Lamar Jackson's comments Wednesday that defenses are calling out Ravens plays, which has led to some inefficacies, spoke to predictability within the Baltimore offense through eight games this season.
Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman didn't take issue with Jackson's complaints, noting that defenses have always called out formations and tendencies. Two of the best in NFL history at knowing the offense's calls played in Baltimore, linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.
"With no fans in the stands, bands or music playing, you can hear a lot right about now," Roman said. "Some of it I can't repeat. Lamar's one of the great competitors I know. I define him as a winner. And he only wants to win every game, every play, game, practice. That's what drives him. He definitely gives me feedback on when people are calling something out and whatnot. That's definitely something we talk about. Calling out plays on a defense is nothing new. I can talk about Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, every play they're trying to guess what play you're going to run based on what they're seeing. That's a chess match."
The Ravens' offense set records in 2019, and still leads the league in rushing with 170.1 yards per game. Part of the predictability of Baltimore's offense is first down runs, which have been less effective this season, leading to long down-and-distances.
Roman has called a run play on 64 percent of first downs, the second-highest rate in the NFL, but has generated just 3.9 yards per tote on those plays, ranking 21st.
When asked about those tendencies, the OC said the team tries to mix it up depending on the time and situation, and added he believes the biggest key is execution.
"We work hard at changing it up," he noted. "We're very aware of our tendencies. We're aware that there are some right now. And that's again that's where I said it gets interesting. When you're good at something and you can keep pressing that button then you have the opportunity to flip the script at some point moving forward.
"So I think there's a little bit of a chess match there with how that goes but as far as defense, as far as defenders guessing what we do. They're going to be right sometimes. They're going to be wrong sometimes. I think we know that. It's definitely an element of the game. It probably always has been and probably always will be."
When Jackson knows a defense has read a play based on formation, motion or other tendencies, Roman said the QB sometimes has the ability to change the call, though the coordinator didn't specify exactly how much liberty the 2019 NFL MVP has at audibling.
"There's definitely some plays where audibles are available and built-in," Roman said. "... It's pretty stock NFL. Let's line up in a formation, see what they're in and call an audible. That happens. That's part of everybody's offense. Some people more than others. Then you have teams such as ourselves, maybe the 49ers, that we're going to be multiple formations and motions and whatnot, and you try to basically have the ability to call and run plays. There's definitely a blend of that by situation and play. Some quarterbacks have the freedom to audible every play. Sometimes that works out well for them, sometimes it doesn't. Some people really don't do it at all. I'd say we're somewhere in between there."
Jackson's frustration with the ups-and-downs of the offense this season was evident in his comments this week. The Baltimore offense has been good most games, great at times, and simply fine at others. Jackson expects greatness every play, so it's understandable he could be frustrated when things don't work out as planned, particularly if he believes the defense has a leg-up.
It's on Roman to ensure his quarterback's frustrations aren't exacerbated as we press toward the playoffs, including possibly mixing up his calls more than he has through eight games, so defenders guess wrong more than they have in 2020.