Odell Beckham Jr.’s arrival should help the Baltimore Ravens lead the NFL in one specific category next season. That’s according to ESPN’s Mina Kimes, who told NFL Live how “this Ravens offense, with Lamar Jackson as the dual-threat, should have the most explosive play-action passing attack in the NFL. Especially if Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman are healthy.”
Kimes based her prediction on what Ravens’ offensive coordinator Todd Monken did at Georgia. The Bulldogs “integrated the run and the pass” under Monken, per Kimes, who also believes “there was an attention to detail that’s really been missing with the Ravens.”
Monken reuniting with Beckham should inspire the Ravens passing game to trend upwards in 2023. There wasn’t much further for the air attack to plummet under Monken’s predecessor Greg Roman.
The trick will be striking the right balance between featuring enough of a potentially dominant running game, led by Jackson and J.K. Dobbins, while also feeding Beckham. Making heavy use of play-action concepts is the sweet spot for this balancing act.
Ravens Can Become Play-Action Masters in 2023
One of the more intriguing points Kimes made was to point out how “when you watched Georgia football, everything looked the same.” On the surface, that quote doesn’t sound too complimentary, but it’s a major plus point when Kimes applies those words to the context of play-action passing.
The concept is based on deception. On making a defense think and play run while becoming undermanned in coverage. Executing a pass play from a personnel grouping identical to what the Ravens field for a run, will create easy pickings through the air.
Forcing defenses to play run based on personnel won’t be a problem for the Ravens. Not when Monken can put tight ends Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely on the line and still have OBJ and Rashod Batemen on the outside. Jackson and Dobbins in the backfield still present a run threat few teams can ignore.
It makes sense excitement is building about the Ravens’ depth of playmaking talent following Beckham’s arrival, with SportsCenter showing the star-studded lineup.
One name not on the list is Nelson Agholor, signed from the New England Patriots in free agency. Agholor is not a prolific wideout, but he does boast vertical speed, having averaged 12.4 yards per catch during his career.
The trio of Agholor, Bateman and Beckham will allow the Ravens to stretch the field against any defense, but it’s OBJ who should be the focus. He’s the most dynamic member of the group, despite being 30 and having torn his left ACL twice.
Beckham also knows how Monken likes to attack defenses.
OBJ and Todd Monken History Will Be Key for Ravens
Many of his 1,035 yards came on the kind of plays Kimes anticipates the Ravens will run. Baker Mayfield started all 16 games as Cleveland’s QB1 on Monken’s watch, attempting 125 passes off of play action and amassing 1,128 of his 3,827 yards, per Pro Football Reference.
The same source also detailed how Mayfield attempted 58 passes on RPO plays, gaining 471 yards from the concept. RPOs are something the Ravens should use with Beckham.
One AFC Coach told Heavy Sports’ Senior NFL Insider Matt Lombardo how OBJ “helps with Lamar now having a solid receiver. I could see a lot more college RPO type concepts, with OBJ being available on slant types off the run-fake.”
There’s a blueprint for the Ravens to get OBJ back to his best after he missed all of last season rehabbing the second major knee injury of his career. The formula will depend on Monken’s ability to take the best of the run-first concepts Roman favored and use those designs to create space for a more expansive passing game.