The Baltimore Ravens‘ passing attack showed some signs of promise in a 23-7 Week 4 victory over the Denver Broncos. However, the team has been unable to get into a consistent rhythm throwing the football under offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Lamar Jackson takes the brunt of the criticism, but it’s unfounded and unfair.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ passing offense has lacked proven options
The Baltimore Ravens finished with the No. 1. offense in 2019. They racked up 6,521 total yards behind MVP Lamar Jackson. The Ravens scored an NFL-leading 531 points in the regular season.
Jackson’s dynamic playmaking ability as a dual-threat quarterback shined throughout that season. Baltimore followed it up with another top-seven finish in 2020.
In both seasons, the Ravens’ running game outpaced their passing attack. Baltimore amassed 6,367 rushing yards over that span. The offense was unstoppable, with Jackson, Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and J.K. Dobbins toting the football.
There’s a misconception that Jackson’s not a good quarterback, though. Look around the NFL at the league’s best passers, and there’s a common denominator. They each have reliable receiving weapons. The Ravens haven’t had that.
Mark Andrews has been a security blanket for Jackson, but he came up short in some of the Ravens’ biggest games. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is a former first-round pick but was inconsistent heading into 2021. The third best weapon was Willie Snead, who is a career journeyman.
It would be interesting to see what Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert would do in this offense.
James Proche II can give Lamar Jackson another explosive weapon
The Ravens have drafted a handful of wide receivers in the past few drafts. Hollywood Brown has been the most productive of the bunch, but several other talented weapons haven’t had their time to shine yet.
The player who fans haven’t seen enough of is James Proche II. The Ravens drafted him in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Proche dramatically fell in the draft despite putting up historic numbers at SMU.
Proche’s college highlight tape is full of explosive plays. However, offensive coordinator Greg Roman failed to get the Dallas, Texas native involved in the offense. He appeared in 14 games but logged just 25 offensive snaps on the season. That equated to 2% of the Ravens’ snaps, which is nothing.
Most of Proche’s rookie season was spent on special teams. He entered 2021 with a chip on his shoulder and made eye-popping plays throughout training camp. However, it didn’t translate in the first two preseason games. He recorded four receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown in the third game.
The SMU product’s regular season coming-out party came in the win over the Broncos. He caught five passes for 74 yards, including a 32-yard reception.
Lamar Jackson targeted him six times, and Proche showed what he could do when given the opportunity.
The Ravens will need to pass the ball to win a Super Bowl
Injuries decimated the Ravens’ backfield to the start the season. Edwards, Dobbins, and Justice Hill are all lost for the season. Eric DeCosta had to bring in aged veterans Latavius Murray, Le’Veon Bell, and Devonta Freeman for depth.
Ty’Son Williams has made some plays, but John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ coaching staff don’t appear to be sold on him. Outside of Lamar Jackson, the running game doesn’t instill the same confidence as it once did. The passing game has to be more consistent.
For the passing attack to take the next step, it first has to be at full strength. The Ravens activated rookie Rashod Bateman off injured reserve. He has a chance to make his debut against the Indianapolis Colts.
Bateman has the tools to become Baltimore’s No. 1 wideout. He hasn’t seen any live NFL action, though, so it may take time to get him up to speed. Greg Roman should continue to utilize James Proche II and find ways to get him the ball in the meantime.
Marquise Brown has stepped up in a major way through the first four weeks. After an unforgettably lousy showing against the Lions, he bounced back against Denver. He beat the defense for an amazing 49-yard touchdown.
Sammy Watkins and Devin Duvernay also add speed and have been able to get open this season. The additions of Tee Martin and Keith Williams to the coaching staff have done wonders.
Time will tell if the Ravens can continue to win games passing the ball.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.