With Bobby Engram expected to be named the Badgers' new OC, I did some poking around to learn about the Ravens' offense, and why it fell off a cliff this season after starting the season well (and looking mostly functional last season and outstanding in 2019).
I thought this Ringer article broke it down really well. It described a lot of similarities with Wisconsin's offense (lots of linemen and motion and diverse running schemes) and also its shortcomings (all the linemen and motion can really constrict the passing game).
Here are some very disorganized thoughts:
- The Ravens' scheme is based on offensive line superiority. So is the Badgers'. When that advantage slips, the offense is liable to tank. In Wisconsin's case, however, I'm not sure if they can have it any other way. The team has way better access to line talent than skill talent, and always will.
- Whether critiquing the Raven's offense or the Badgers', simple execution can't be discounted. The Ravens' scheme may have restricted their verticality, but you know what else doesn't help? Injuries, especially to an MVP quarterback. Likewise for the Badgers, Mertz missed too many open throws, often under duress from poor pass blocking.
- This is all to say, I don't think Engram will be bringing in the revolutionary changes that some fans are hoping for. He's coming from one of the league's most Wisconsin-like offenses -- lots of power, 12 and 21 personnel, and an Establish The Run mentality. His background may be as a WR/TE coach, but he is not steeped in sophisticated passing games.
- That said, that may be fine. Wisconsin won't ever be an offense that doesn't live and die in the trenches. That model has produced a reliable floor, and an occasionally high ceiling when the offensive line and QB are capable of executing at an especially high level. Same as the steady-as-hell, sometimes excellent Ravens.
- What Engram does bring with him is a big bag of ideas that build on what Wisconsin and Chryst have always done, adding reads and RPOs on top of the motion and play action already in place. Perhaps counterintuitively, I think Engram is coming in to modernize the run game, while hopefully giving Mertz easier decisions to make.
I think for Badger fans, the question now is: Can you be at peace with that? I don't think Wisconsin's offense is going to look markedly different next year, and I don't think it'll ever be rid of the run game foundation and the inherent pitfalls. And with the division getting more competitive and the Ohio State-level programs having monopolized talent, the new reality may be that Wisconsin won't be finishing top 10 and making Rose Bowls as often as we've become accustomed to.
I think Engram could be a really excellent hire. I also think we should be prepared for a lot of the same frustrations we've had the last two years.