Lamar Jackson & the Ravens Run Game: How Baltimore is Using their Best Player

By Brady Grayvold | Posted 12/2/2019

Throughout the first half of the 2019 NFL season, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens have been the talk of the town with their offensive game plans and explosive numbers they have been putting up on some of the NFL’s best defenses. The Ravens are the number one rushing team in the NFL, averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and are also tied for the lead in explosive plays generated by the run game. With Lamar Jackson in the backfield as a dual-threat quarterback, the amount of scheme they can include to generate quarterback runs are endless. However, the Ravens have relied on a few staple plays to get Lamar Jackson the yardage he’s accumulated on the ground this season, and it’s nothing that you cannot install from the youth levels all the way up through the NFL.

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One of the Ravens’ favorite red zone plays is a single-wing power concept featuring Lamar Jackson. With this version of power, the Ravens are looking to bring more blockers at the point of attack than defenders able to defend the play. Jackson brings the H-back across in motion to perform a “J” kick out block to remove the edge. The tailback is going to lead up through and look to kick out, allowing the pulling guard to wrap up through the hole and clear out space for Jackson to run. This play goes back many years as one of the most basic gap-scheme run plays you can have in your offense. The Ravens have dressed the play up to get Jackson up inside the C-gap and downhill as quickly as possible while also hitting fast as this is a direct snap.

Another play the Ravens often utilize for Jackson in their run game is the quarterback counter out of 11 personnel. If you are a team that utilizes a TE/H-back in your offense, the quarterback counter is a play that can generate explosive results versus teams that give you a light box count. On 3rd and 13, the Seahawks are playing to stop the pass, which gives the light box count and a run advantage to the Ravens. The Ravens H-back fakes an out block and climbs to the second level to get the defensive end to expand, making the kick out block for the pulling center easier. The wrapping tackle is looking to find a second-level defender to pin, and Lamar Jackson has a massive running lane to insert himself into picking up huge yards.

A third staple of the Baltimore Ravens run game that they use almost weekly is their power-read concept. The power-read concept allows Lamar Jackson to make the offense right by reading defenders and manipulating them to gain an advantage. The Ravens utilize a return motion to get their H-back on the edge to work his arc block on the overhang defender. On this version of their power read, Lamar Jackson is reading the frontside inside linebacker to determine his give or pull read. Jackson identifies that the linebacker has begun to scallop outside of his pulling blocker indicating that this is a keep read for the quarterback. Much like the regular power, this play hits up inside the tackle and gains big yardage. Installing this at your lower levels up through your high school teams would provide a major advantage in diversifying your run game without adding too much for your offensive line.

The outside zone concept also regularly appears for the Ravens to get Lamar Jackson outside on the edge. With the number of teams running the spread in the football world right now, the outside zone or stretch concept is a major component of offenses across America. To further stress defenses, the Ravens allow Jackson to run the outside zone and give him a lead blocker with the running back. Again, the concept is not particularly complicated to install or run out of multiple formations. What the Baltimore Ravens are doing though is forcing defenses to play eleven-on-eleven and account for all the skill positions on the field. Defenses cannot ignore the quarterback as he hands the ball off but rather must account for the extra blocker leading through the hole for the quarterback carrying the football.

All in all, from the youth levels on up you can install a basic package for your best athlete to take a direct snap from center and dress up your base plays. If you take what you normally run and incorporate the pistol or gun snap, you add another dimension to your offense without having to reteach new plays to your offensive line. This can create potential matchup issues for defenses and allows your best players to get their hands on the football from the moment the play begins.