Ravens film study: How QB Lamar Jackson injury could change offense

When quarterback Lamar Jackson took over the Ravens offense as a rookie in 2018, the team’s coaching staff had to build something new, something different than what they had entrusted Joe Flacco with for over a decade in Baltimore.

In the midst of this schematic dismantling, the Ravens have built a new offense for their new franchise quarterback — and a new template for their next backup quarterback. When Tyler Huntley filled in for an injured Jackson last year, and again in Sunday’s narrow win over the Denver Broncoslittle in coordinator Greg Roman’s playbook had to change.

“Most people probably want to have a backup quarterback that’s the same style of player as their starter,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “So if this [injury] happens, you don’t need to change your game plan or playbook too much. So I did the same thing, I think, as most teams. We just have a little different offense than a lot of teams.”

However, Jackson and Huntley run the Ravens offense differently. As Huntley prepares to start Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers while Jackson is recovering from a minor knee injuryhere’s a look at how the quarterback change could affect the offense.

WR Devin Duvernay

Duvernay was open on the play that eliminated Jackson. The presnap move took him to the left side on a play-action fake, and with wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s vertical route clearing space underneath, Duvernay’s deep return route was largely uncovered. But Jackson never saw him — or if he did, not until Broncos linebacker Jonathon Cooper wrapped him up for a sack.

On the Ravens’ next play, Huntley’s first of the game, Duvernay wasn’t open until he was. On third-and-13, Huntley finished just as Duvernay, running another comeback route down the right sideline, went into the break. The ball arrived before Broncos cornerback Damarri Mathis, who is guarding the sticks on first down, could drive the throw.

The completion gained just 11 yards, and the Ravens punted. But Duvernay would end the game with two completions on two 10+ yard targets by Huntley. During his six-game slump dating back to Week 6, he had just two catches on five targets of more than 10 yards by Jackson, according to Sports Info Solutions.

The Ravens need Duvernay’s dynamism from the start of the season back. Last season, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and then-rookie Rashod Bateman took over the receiver duties. Now Duvernay is the one who rarely leaves the field.

TE Mark Andrews

Andrews was the Ravens’ leading receiver this season, ranking second among NFL tight ends in receiving yards (654) and touchdowns (five). He was the Ravens’ top receiver on Sunday, finishing with four catches for a team-high 53 yards. And he believes he will remain the Ravens’ best receiver, even with Huntley at quarterback.

They already have quite a ratio. Before an ankle injury ended his 2021 season, Jackson completed 63.7 percent of his passes to Andrews, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt. He finished with a 75.4 passer rating when targeting Andrews, down seven interceptions.

With Huntley in charge, however, Andrews was even more dangerous. Huntley completed 77.4 percent of his passes and averaged 9.3 yards per attempt when targeting him last season. He threw three interceptions, but still finished with a 100.7 passer rating. More than half of Huntley’s throws to Andrews ended in a first down.

Overall, when Huntley targeted Andrews last season, the Ravens averaged .488 expected points added per game, according to the game index site nffastR. (EPA is a measure of efficiency that takes into account situational factors such as dropbacks, distance and field position.) The Kansas City Chiefs lead the NFL this season in EPA per game on dropbacks, according to the analytics site RBSDM.comto 0.303.

On Sunday, the Huntley-Andrews connection was a little fuzzy at times. A miscommunication led to an interception on one pass, and on the other misfire, Huntley tried to throw Andrews a split second before he was ready. But they still connected for three completions of double-digit yardage, and on the game’s decisive drive, Huntley’s bounce ball to Andrews down the right sideline helped draw a pass interference penalty on third down.

Run back

With Jackson released, the Ravens lost perhaps the best ball carrier in the NFL. Among players with at least 100 carries this season, Jackson (6.8 yards per carry) trails only Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (7.1) in rushing average. And, of a modelJackson trails only New Orleans Saints wide receiver Taysom Hill in rushing yards over projected carries this season.

Huntley isn’t slow — he left Broncos star Juston Simmons airborne on a 14-yard scramble late in the third quarter — but he doesn’t exert a gravitational pull on run defenses which Jackson does. So a recently troubled ground game and a not-quite-complete running room now has even less margin for error.

Since the Week 10 bye, Ravens running backs Gus Edwards, Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill have combined for 176 yards on 50 carries (3.5 per carry). On designed runs (excluding scrambles), Jackson and Huntley averaged 4.0 and 2.2 yards per carry, respectively, in that span.

The Ravens’ best hopes for success may rest on their read-option game. During Huntley’s four straight starts ending last season, Devonta Freeman and Latavius ​​Murray combined for 157 yards on 21 carries (7.5 yards per carry), while Huntley himself added six carries for 45 yards (7.5 yards per carry).

Even if Jackson’s absence hurts the rushing production of the Ravens’ running backs, it could give them more opportunities in the team’s passing game. Huntley is typically less reluctant to throw check-downs and look for receivers in the flat than Jackson. Last year, Freeman and Murray combined for 19 catches on 21 targets from Huntley, who played in seven games. With Jackson gone, they combined for 24 catches on 33 targets in his 12 games.

Week 14

Ravens at Steelers

Sunday, 1 p.m

TV: Ch. 13

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

The line: Steelers by 2 1/2


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