OWINGS MILLS — After alluding to the T-shirt for over a week, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh finally got around to wearing it during Thursday’s training camp practice.
All black, with the words “Speed Kills” printed in bright colors across the chest, the shirt serves as a reminder for the type of offense the Ravens are trying to build in preparation for the 2019 season — if the roster doesn’t give it away.
Three of Baltimore’s first four draft picks this past April were spent on injecting speed into the offense, with the Ravens selecting wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin — two of the fastest players in the class — in the first and third rounds, respectively, and adding quick running back Justice Hill one round later.
They represent the newest targets for electric, play-making quarterback Lamar Jackson, who, in his second NFL season, is at the heart of a new-look offense predicated on his ability to run with the football, yet keep defenses honest with his arm.
Last season, he set the NFL single-season record with 147 rushes as a quarterback despite starting just seven games. He also threw for just over 1,200 yards and six scores.
“I love it – guys flying around, guys getting open. Our defense is giving us great looks. But our offense, they’re working, from the tight ends to the receivers, running backs, the linemen. Starting with the linemen, they’re working. Our offense is looking pretty good,” Jackson said earlier in training camp. “Coach was talking to us, getting me pumped up talking about the new revolution, changing and stuff like that. I felt like we were about to play [our season opener]. I was pretty pumped. I was thinking we were about to play today. I was like, ‘OK, coach. I’m all-in.’’
Last year, with Jackson at the helm for the second half of the campaign, Baltimore earned its first playoff berth since 2014. Harbaugh promoted Greg Roman to offensive coordinator in the off-season, turning the keys over to the former tight ends coach who previously constructed offenses around several other dual quarterbacks, including Tyrod Taylor and Colin Kaepernick.
Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner while at Louisville, provides Roman with arguably his most dynamic quarterback yet.
“It’s definitely a next-level type of thing compared to what has been done in the past. A lot of it, too, is watching your players practice and saying, ‘Wow, let’s try him on this. Let’s put him over here, because I think he’d be really good at that.’ So, a lot of it is how you’re using your personnel, as well,” Roman explained. “Every day is a new challenge.
“I enjoy winning,” he added. “So, we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Each day of training camp provides a glimpse of the type of offense the Ravens are building, even with Brown just now returning from off-season foot surgery. Daily drills offer a seemingly different receiver escaping for a long pass down the sidelines, plenty of underneath targets and, of course, Jackson breaking free into the secondary when the pocket collapses.
While the speed of the game is slowing down for Jackson, the Ravens are gearing up to play much faster.
“When he came in, I wouldn’t say he didn’t know what he was doing, but it was his first couple of games in the NFL. Everything was just coming at him full-speed. Now, a year later, he’s comfortable,” Chris Moore, one of the few holdovers from last year’s receiving corps, said of Jackson. “He’s comfortable with the guys around him. He has command of the huddle, and we believe in him. I think that’s all that matters at this point. We just have to continue to grow with each other.
I feel like we’re getting better each week,” Moore continued. “We’re going to be very explosive. I’m excited actually for the season. I feel like this is going to be an offense that people haven’t really seen before. It’s going to be different, and it’s going to be really fun to watch. So, I’m really excited to get it started and going.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig