Early in training camp, Todd Monken called the Ravens offense a “work in progress.” After Saturday night’s preseason opener, an often-ragged 20-19 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, that’s still the case.

But, as months of offseason speculation faded into the background at M&T Bank Stadium, Monken offered a glimpse of what, exactly, the Ravens are working toward.

In a notable departure from former coordinator Greg Roman’s tenure, his first offense embraced a more wide-receiver-reliant personnel grouping, discarded a long-popular formation and sped things up before the snap. The result wasn’t a masterpiece — with most of their established starters missing, the Ravens finished with 272 total yards and 4.5 yards per play — but it was something new.

“We’re not where we want to be,” running back Melvin Gordon III said. “Obviously, that’s why you have the preseason game and that’s why you have training camp. It was our first time working, this offense, as a group together, out here live. So there’s always room for improvement. It was good to see us working down the field, scoring touchdowns and getting in the end zone. But we’re definitely not where we need to be, and like I said, that’s what preseason is for.”

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Here’s what stood out from Monken’s play-calling debut.

Spread ’em out

Roman didn’t have a lot of faith in the Ravens’ depth at wide receiver last year, especially after Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay suffered season-ending injuries. The team lined up in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers), the NFL’s most popular personnel grouping, on more than 20 snaps in just one game last year. Roman’s “medieval”-inclined offense favored heavier looks, featuring tight ends and fullbacks aplenty.

On Saturday, with tight end Mark Andrews and fullback Patrick Ricard inactive, the Ravens played things more conventionally, lining up in 11 personnel on 41 of 60 plays (68.3%). On the other 19, they came out in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers), though a first-half injury to tight end Isaiah Likely might’ve limited the Ravens’ usage of two-tight-end sets.

The Ravens struggled with their spread-out looks in the first half, averaging a meager 4.3 yards per play in 11 personnel, highlighted by quarterback Josh Johnson’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Duvernay. With Tyler Huntley at the helm in the second half, it was a smoother operation. The Ravens averaged an impressive 6.9 yards per play in 11 personnel in the third quarter, highlighted by their other touchdown, a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Tylan Wallace.

“Obviously, with 11 personnel, that takes a lot of shots down the field, a lot of receivers on the field,” Wallace said. “And that means that he’s trusting us to make plays, so that’s a big shout-out to Monk for believing in us and going out and making plays. The only thing we can do is prove him right. So you obviously want to have 11 personnel. You want to have all the receivers in the game. So that gives us opportunities to go and make plays.”

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Running back Justice Hill, who’s run into crowded boxes for most of his Ravens career, welcomed the space. He finished with three carries for 48 cards, leading a rushing offense that finished with 133 yards and 4.8 yards per carry.

“The least amount of guys in there, the better, for real,” Hill said. “Running backs, the less guys you have to make miss and all that, but whatever [Monken] dials up, we’re going to execute, and that’s all we practice and that’s all we teach is execution. So if we continue to do that, then we’ll be fine.”

Holstered pistol

In Roman’s final season as coordinator, the Ravens operated out of the pistol formation — a version of the shotgun in which the quarterback lines up closer to the center and the running back is aligned behind him — on 32.9% of their plays, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Only the Atlanta Falcons (38.6%) used it at a higher rate in 2022.

Two-plus weeks into training camp, though, the pistol has been largely holstered. On Saturday, it was seemingly kept in storage; the Ravens didn’t run a single snap out of the pistol formation. The closest they came was on their first play from scrimmage, when rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers motioned into the backfield, a few yards behind Johnson, before running back toward the sideline and catching a lateral for a 4-yard gain.

The Ravens finished the game with 49 shotgun snaps and nine under center. “When you’re running the 11 personnel offense, and how fast Monken wants to play ... I think that kind of comes with it,” Wallace said of scuttling pistol snaps. “That’s kind of helping us run, I guess, the offense a little bit faster when you’re in the shotgun personnel.”

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Wide receiver Devin Duvernay scores the Ravens' first touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Josh Johnson. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

‘Crazy’ tempo

The Ravens’ tempo was noticeably kicked up Saturday, never more so than after Huntley scrambled for a 9-yard gain to bring about third-and-1 early in the third quarter. Less than 20 seconds after he went down, Huntley got the offense to the line without a huddle, got the snap off and got a first down, with running back Keaton Mitchell pushing ahead for the yard he needed against a somewhat frantic Eagles defense.

“It’s just crazy,” Wallace said. “We work on especially running that tempo offense. That’s a big thing we’ve been working on this year, is trying to speed up. And we talk about, especially in the receiver room, hustling to the line because our quarterbacks are really good with how they’re controlling the offense and the tempo. ... We’ve been working on that a lot, so that’s part of it that showed in the game.”

The offense’s presnap operations were otherwise Woodenesque — quick without hurrying. A few times, the play clock slipped below five seconds. But there were few, if any, of the races against the clock that haunted Roman’s offenses.

jonas.shaffer@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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