The Baltimore Ravens were the NFL’s highest-scoring team in 2019 and brought every offensive player back except one. Now they’re scoring at three-quarters of the pace.
Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, had a jarring answer for why that is during a call-in on the “Rich Eisen Show.”
Jackson: Defenses know Ravens’ plays
He said the other teams already know the play that’s coming when the offense gets up to the line.
“They're calling out our plays, stuff like that,” Jackson said. “They know what we're doing. Sometimes stuff won't go our way if they're beating us to the punch.”
Eisen asked if Jackson was hearing defenses call out the plays and Jackson confirmed that was the case.
“Yeah, they definitely do,” Jackson said. “Like, ‘run’ and stuff like that. ‘Watch out for this, watch out for that.’ Sometimes that's what's going on.”
Ravens go from top-scoring to middle of pack
The Ravens were first in the league with 33.2 points per game on average in 2019. It was nearly four points more than the second-place San Francisco 49ers. They were second in total yards per game (407.5) and third in yards per play (6.1).
At the 2020 midway point, they’re 15th in points (24.8), 23rd in yards (347) and 22nd in yards per play (5.5). Jackson went from MVP year to 27th in passing yards (1,513) and 20th in touchdowns (12).
Despite the drop in production, the Ravens (6-2) are second in the AFC North behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. In a comeback win on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Jackson tied Dan Marino for the best start in 30 games by a quarterback since 1966.
Everyone knows Ravens favorites
Defenses have called out the deliberate play calling after games.
“We know where Lamar wants to go,” Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates said, via NBC Sports. “Either ‘15’ [Brown] or ‘89’ [Andrews]. It showed up today as well. That’s all he was really throwing to, was ‘15’ or ‘89.’ We didn’t make the plays where it was at that point in time.”
Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews are heavily targeted in the Ravens’ passing game. They have combined for nearly half of the receiving targets this season (93 of 208). The Bengals, though they knew what to do, couldn’t do it and they each had a first-half touchdown in the 27-3 win.
It didn’t go as well against the Steelers earlier this month. Rookie Alex Highsmith read Jackson and grabbed the first interception of his career during the second half in Week 8. The Steelers scored on the turnover to trail by a field goal, 17-14.
“I knew when that play started they were coming back to that because they ran the same play on the first half, and I didn't drop deep enough," Highsmith said. “So I learned from that play and just dropped deeper. ... the ball just fell into my hands.”
They went on to win with a late defensive stand.
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