OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens are receiving a crash course this week from first-year offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who’s rewritten the playbook to accommodate the peculiar talent of quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Roman hopes the lessons learned during the team’s mandatory three-game minicamp will enable the offense to perform comfortably and efficiently at training camp next month.
“Generally, the guys have done just a really good job of picking this up quick,” Roman said Wednesday. “We’ve got to keep grinding, keep trying to mine for gold as far as technique and being precise.”
The process began in January, soon after Roman was promoted from assistant head coach/tight end coach to replace fired offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Coach John Harbaugh made the switch in part because Roman put together a very effective offense for quarterback Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco during the 2012 season.
Jackson, like Kaepernick, has the footspeed and elusiveness to make things happen even when he’s not throwing the ball. After taking over for Joe Flacco as a rookie last season, Jackson rushed for 556 yards in a run-heavy offense, propelling Baltimore to a 6-1 finish and a berth in the playoffs as AFC North champions.
Soon after the Ravens lost to the Chargers in the opening round, Roman ripped up the playbook and started anew.
“We had to go back and look at everything from the ground up,” Roman said. “We looked at where we are and the vision we have for ourselves. We really kind of started from square one – how we call everything, the terminology we use, and how can we best utilize Lamar and the entire offense’s abilities?”
A playbook designed for a drop-back passer like Flacco just wasn’t going to work for Jackson, who’s quick out of the pocket and almost perfect for the run-pass option. Although Roman began a complete overhaul after the postseason, the seeds of change began almost as soon as Jackson got his first start in November.
So it’s not as if the Ravens are being asked to learn a new language.
“It’s kind of a revamped version of what we did last year,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “It’s been kind of an easier transition, because we’re kind of going off how we ended last year.”
Jackson and backup quarterback Robert Griffin III were both victimized by interceptions during Wednesday’s practice, but the results are insignificant at this juncture. Everyone’s wearing shorts, no one has pads, so it’s pretty obvious that the offense is going to pass.
“When we move into training camp, there will be more emphasis on the running game,” Roman said.
What matters this week is that the offense moves closer to absorbing the new playbook.
“You can’t work the whole offense in three days, but we want to look like we know what we’re doing,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a new offense with, really, a new cast of characters – including Lamar, because it’s new for him, too.”
So, what can Ravens fans expect from the new-look offense?
“You’ll see some new stuff, some new stuff that looks like old stuff,” Roman said.
Almost all of it, however, will happen in up-tempo fashion.
“We’re looking for quicker communication, the ability to play quicker at the line of scrimmage,” Roman said. “We can play slow, but we wanted to be able to really delve in to making things as streamlined as we could.”
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