The Ravens scrapped the huddle and allowed quarterback Lamar Jackson to make the calls at the line of scrimmage.
Jackson ran for 119 yards and a touchdown and threw for 318 yards and three TDs in a 42-38 loss to the Dolphins, but that wasn’t the lasting impression. Ravens quarterbacks coach Tee Martin remembers Jackson being extremely comfortable in gaining this increased freedom.
"I just saw the expression on his face when he came off the field,” Martin said. "He was in a good place.”
Jackson will have the opportunity to get back to that “good place” under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
In four seasons with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Baltimore primarily huddled up and ran the play that was called. Under Monken, Jackson can slide the pass protection to one side if he sees a defender blitzing or switch a receiver’s route if the cornerback lines up a certain way.
"Coach [Monken] is basically just giving us the keys to the offense, really,” Jackson said. "I'm loving it.”
In his four full seasons as a starting quarterback, Jackson totaled 32 no-huddle plays, which ranked 32nd in the NFL over that span. He had success, completing 70.5% of his throws (55-of-78) when not huddling.
"We've been in that world before, but not to this degree,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "To me, the offense starts in that world more than it did before, and I'm excited about that, [and] I know Lamar is excited about that.
“I think you saw [Tuesday that] the communication is probably better than what you saw last week, so we've just got to keep building on that.”
Jackson has gotten a lot from his wish list this offseason. He received a five-year, $252 million contract. He watched Baltimore sign wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. after Jackson requested the team do so. He believes this new offense will allow him to throw more and run less.
Now, Jackson has more control with the offense.
“There are times where Coach 'Monk' says, 'I'm the coordinator. I call the plays. You like [the play]? Keep it,’” Martin said. "When you change that play, you become the coordinator. And we want it to work.
“He's doing a good job and getting us in the right plays and operating the offense.”
The Ravens are trying to get Jackson and their offense back on track. In Jackson’s 2019 NFL MVP season, Baltimore ranked first in points scored (33.19) and second in total yards (407.6). Last season, the Ravens were 12th in scoring (23.7) and 14th in yards gained (350.2) before Jackson missed the final five games with a sprained left knee.
Martin, who was the team’s wide receivers coach before switching to quarterbacks this year, has described Monken’s system as “quarterback-friendly.” But he pointed out the added responsibility of altering plays comes with extra work in the film room and on the practice field. The coaching staff wants to know the thought process in deciding to audible.
"We're not going to fool the defense every time,” Martin said, “but we want to be right most of the time, putting ourselves in great plays and great positions to move the ball down the field.”
For this to work, Jackson is going to need to be more vocal. Instead of huddling, he has to communicate more with everyone — from his wide receivers to his linemen — which hasn’t always come naturally.
"At the end of the day, guys just want to see you being you and [being] true to yourself and true to them, as well,” Jackson said. "And I'll just say, I'm going to try to be more of a vocal leader, because Coach [Harbaugh] was like, 'You need to start speaking more.' I just try to lead by example, but I'll try to be more of a vocal leader."