These games should have settled the Left Tackle debate that seems to be going around town like the swine flu.
With both tackles playing out of position, the Ravens had a very difficult time stopping the Bengals’ vanilla rush schemes. With extra defenders in the secondary, Flacco was limited to a large number of check-down throws. For the day, 23 of his 31 passes were delivered 9 or less yards from the LoS. Michael Oher looked like a physical RT playing LT and Marshall Yanda looked like a guard converted outside.
The line missed (and I hope I am using the past tense properly) Gaither tremendously these last 2 weeks. Oher looked overmatched on the left side vs both Allen and Odom. While Allen used a mix of finesse and motor to get by Oher, Odom simply overpowered him with his arm length and strength. The Ravens 2nd drive of Q2 vs. Cincinnati (beginning at Q2, 5:28) is the best sequence of examples I can provide. Thus far, Yanda has played exclusively as a tackle in 2009. He had a tremendous 5-game stretch at the beginning of last year, which based on the quality of competition tells me he could have been one of the top guards in the league this season. But he’s undersized for a RT and frankly used poor judgment on 2 plays vs. the Vikings in terms of whom to block. Beyond the play at tackle, both guards played poorly. Some of that is a function of Minnesota’s tremendous quality at DT, particularly Kevin Williams, who had a monster game.
The Ravens ran just 51 plays from scrimmage vs. Cincinnati and 63 (excluding 1 spike) vs. the Vikings.
Oher: Oher had a tough day against Antwan Odom. With his size and reach Odom is the prototype RDE that would give Oher trouble, but Gaither should handle. To his credit, Michael did not allow a sack to Odom, but he caused one when Odom pushed him back into Flacco. On that play, 3 Ravens’ linemen (Chester, Yanda) were beaten, so I split that sack 3 ways. Odom also deflected a screen pass (Q3, 14:53, which went unmarked in the gamebook, but was very obvious at the game) and collapsed the pocket several times, which led to just 10 pass attempts where Flacco had ample time despite the fact that the Bengals did not blitz often. Oddly, Oher was assigned to pull 3 times from LT. He succeeded twice after allowing right-side penetration (Q2, 4:54). He had 2 pancakes and 2 level 2 blocks. Scoring: 43 blocks, 4 missed, 2.5 penetrations, 1/3 sack, 36 points (.71 per play). I like the fact the Oher can pull something positive from the game against Allen. He’s a top-quality pass rusher and Oher will need to face such vs. Indianapolis and Pittsburgh on the right side. However, his game vs. Minnesota resulted in the worst score I’ve ever recorded for a full game. I can pull a positive from the fact that he handled Allen effectively on each of Rice’s TD runs. My system doesn’t give him extra credit for his blocks on these runs, but he might deserve it. The scoring speaks for itself other than to say the sack he allowed was an odd judgment to allow Allen to run free too early on a botched screen pass. Scoring: 55 blocks, 2 missed, 2 penetrations (2 x .5 plus 1), 1 QH (2 X .5), 1 sack, 2 false starts, 36 points (.57 per play). I don’t see a reason he can’t immediately regain his effectiveness on the right side. Does everyone make their jersey selections by determining which young players will have the most future value and time with the Ravens? If that’s your formula, Oher remains a solid choice.
Grubbs: Ben played decently against the Bengals, but very poorly against the Vikings. He had a false start penalty in each game, but tossed in 2.5 QHs and a sack vs. the Vikings (1.5 QH and the sack were surrendered to Kevin Williams). He went 4 for 4 on pulls vs. the Bengals and had 3 level 2 blocks, but pulled just once with 1 level 2 block despite a litany of screen passes vs. the Vikings. Scoring vs. the Bengals: 48 blocks, 1 missed, 1.5 penetrations, 1 false start penalty, 42 points (.82 per play). Vs. the Vikings: 55 blocks, 3 missed, .5 penetrations, 2.5 QH, 1 sack, 1 false start penalty, 37.5 points (.68 per play). This was ugly, but Ben went through an even worse 2-game stretch in 2008 (11/2-9/2008 vs. Cleveland and Houston, .69 and .58, respectively). Amazingly, the team won both those games with superb play across the remainder of the offensive line and he recovered to play very well against the Giants and Eagles in the 2 games that followed.
