been inflated by Jackson’s own spectacular efforts as a ball-carrier. The dual-threat quarterback ran 79 yards for a touchdown against the Dolphins after managing just 17 yards in the win over the Jets.
Jackson is still posing a considerable threat as a runner, but the Ravens have become a pass-first team while primary running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards remain on the shelf. The franchise signal-caller has spoken about the disparity and what it means for an evolving offense this season.
Jackson Gives Verdict on Lopsided Run-Pass Mix
Speaking after ending up on the wrong end of a 42-38 shootout with the Dolphins in Week 2, Jackson explained what the new pass-first approach means for the Ravens, per Cordell Woodland of 105.7 The Fan:
Jackson is right to talk about something new in the Ravens’ offense. It’s been made obvious by the number of passes he’s already thrown.
He attempted 30 passes against the Jets and followed that performance by putting the ball in the air 29 times against Miami. All of those throws have yielded positive numbers, 531 yards and six touchdowns.
Yet, while Jackson’s stats make for good reading, the Ravens appear less effective without their familiar consistency on the ground. This is no longer the team that set an NFL single-season record for rushing yards by a team, with 3,296 in 2019.
The numbers have dwindled amid a slew of injuries. Dobbins, Edwards and Justice Hill each missed all of last season.
Edwards has begun this campaign on the PUP list, while Dobbins is still trying to make his comeback a reality. The latter practiced ahead of Week 2 but was inactive for the visit of the Dolphins.
Head coach John Harbaugh is still offering nothing definite on when Dobbins will see the field, per Robert Sobus of Ravens Wire: “He’s been week-to-week the last couple of weeks, so that’s what it is. When he’s ready, he’ll be out there.”
Harbaugh put the onus on the backs playing in place of those who are injured to pick up the slack, in comments reported by Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun:
While Harbaugh’s words don’t offer much comfort, there are still ample reasons to believe the Ravens’ running game will return to form this season. Particularly whenever Dobbins is available.
Ravens’ Running Game Will Recover
It’s not difficult to understand why the Ravens are being patient with Dobbins. They know the value of having their RB1 at full strength.
Dobbins possesses the vision and patience to exploit the right lanes created by the Ravens offensive line. It’s something Hill couldn’t do on this sweep against the Dolphins, when he made a decision that left Nate Tice of The Athletic flabbergasted:
Tice’s frustration was well-founded because this play should have yielded so much more. A runner with Dobbins’ cutback skills would surely have produced a bigger gain.
Yardage aside, this play did show the Ravens are at least moving defenders off the ball in the running game. There are plenty of holes to exploit, but Hill and disappointing veterans Kenyan Drake and Mike Davis aren’t always seeing them.
The result is teams are changing the way they play Roman’s offense. Without having to worry about a productive ground attack, opponents are blitzing Jackson more often, something he responded to superbly against the Dolphins, according to PFF:
Expecting Jackson to thrive under pressure like this every week is not a sustainable strategy. The Ravens are learning the same hard lesson every pass-happy team learns, that a one-dimensional aerial approach is not an efficient way to win regularly.