2021 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 6,440 (Sixth)
Offensive Touchdowns: 30 (19th)
Offensive Plays: 1,185 (First)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 668 (Sixth)
Rush Attempts: 517 (Third)
Unaccounted for Targets: 255 (Third)
Unaccounted for Carries: 290 (First)
Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman has never been accused of being one of the league’s great adjusters. He had no choice in 2021 when he lost his top two running backs for the season before a single down of real football was played. With J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards rehabbing torn ACLs, fill-ins Ty’Son Williams, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray and Le’Veon Bell took turns trying to stabilize the backfield. They failed — spectacularly. In response, Lamar Jackson was forced to increase his passing attempts from 26 per game in 2019-20 to 32. Correspondingly, the Ravens’ run rate crashed from 54 and 55 percent, respectively, in 2019-20 to 44 percent. Everything was less effective. Jackson’s TD:INT total bottomed out at 16:13 while the run game’s yards per carry dropped from 5.5 to 4.8.
The Ravens have made it abundantly clear how they will be responding to last year’s offensive failures: By going back to the 2019 future. Dobbins and Edwards are on track for Week 1 while former No. 1 receiver Marquise Brown has been traded. To erase any possibility their plan will be misconstrued, the Ravens used a first-round draft pick on C Tyler Linderbaum.
Jackson is going to pass less and run more. It is not the most comfortable of dynamics after the wiry dual-threat dealt with injury in 2021, missing the final four games with an ankle issue. It is also the Ravens’ only choice considering their personnel issues and Jackson’s continued passing regression from his 2019 MVP form. Jackson’s touchdown rate has predictably plummeted from 9.0 to 6.9 to 4.2. His interception rate has correlated, spiking from 1.5 to 2.4 to 3.4. Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 graded passer in 2019, Jackson was No. 24 in 2021. His percentage of “turnover worthy” plays has doubled from 1.8 in ‘19 to 3.6. 24 signal callers better protected the ball last season.
Jackson’s 2021 aDOT was higher than it has ever been at 10.0, but he averaged an unimpressive 11.5 yards on his 54 attempts that traveled at least 20-plus yards down the field. He completed only 33 percent of his deep passes. That is an area where he must improve, but it will be easier said than done with “Hollywood” now in Arizona.
Sliding into Brown’s No. 1 spot is 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman, who was limited to 12 rookie appearances by a core muscle injury. Just seven of those games came with Jackson under center. Despite the Ravens finishing ninth in pass attempts (611), Bateman commanded a modest six targets per game, surpassing 80 yards one time. Perhaps encouragingly, it was a seven-grab, 103-yard effort in Jackson’s final start in Week 13.
Zooming back out, Bateman’s 1.26 yards per route run were 81st, putting him in the company of Saints wind sprinter Tre’Quan Smith and third-round Texans rookie Nico Collins. Bateman’s 3.7 average yards after the catch were 68th. Bateman’s 2022 case is based in large part on Brown’s 146 vacated looks and the Ravens’ failure to add target competition. He was also, of course, a pretty darn good player in college and — knock on wood — won’t be beginning his sophomore campaign on injured reserve. Even if, as expected, the Ravens drastically curtail their passing volume, Bateman should get a huge chunk of the pie alongside All-Pro TE Mark Andrews.
That’s because behind Bateman is … well it’s hard to say really. There is third-year track athlete Devin Duvernay. He has 4.39 speed but 53 career catches for an abysmal 473 yards. That comes out to an eyesore yards per catch of 8.9. Good for a running back, disastrous for a receiver. It is impossible to envision a third-year breakout for the 25-year-old. There is then second-year pro Tylan Wallace, who forced himself onto the field for just 85 offensive snaps as a fourth-round rookie. Already 23, Wallace flunks the draft capital, breakout age and rookie production tests, though he was an avid compiler and contested-catch artist at Oklahoma State. He is more worthy of a late-round flier than Duvernay.
Beyond Duvernay and Wallace in the receiver corps is a group of players — James Proche, Binjimen Victor, etc. — who are just as likely to be left off the 53-man roster as come into regular targets. That is what makes Andrews so important. The league’s reigning tight end champion, Andrews’ 1,361 yards last season were the third-most in the history of the position. He had the benefit of an extra game, but Andrews nearly doubled his previous career-high for targets, going from 88 to 153. He remained efficient in doing so, averaging a strong 12.7 yards per grab and 2.18 yards per route run. Only George Kittle and Dallas Goedert were better in the latter category and neither reached 1,000 yards. The concern is the near-certain plunging of the Ravens’ pass attempts, but that should also partially be offset by Brown’s departure. Unlike past tight end heroes Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski, Andrews does not belong in a tier all by himself atop the tight end position, but he deserves to be the consensus No. 1.
Take three. After his inconclusive rookie campaign and injury-ruined 2021, Dobbins is getting a third chance to lead a backfield that wants to be the most run-heavy in football. The No. 55 overall pick of the 2020 Draft, Dobbins is still only 23 years old, but he enters his third season with 152 career touches. There is little clarity on whether he will be the Ravens’ third-down back. We don’t even have certainty on early downs, where Gus Edwards had been a breather back/teacher’s pet — one who averaged 5.2 years per carry — before his injury. There has been loose chatter that Edwards could be a cut candidate, but that seems unlikely after last year’s depth and production fiascos in the Ravens’ running back corps.
If Edwards remains and slots in as the No. 2, he will have difficulty carving out FLEX value. He is a pass-catching zero and is unlikely to out-touch Dobbins near the goal line. If Edwards is gone, Dobbins will begin to look like a top-18 fantasy option. Knowing what we know in mid-June, Dobbins is a back-end RB2 with more untapped upside than unknown downside. Even if we don’t know Dobbins’ exact role, we do know he will lead this run-first offense in touches, likely by a large margin.
Waiting as a potential fly in the ointment is sixth-round rookie Tyler Badie. A longtime pass-catching and change-of-pace back at Mizzou, Badie become the Tigers’ lead runner in 2021 and promptly set the school rushing record with 1,604 yards in 12 games. He added a 54/330/4 receiving line for good measure and enters the NFL with 126 college receptions to his name. It will be third down where Badie must earn his initial role, but perhaps it could bleed into the occasional between-the-tackles touch. Badie is a person of interest in 12-14 team PPR leagues.
Behind Badie, Mike Davis and Justice Hill can’t be ruled out of the No. 3 mix. Davis was running on fumes for the 2021 Falcons, but this Ravens coaching staff has demonstrated a soft spot for veteran runners. Stranger things have happened than Hill earning the change-of-pace role, but then again, he has 13 career receptions in 28 games and missed all of 2021 with a torn Achilles’ tendon. He will have to earn his 53-man roster spot on the field.
None of this is to lose sight of the fact that Jackson is this offense’s primary runner. Despite last year’s injury, Jackson’s legs remain one of the top attributes in all of football. There have been three 1,000-yard quarterback rushing campaigns in NFL history. Jackson has two of them. Despite his recent passing woes, Jackson remains a no-brainer top-five fantasy quarterback where a No. 1 overall finish is always within the range of outcomes.
The Ravens are generally installed at 9.5. That is a number they have cleared three times in four years since Jackson replaced Joe Flacco under center. It likely would have been 4-for-4 had Jackson not missed five contests in 2021, including the final four. Jackson was far from Baltimore’s lone health issue in 2021, with the Buffalo News calculating that only the Lions lost more games to injury than the Ravens. It helps that Warren Sharp charts just 10 teams as having an easier schedule. With all that in mind, this well-coached, deep roster — one coming off an excellent draft — should regress to their 10-11 win mean and clear the over on 9.5.