For me, the Ravens’ decision to elevate Greg Roman to offensive coordinator stirs a couple of reactions.
One, it needs to be stated that the OC he is replacing, Marty Mornhinweg, did an excellent job in 2018.
I’m sure some fans are happy to see a change because of how the offense sputtered in the Ravens’ playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Mornhinweg also was in charge during several seasons when the Ravens went overboard on the passing game and lost their offensive balance.
But none of that should detract from his fine work in what turned out to be his last season on the job.
It wasn’t easy by any means for the offense to switch gears in November and go with an entirely different philosophy after Lamar Jackson took over for Joe Flacco at quarterback. That things went so well is a credit, above all, to Mornhinweg.
Overall, the Ravens finished No. 9 in the league in total offense, No. 2 in rushing and No. 13 in scoring – more than respectable numbers. Very quietly, they established a new franchise record for most first downs in a season. They also gained an average of 69 more yards per game compared to 2017. By any reckoning, that’s solid work.
But with Jackson becoming the No. 1 quarterback after his breakout performance, putting Roman in charge of the offense is, honestly, close to a no-brainer.
Jackson is the NFL’s most electric running quarterback. Roman is one of the league’s foremost run-game experts. Talk about a perfect marriage.
I’m not sure the Ravens could find a more suitable candidate if they scoured the pro and college coaching ranks for months. The most logical candidate was already in-house.
Roman was the OC in San Francisco when a dynamic running quarterback named Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance against the Ravens. Roman also has overseen a vast improvement in the Ravens’ ground game since he joined Head Coach John Harbaugh’s staff in 2017.
The year before he arrived, Baltimore ranked No. 28 in rushing with a season total of 1,463 yards. It was a problem. In 2018, the Ravens gained 2,441 yards on the ground – a whopping 66 percent increase compared to 2016.
It will be interesting to see how the offense evolves now that Roman will be calling the plays as well as designing the architecture of the running game. And that leads me to another of my thoughts in the wake of this news:
Just because Roman is the OC now, don’t expect the Ravens to remain as run-heavy as they were with Jackson under center.
I’m sure the blueprint will still revolve around Jackson’s unique playmaking skills. The Ravens probably will run the ball more than any team. As well they should.
But this is pro football. You have to be able to pass the ball with some degree of proficiency. Going forward, the Ravens must develop more of an equitable run-pass balance. If anything, the playoff loss to the Chargers indicated as much.
A lot has been made about the Chargers’ defensive players telling reporters that they knew what was coming on a lot of plays, that the Ravens were tipping their hand in various ways. Whatever happened there obviously needs to be fixed.
More important going forward, though, was Jackson’s inability to make the Chargers pay for daring him to beat them in the air. It’s going to continue to happen until he does make teams pay for taking that gamble.
The Ravens ran the ball 63 percent of the time in the regular season with Jackson at quarterback. It worked well in the short term, but long term, that percentage has to come down. Jackson has to become more consistently productive as a passer.
With Roman in charge and Jackson under center, the Ravens have an opportunity to mount one of the most formidable running games the NFL has seen in a long time. It’s going to be fun to see it develop.
As always, though, no matter who is the OC or who is under center, balance is the ultimate goal.