Sonic youth: Ravens' high-scoring offense now built for present and future

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens2020 NFL draft provided a revelation that’s as scary as a Lamar Jackson spin move in the open field.

The NFL’s highest-scoring offense is not just built to produce points and highlight-reel touchdowns right now. It’s constructed to last.

This draft added Ohio State’s top single-season rusher, two playmaking wide receivers and two major-program interior offensive linemen to Jackson’s supporting cast.

The Ravens can now put a group of 11 players on the field that includes all homegrown talent and averages 23 years old. This sounds more like the age of LSU or Alabama players and not a pro offense that averaged over 33 points in the NFL last season.

Has it been the Ravens’ master plan to assemble this offense through the draft and get players who can grow with Jackson?

"I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. "We’ve wanted to be an exciting team. Speed is a part of that. The younger you are, probably the faster you are.”

Running back J.K. Dobbins, who was selected in the second round out of Ohio State, broke 20 runs of 20-plus yards last season, the most among Power 5 conferences. Wide receiver Devin Duvernay, a third-round selection from Texas, is a state track champion who ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 4.39 seconds. Wide receiver James Proche, a sixth-round pick from SMU, isn’t known for being a blazer, but he produced 10 touchdowns of 20 or more yards the past two seasons.


J.K. Dobbins' NFL draft profile

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins loves the challenge of being hit and not being the one to fall.

These rookies team with the NFL’s most elusive quarterback and a draft class from last year that features wide receivers Marquise Brown (his average maximum speed on receptions last season was 15.3 mph) and Miles Boykin (among the 20 fastest players at the 2019 NFL combine). While the Kansas City Chiefs' offense draws attention for its speed, the Ravens likely wouldn’t back down in a race.

Heading into the draft, DeCosta talked about his desire to make this offense “undefendable.” After selecting five offensive players in the draft, he was asked how close the Ravens have gotten to his goal.

“I think we have a lot of work to do, obviously,” DeCosta said. "... We’re going to just keep adding players and tweaking things and try to scout better and coach better. Our players have to develop quickly and get stronger and bigger. All that stuff just factors in, and [when] we start playing games in September, I know that Coach [John Harbaugh] will have the best team on the field.”

The Ravens will certainly have one of the most youthful, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Before reaching a deal with free-agent guard D.J. Fluker on Tuesday, Baltimore had the second-youngest starting lineup on offense behind the Denver Broncos.

The oldest projected starters on Baltimore’s offense are running back Mark Ingram II (30) and Fluker (29). But Dobbins, who is 21, could end up being on the field just as much as Ingram by the end of the season, and a rookie draft pick such as Mississippi State's Tyre Phillips (23) or Michigan's Ben Bredeson (22) might beat out Fluker for the starting right guard job.

It’s quite a change from three years ago, when Baltimore relied on five starters 30 years or older on offense, including quarterback Joe Flacco. With Jackson, the Ravens not only have the unanimous NFL MVP but the youngest starting quarterback in the AFC North at 23, even after the Cincinnati Bengals just selected Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick. Jackson is surrounded by four Pro Bowl players under the age of 27: tight end Mark Andrews, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and fullback Patrick Ricard.

This is a group that often shows its youthful exuberance from catchphrases -- remember “Big Truzz” -- to dancing on the sidelines during games. This is also a group that should stay intact. The only starters not signed beyond the next two seasons are Stanley (who could receive the franchise tag in 2021 if no long-term deal is reached) and center Matt Skura.

"We want to be a young team, but we also want to be an experienced team,” DeCosta said. "We’re at the point now on offense, which I like, where we are a young team, but we have a lot of guys who have played in big games, and that’s what you want to see. We like the chemistry of the team.”