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Preston: Ravens need weapons, but developing an offense for Lamar Jackson comes first

It has only been a few weeks since the NFL season ended, but the Ravens have already named Eric DeCosta as their new general manager, gave coach John Harbaugh a contract extension and reportedly agreed to trade once-prominent quarterback Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos.

So, what’s next?

Because of its fast pace, there is excitement and anticipation about the offseason and what moves the team will make next. On defense, will the Ravens re-sign free-agent linebackers C.J. Mosley and/or Terrell Suggs? Will they cut veteran safety Eric Weddle?

On offense, the Ravens have to find a big-play receiver, an all-purpose running back and one or two interior offensive linemen. But, more importantly, they have to develop an offense that fits the skill set of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who will be entering his second season.

We’ll get a better look and feel for the offense Tuesday when Greg Roman is introduced as the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator. Roman served as the team’s tight ends coach the past two years but replaced Marty Mornhinweg shortly after the 2018 season.

It’s not hard to figure out the main philosophy of Roman’s offense.

The final seven games of the 2018 season was an aberration. It would be professional suicide for the Ravens to run Jackson as much as they did last season, when he rushed 147 times for 695 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson preferred that style, but it was done out of desperation.

The Ravens were rolling the dice and hoping that he wouldn’t get injured. If he did, they still had Flacco on the bench.

Flacco is off to the Mile High City, and No. 3 quarterback Robert Griffin III is an unrestricted free agent. So it makes both business and practical sense for the Ravens to protect Jackson more this season, which means less running and more passing.

Now, that’s the other challenge.

Jackson isn’t accurate. He has to prove that he can win by throwing from the pocket. No one is sure how this will turn out, including the Ravens. Jackson works hard, is getting private outside instruction and has great desire to get better, but that doesn’t translate into success. If it did, there would be a lot more players like Drew Brees on the field than players like Case Keenum.

When Roman replaced Mornhinweg, there still wasn’t a lot to be happy about because Roman was considered a coach who emphasized the run more than the pass. But then the Ravens hired David Culley recently as their receivers/assistant head coach and passing coordinator.

The Ravens won’t say anything publicly, but they really wanted Culley, 63. He is a former receivers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills last season. There are some NFL officials who believe he should have been an NFL head coach but was passed over for various reasons.

Maybe he is the X-factor.

Regardless, the emphasis of this offense won’t change. The Ravens want to be run-first, and they could look a little like the Houston Texans with DeShaun Watson as quarterback. The Texans offense is an off-shoot of what the New England Patriots run, but Watson moves around much more than Tom Brady. Houston’s passing game consist of a lot of zone reads, run-pass options and the spread, which Watson used to run in college at Clemson.

Ideally, the Texans want Watson to throw only about 25 times a game, and that is a reasonable goal for Jackson as well.

It will be interesting to see how the Ravens get Jackson some weapons. The draft might be the best way, because it gives Jackson time to bond and grow with a young receiver or running back. The Ravens have to be careful about bringing in certain free-agent receivers or running backs, because both the team and Jackson might not be able to absorb the high-maintenance personality of a receiver like Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, who has demanded to be traded.

On the other side of the ball, expect the Ravens to re-sign Mosley. It’s a major deal for DeCosta, and he wants to show that he is as serious as predecessor Ozzie Newsome in keeping first-round draft picks on the roster for a long time.

So far, the Ravens have been quick and decisive. It’s like they know where they want to go and how to get there. There are a lot of other pieces that need to be put in place before next season, but so far it has been interesting.

They appear to be a team that isn’t going to wait until the last minute any more.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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