Birk: With the swarming pressure and arduously slow review process from the Vikings game, I had a tough time believing my scorecard, which showed Birk to have had a largely mistake-free game vs. the Vikings to go with a solid effort vs. the Bengals. Regardless of his individual scoring, however, I think he needs to shoulder a share of the blame for making the line calls in a game with so many missed assignments. Sure, the crowd was loud, but that’s where Birk’s experience, Harvard education, and opposable thumbs should come in handy. He administered 3 pancakes and 3 level 2 blocks vs. the Bengals, but just a single level 2 block vs. the Vikings. Scoring vs. Bengals: 48 blocks, 2 missed, .5 penetration, 1 false start penalty, (.86 per play). Vs. Vikings: 61 blocks, 2 missed, 61 points (.97 per play).
Chester: Chris turned in the best performance of the Ravens’ linemen vs. the Bengals but turned in a miserable performance vs. the Vikings. Chester’s only significant mistake against the Bengals was a 3-way jailbreak where he, Yanda, and Oher all contributed to a sack. As with the other linemen his mobility blocks were limited by the play selection (1 PC, 1 L2 block, and 1 successuful pull). He and Grubbs provided Kevin Williams with a highlight reel as the Vikings DT picked up a sack and QH on Chester as well. Scoring vs Bengals: 49 blocks, 2 missed, 1/3 sack, 47 points (.92 per play). Vs. Vikings: 54 blocks, 4 missed, 2.5 penetrations, 1 QH, 1 sack, 40 points, (.63 per play).
Yanda: After 2 OK performances at RT, Yanda turned in a clunker at Minnesota. He had 2 distinct mistakes blocking a covered inside pass rusher while he allowed pressure to fly by on the outside. On Flacco’s TD to Clayton (Q4, 8:42), he allowed Robison to hammer Flacco. Later (Q4, 1:45) he allowed Williams to blow by outside when he was confused by Kennedy’s stunt. Scoring vs. Bengals: 47 blocks, 2 missed, 1 QH, 1/3 sack, 42 points (.82 per play). Vs. Vikings: 53 blocks, 6 missed, 1 pen, 2.5 QH, 43.5 points (.69 per play).
· Flacco’s performance is astounding given the pressure. He had 3 QH’s and a sack on a 7-play scoring drive! I can’t remember seeing that before. The Vikings unabashedly brought pressure, but Flacco did not make a serious mistake despite the abuse he took. Some of his success was due to the 1st period departure of Antoine Winfield, but a 109 QB rating with the OLine performance vs. the Vikings is astounding.
· The Ravens ran their last 21 plays without a TE in a 3-point stance. Heap was in the backfield for several of those plays (all were 500, 401, or 302—WR/TE/RB), but on most he was at the LoS, standing. It’s difficult to argue with the results that included 3 TDs and a drive to set up the FG attempt, but Flacco was sacked twice and took 4 QHs on those plays.
· I actually liked the run call with Rice prior to the FG attempt, particularly with his success in the 4th quarter. Minnesota could have stopped the clock and left Favre some time, but Childress seemed OK with the length of the attempt and did not want to allow anything closer in exchange for a few seconds of catch-up time.
· Rice broke approximately 8 tackles on his 3 long 2nd half plays (3 on the R22, 4 on the P63, and 1 sort of on the R33). That followed up his amazing run to paydirt vs. Cincinnati. He should receive Pro Bowl consideration this season.
· The Ravens did not run unbalanced vs. the Vikings and have run just 3 unbalanced and 0 6+ man sets since Gaither was injured 2.5 games ago, spanning 157 plays. By comparison, they ran 35 unbalanced/jumbo sets in the first 3.5 games. The decision to remove those sets may have been a function of position familiarity or the drop off in quality of the 6th lineman (Hale or Moll).
· I continue to be impressed with the season Le’Ron McClain is having as a blocker. He’s used infrequently but effectively as a receiver and occasionally as a short yardage battering ram, but his role has changed dramatically from last season and I haven’t heard any griping. He’s lined up frequently as a TE and has been a big contributor in both run and pass blocking.
· Against the Vikings, the screen passes did not go very well. Often the linemen would release to early and the play would get blown up. A couple of plays I’d point to specifically are (Q3, 1:59) and (Q4, 10:03). On the first, Allen was in the way as Rice and 3 linemen set up left. Flacco avoided the rush of Henderson and threw incomplete in the end zone for Mason. On the latter, Oher released early and Flacco got hit before the screen to Allen’s side could be delivered.