Schwartz: Ravens' offense not complex enough to succeed

The NFL has adjusted to Lamar Jackson, Geoff Schwartz says, and the Baltimore Ravens are going to have to make some tough decisions this offseason

The DA Show
November 23, 2020 - 10:38 am

Last year, the Baltimore Ravens went 14-2, were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and Lamar Jackson was NFL MVP.

This year, however, has been a different story. In fact, if the season ended today, the Ravens (6-4) would miss the playoffs. Even worse, their four losses have come against teams they could see in the postseason: the Chiefs (9-1), Steelers (10-0), Patriots (4-6) and Titans (7-3).

The offensive numbers, well, they aren’t pretty. In 2019, the Ravens led the league with 33.2 points per game. In 2020, they rank 12th with 26.8.

Why has this offense struggled this season? Former NFL player and current analyst Geoff Schwartz gave his take Monday on CBS Sports Radio.

“This is my concern with the offense the Ravens [are] running. It’s what I’ve said for years, and I was wrong last year, obviously – Lamar was MVP – but I think I’m going to be right in the long run,” Schwartz said on The DA Show. “This type of offense just doesn’t work in the long term. It’s too simple. It’s not complex enough. They don’t pass the ball down the field enough. Then you get a couple injuries on the offensive line and you just can’t function anymore. That’s what’s happening with them. They’re predictable, they don’t throw outside the numbers – and they know this, too. They’re just not as good offensively anymore.”

The Ravens lead the league in rushing offense with 160.5 rushing yards per game. But that’s a far cry from their 206 rushing yards per game in 2019.

How can a team look so dominant and so explosive one year, yet so pedestrian the next?

“Look at the [teams] they did that against [last year]; look at the teams they did not,” Schwartz said. “They did not do that against Pittsburgh. Now they beat them twice, but nonetheless, they didn’t really [dominate] Pittsburgh. They didn’t play well against the Chiefs in the regular season. The better teams, they weren’t beating. And then Tennessee obviously comes into Baltimore and beats them in the playoffs. It takes some time to figure out exactly what the offense is. You had an entire offseason [to study it]. This is why NFL coaches are so good. This is why you get paid a lot of money. It’s why you have to keep evolving and adapting. 

“We see the best offenses in the NFL – even the Chiefs and the Saints – they keep adding plays and putting in wrinkles and doing different things because teams spend the entire offseason looking at that film,” Schwartz continued. “They’ve turned every single play; they have written down everything they’re doing; [who’s] pulling; if they’re in this formation, where are they going? They studied the Titans’ film from the playoff game, and teams had better plans for this team. They realized that the Ravens are going to throw the majority of their passes between the hash marks, between the numbers. We’re going to pack that box in. We’re going to let them try to beat us on the edge. So all this stuff happens in the offseason of film study.”

Jackson accounted for 43 touchdowns (36 pass, seven rush) in 2019. This year, he has just 18 (15 pass, three rush) through 10 games – a 29-touchdown pace.

That’s a 14-touchdown difference.

Of course, it doesn’t help that former All-Pro Marshal Yanda retired in the offseason and that All-Pro Ronnie Stanley (ankle) is out for the year.

“Now you’re just not as good rushing the football so now you’re in more third-down situations, which you’re not really good at,” Schwartz said. “It just kind of compounds itself over and over again to [what] you see this season. Now, I didn’t think they would be this bad this year. I thought they would pull back a little bit. But they have to decide this offseason, ‘Are we doing this again? Are we going to expand our playbook?’ Maybe the shortened offseason with COVID kind of denied them the opportunity to really work on a more explosive pass game.”

As it stands, the Ravens only run a couple of different passing concepts, which isn’t enough at this level.

“You can’t do that in the NFL,” Schwartz said. “The NFL is too complicated. It’s too complex. Guys know what they’re doing. That’s a problem. They’re just not multiple enough.”

Things don’t get any easier for the Ravens. They play the undefeated Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving. Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.