Ravens movie research: Why the offense and the protection have been NFL outliers in Week 1

Even because the Ravens’ offense emerged as an outlier over the previous three seasons, running more often and more efficiently than any NFL crew in that span, it by no means strayed too removed from the pack earlier than the snap.

Under coordinator Greg Roman, the Ravens’ most typical personnel grouping had at all times been the NFL’s most typical personnel grouping: “11,” that includes one working again, one tight finish and three large receivers. In 2019 and 2020, quarterback Lamar Jackson’s first two seasons as a full-time starter, the Ravens lined up with three wideouts and one tight finish on almost half of their performs, according to Sharp Football Stats. Last 12 months, they did so much less typically, and much beneath the league common, however it was nonetheless Roman’s go-to setup.

In Sunday’s season-opening win against the New York Jets, nonetheless, Roman and the Ravens signaled a possible philosophical change: They lived largely in a two-wide-receiver world. According to TruMedia, their utilization price of 11 personnel (6.3%) was by far the bottom of any Week 1 offense coming into Monday evening. The Atlanta Falcons have been subsequent closest, at 27.3%.

Here’s how the Ravens lined up in opposition to the Jets, and the way efficient they have been in these groupings, in response to the play index website nflfastR. Expected factors added replicate the relative effectivity of a play, accounting for situational components:

  • 21 personnel (two backs — on this case, fullback Patrick Ricard at all times amongst them — one tight finish, two large receivers): 19 performs, 0.32 anticipated factors added per play. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman’s 55-yard landing catch within the third quarter got here in 21 personnel.
  • 12 personnel (one again, two tight ends, two large receivers): 15 performs, -0.20 EPA per play. Wide receiver Devin Duvernay’s 25-yard landing catch within the second quarter got here in 12 personnel.
  • 22 personnel (two backs — once more, Ricard at all times included — one tight finish, two large receivers): 11 performs, 0.03 EPA per play
  • 11 personnel: 5 performs, 0.34 EPA per play. Duvernay’s 17-yard landing catch within the third quarter got here in 11 personnel.
  • 13 personnel (one again, three tight ends, one large receiver): three performs, -0.97 EPA per play. Jackson’s fourth-quarter interception got here in 13 personnel.
  • 02 personnel (no backs, two tight ends, three large receivers): one play, 0.41 EPA

It’s too early within the season to inform which packages would be the offense’s finest or most used. But in Week 1, the Ravens made clear their intentions to make use of their tight ends extra like large receivers. Mark Andrews led all Ravens receivers in snaps (47), and rookie Isaiah Likely earned as a lot taking part in time as large receiver Demarcus Robinson (25 snaps) and virtually as a lot as Duvernay (29).

“Those guys are going to be on the field as much as we can put them out there, because they’re also receivers — they’re just bigger receivers. But they’re good blockers, too,” coach John Harbaugh mentioned Monday of Andrews and Likely, each of whom can line up exterior or within the slot. “That’s good for us. So I think you’ll see those guys out there quite a bit.”

With Ricard’s outsize role in the Ravens’ running and play-action schemes, snaps for the crew’s complementary large receivers could possibly be laborious to return by this season. Ricard performed 36 snaps Sunday, virtually as many as Bateman (37), and equal to the mixed whole of large receivers Tylan Wallace (six snaps), James Proche II (5) and Robinson.

Dime and once more

As the Ravens sacrificed velocity for dimension on offense in Week 1, they went the other approach on protection.

Mike Macdonald, in his first sport coordinating the Ravens’ protection, used dime personnel (six defensive backs) on 47.6% of the crew’s snaps Sunday, according to TruMedia, excess of any protection had coming into Monday evening. The Chargers completed with the second-highest price, at simply 28.6%.

Macdonald’s reliance on cornerbacks and safeties didn’t signify an excessive departure from the leaguewide norm. As three-wide-receiver formations and unfold assaults have taken maintain throughout the NFL over the previous decade, defensive constructions have modified. According to Football Outsiders, nickel defenses (5 defensive backs) first grew to become extra prevalent than conventional “base” defenses (4 defensive backs) in 2012, earlier than lastly getting used on a majority of all performs in 2015.

Dime-heavy seems to be aren’t uncharted territory for Harbaugh, or for Macdonald, a former defensive assistant in Baltimore. In 2019, the Ravens had two complementary safeties, Chuck Clark and Earl Thomas, who as a pairing virtually by no means left the sphere. They had Brandon Carr, who toggled between cornerback and security and completed fourth on the protection in snaps. And at cornerback, they’d two stalwarts in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, a midseason commerce acquisition, plus Jimmy Smith and Anthony Averett.

That 12 months, the Ravens used nickel seems to be on 46% of their snaps (twenty sixth most within the NFL) and dime seems to be on 41% of their snaps (third most), according to Football Outsiders. They additionally completed fifth within the NFL in total defensive effectivity, bolstered by their fourth-ranked cross protection.

When the Ravens took Notre Dame star Kyle Hamilton with their high choose in April’s NFL draft, including him to a security group that already had high free-agent signing Marcus Williams and Clark, their defensive chief, Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens would lean even more on their secondary. A standout preseason for the crew’s defensive position, which ought to be among the many NFL’s finest run-stopping teams, may need solely emboldened that method.

“We’re going to run multiple personnel groups, and three safeties has been a big part of what we like to do,” Harbaugh mentioned in April. “So, yes, we’ve got three really good safeties right now. We can play the extra safety at nickel, we can play safety at dime, we can play them at mike [middle linebacker]. All of those guys are going to be on the field, for sure.”

Hamilton didn’t supplant Williams or Clark as a starter within the preseason, however that didn’t preserve him from the sphere Sunday. He performed half of the protection’s snaps in Week 1 (42), greater than beginning defensive lineman Calais Campbell (41) and beginning inside linebacker Josh Bynes (32). In all, six Ravens defensive backs performed at the least half of the snaps inside MetLife Stadium: safeties Clark, Williams and Hamilton, and cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Brandon Stephens and Humphrey.

Circumstances considerably dictated their utilization. After the Ravens took a commanding lead within the third quarter, Macdonald might fear much less about stopping the Jets’ working sport and dedicate extra sources to stopping quarterback Joe Flacco. The Jets had simply 4 carries after halftime, in contrast with 40 drop-backs.

Fuller’s season-ending knee injury will take a look at the Ravens’ depth Sunday in opposition to the Miami Dolphins, particularly if Peters (knee) stays unavailable. But Macdonald mentioned final week that he trusts rookie cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams sufficient to play them early this season. Both noticed restricted time Sunday.

“Shoot, everybody on our defense can play,” Marcus Williams mentioned Sunday. “One guy goes in, one guy goes out, this is what we do. You can see it out there. If it’s giving you guys a hard time [tracking the defensive backs], it’s probably giving the quarterback a hard time, too.”

Week 2

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