Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo hasn’t slept much while preparing to face the Baltimore Ravens. He's spent his time focused on finding potential ways to slow a versatile Ravens offense led by quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“Listen, I’ve been going through this for years and years in football, when you have a quarterback like that, it’s very hard to simulate what they do,” Spagnuolo told reporters Friday. “It’s hard to simulate their blocking up front, it’s hard to simulate all the pulls and all the motions and shifts that they do. That’s part of coaching on defense and being a player on defense.”
Jackson leads a group of four primary Ravens rushers, also including Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins.
The Ravens have chosen to spread the ball around the offense through the first two weeks of the season, highlighted by Jackson’s 23 carries for 99 yards, averaging 49.5 yards per game. Edwards and Ingram average 45 and 42 yards per game each, with Dobbins at 35.
Spagnuolo told reporters the downhill power run could potentially create problems for the Chiefs defense if it isn’t prepared for a wide variety of scenarios.
“If your eyes keep worrying about No. 8 having it, that’s not going to be a good day — he’ll never have it, he’ll just hand it off to the three backs,” Spagnuolo said. “So, we’re going to work this thing inside out and try to keep pushing it out if we can. And when he does tuck it and go, we got to find more than one guy around him to tackle him because we know what he can do — he can make the first guy miss. We just got to have that second and third guy there.”
Jackson has also completed 77.6% of his passes for 479 yards and four touchdowns this season. Wide receiver Marquise Brown leading the team with 143 receiving yards.
Like the Chiefs, the Ravens don’t necessarily have one dominant target. Four of their top targets are over 75 yards on the season, with seven of Jackson’s nine receivers averaging over 10 yards per game.
Spagnuolo said the mixture of wide variety across both the passing and running game is hard to simulate in practice based on the Ravens’ speed. He’s hoping the Chiefs are able to slow it down early on Monday.
“You know the first time you go out there and see this offense, it’s going to be 10 times faster than what we’ve done in practice, no matter how good we do it,” Spagnuolo said. “We've got to hope we come up to speed with what they’re doing quickly. That’s the challenge of the first series, to be quite honest with you. If you can survive that first series, give your team some good field position and not give up a lot of it, that’s certainly going to help us. It’s always a challenge. You do the best thing that we can do.”
"Listen, I haven’t got a lot of sleep this week, let’s just say that. They’re tough to defend.”