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Five Principles from the Ravens Pass Game

Posted by Alex Kirby on

The Ravens have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, built around the strengths of Lamar Jackson.

I watched every snap of the 2019 Ravens offense, and I put together some clips and diagrams on what I learned:

1. Quad Formations

The Ravens love to use unusual formations and looks, and this is a look that defenses hate to see.

The biggest reason why defenses have trouble defending these looks, is because it’s a lot harder to disguise what they’re doing. When you’ve gotta put 4-5 defenders over on one side of the ball, the list of potential coverages shrinks dramatically.


In this diagram, Baltimore lines up in the “Hannover Bunch” quad look. What makes this so much more difficult to defend is that extra eligible receiver outside who forces you to put a defender out there, which is one fewer person you have to play outside leverage on the bunch.

The other reason why quads is such an effective look is because it allows them to manufacture scrambling opportunities for Lamar Jackson. Defenses are uncomfortable against this alignment, and often times there are seams left open when the pass reads are muddy.

2. Manufacturing 4x1 Concepts

Besides lining up in pure quad sets, there are other ways the Ravens can put four receivers to the same side of the field. One way is to line up in 3x1 looks and add the running back late to the pass concept as an extra piece of a flood concept.

This isn’t really that unusual, since it’s a way to create these kinds of flood routes without lining up in them and tipping off the defense.

This diagram gives you one example of how the Ravens can accomplish this. The offense lines up in a bunch, which has its own challenges for a defense to cover it properly. Then you’ve got a back moving to that side late and adding a flare route.

These types of pass concepts provide simple but effective reads for Lamar Jackson, and allow him to focus less on guessing the coverage, and more on finding the open guy and getting him the ball.

3. The Run-Pass Option

The RPO, as much as any other part of this offense, is about finding a specific matchup that Baltimore can exploit.




Just like the option, a huge majority of the RPO game for Baltimore is pre-determined before the snap. This doesn’t mean that Lamar Jackson always knows who he’s going to throw to, but it does mean he’s almost always certain whether it’s going to be a run or a pass pre-snap.

In this diagram, taken from a game against Cincinnati, Jackson can already tell that they have a favorable look to the TE side, because the defense is giving them a really soft edge.

At that point, all he has to do is read the near LB to decide which route to throw.

Obviously if Cincy had been favoring the TE side pre-snap by their alignment, it’s much more likely that Lamar hands off here. Even if the end closes hard on the run like he does here, it’s a relatively low-risk play that won’t get you into trouble.

The RPO isn’t a big part of what Baltimore does, but it adds another element into an already dangerous attack, and forces teams to spend extra hours during the week preparing for something that they may never see.

If you're enjoying this thread, I also put together a thread on Baltimore's run game. You can find it here.

4. Screen Package

A good offense builds its screen game around what it does best, and the Ravens are no different.

A great dropback passing team has a lot of screens that look like traditional vertical pass concepts, and Baltimore’s screen passes are built around the run and misdirection game.

In the diagram below the Ravens put a guy in jet motion, and Lamar opens up away from where the jet is going.

It’s designed to look like a boot pass, but then at the last moment, Lamar turns around and gets the RB the ball.

The vertical switch concept on the backside is a great addition to this play, because it forces the defenders to either move laterally, or turn their backs to the play, even in zone.

The jet motion bumps the linebackers to the TE side, and creates space for the back.

5. Boot Game

It goes without saying that a great boot and play action pass game should be built to look exactly like your core run plays.

Baltimore’s one-of-a-kind run game allows them to do some really interesting stuff when it comes to playaction.

If you've looked at my previous post, this formation and run look will be familiar to you. Baltimore makes a living on keeping things as close as possible to an actual run play.

In this diagram we see one of Baltimore’s favorite boot concepts, built to look exactly like one of their favorite option plays. The vertical routes put stress on the secondary, and the flat route shows up late as a last-second option before Lamar takes off.

These kinds of route concepts work well, since they flood one side of the field, and makes it difficult for a defense to commit players to attack the line of scrimmage aggressively to the open side of the formation.