Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh knows teams are going to stack the box to shut down their record-setting running attack.
He welcomes the opportunity for quarterback and league MVP Lamar Jackson.
"When they want to load that box up, we want to make them pay for that even more, especially when they load it up with zone coverages," Harbaugh said in a conference call with season ticket holders. "Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws. We have to make them pay for that. We absolutely have to make them pay.
"The ability to make them pay for tilting their defense toward stopping our run game with a really, really efficient passing game. I do believe ... that's the next step of this offense from an execution standpoint. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step and our receivers will take the next step with doing that."
Jackson is coming off one of the most successful regular seasons by any quarterback in NFL history. He completed 265 of 401 passes for 3,127 yards and an NFL-high 36 touchdowns, which was also a franchise record.
Jackson finished with 1,206 yards rushing — sixth-best in the league and the most by a quarterback in NFL single-season history. He is the only quarterback in league history to produce at least 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
Much of the Ravens' success came with their ground attack and they set the NFL's single-season rushing record with 3,296 yards on a league-high 596 carries. Opponents will be determined to shut down that run and make Jackson win games through the air.
That could be a big mistake, according to Harbaugh.
"Lamar, last year, was one of the best pocket passers in the league statistically," Harbaugh said. "That's because he made a big jump [from his rookie year] and also because of all the other things he's able to do makes the defense more honest. They just can't tee off and run a bunch of pass-blitzes at him.
"We should have guys more open and we should have bigger plays and we should create more opportunities in the passing game because of that run game. We're not going to scrap the run game. But we're not going to become a conventional offense. That's the last thing we're going to do."
Jackson's teammates have the confidence that he'll be able to make the proper adjustments this season.
Running back Mark Ingram expects the Ravens to be even better on offense with a more-experienced Jackson. Ingram anticipates Jackson to follow a similar career arc of Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who also won the NFL MVP in his second year.
"You saw the jump Mahomes had from his second to the third year, the way he was comfortable with his team, the way he's comfortable in himself, being a leader, being a playmaker," Ingram said "I see that same jump for Lamar. Man, he's special. He has all the tools, all of the intangibles to be great to be the MVP again.
"We're all just working, doing everything we can to prepare with the circumstances going on. And I think we're all getting together to do some routes and things in a week or so with Lamar and some of the skill positions. We're going to be ready to go when the ball kicks off. He's special, we love him and he's the best. We have his back and we're trying to be champions. That's the goal for all of us."