Discussion over the positioning of Oher and Gaither has been a hot topic in Baltimore since the initial OTAs. Those holding opposing viewpoints are about as likely to come to agreement as the Middle East is on the “which is the one true faith?” issue. While most agree that Marshal Yanda is more effective as a RG than RT, opinions remain split as to whether Chester/Yanda is a more effective right-side pairing than Yanda/Cousins or even Yanda/Moll.
We have some plays now to review with less competitive clouding than the preseason. The Ravens ran 74 real offensive snaps plus 1 kneel. While the Ravens gave up an acceptable 2 sacks (1 charged to Heap) and 2 other QHs to the Jets, the scores are still a little low due to the high number of tackles for loss (8).
The game’s initial sack/fumble was a study in how not to run such a play. The entire line (except for Birk who wasn’t matched head up) attempted cut blocks, which I would guess was intended to send a message to the Jets defensive line. Jaws and Gruden are certainly correct that the ball needed to come out quicker, but there were 3 impediments. First, Thomas jammed Heap at the LoS before rolling right over Oher. Second, the cut blocks also need to be more effective at slowing down the linemen. Ideally, the defender should hit the ground with only 1 hand and stay down, but if not, the offensive lineman can start to stand up to re-obstruct. Oher and Yanda each failed to get their man down and allowed them to move over quickly.
Last, Flacco appeared bothered by Thomas’ extended arms. A good QB will often turn a potential sack into a QH, incomplete, or even some positive result (penalty or completion), but this time the linemen are getting full blame when Flacco might deserve a share. Some folks are going to disagree with my scoring of that play . Feel free to adjust at home.
An explanation of the scoring method and formation coding can be found here:
Oher: The most significant issue for Oher on Monday was missed blocks and the fact that he was beaten for parts of 5 separate penetrations (Q1, 5:10, 1/3), (Q1, 1:46, full), (Q3, 4:09, full), (Q4, 13:36, 1/2), (Q4, 2:00, 1/2). Ben Grubbs played a fine game on his right, but Michael did not benefit from (primarily) Dickson’s poor blocking game to his left. How about some positives…he pulled 3 times and connected on each. Michael also drove Bart Scott backwards on the play that sidelined Jenkins for the season. I have not studied the matter objectively, but I’d like to test the hypothesis that a talented run blocking line will tend to have fewer injuries, a significant portion of which occur when moving backwards and tripping over other legs. Scoring: 61 blocks, 6 missed, 3.3 penetrations (2 full, 2 X ½, 1 X 1/3), ½ QH, ½ sack, 49.8 points, (.67 per play). Without the initial sack, Oher would have been at .71 per play.
Grubbs: Ben’s play in the preseason was a concern, but he was the Ravens most effective lineman on Monday. From a mobility standpoint, he pulled successfully on all 4 attempts and made 3 blocks in level 2. He also did well when asked to handle Jenkins without help. His biggest mistake of the night was a blown stunt handoff with Oher (Q2, 12:53) which allowed Bart Scott to register a QH. Scoring: 70 blocks, 2 missed, 1/3 penetration, ½ QH, 67.8 points (.92 per play).
Birk: Matt benefitted from the departure of Jenkins and did not record any negative plays after his injury. He pulled successfully once and made 7 level 2 blocks to lead the team. Because they typically make the line calls, centers have an advantage in terms of scoring. That’s another way of saying Grubbs’ .92 is more impressive that Birk’s .94. His only negative play was the 3-way shared penetration with Grubbs and Oher (Q1, 5:10). Scoring: 70 blocks, 4 missed, 1/3 penetration, 69.3 points, (.94 per play).
Chester: Chris appeared headed for his worst career game through the 1st quarter (2 points on 15 plays). Shawn Ellis steamrolled him multiple times in the game’s biggest line mismatch, but regardless of the opponent he’s the current starter who is most regularly overpowered. Every season there are a few comical missed blocks and Chester had one on the screen to Rice (Q1, 3:03). Chris pulled successfully 3 times, but made only 1 level 2 block. Scoring: 64 blocks, 6 missed, 1 penetration, 1 QH, 1 offensive holding penalty, 53 points (.72 per play)
Yanda: He’s clearly out of position at RT. Jason Taylor beat him on a spin move (Q2, 2:06) which would happen very infrequently at guard. Most of his pulling value is lost at RT, but he attempted twice, succeeding once. He might attempt 6-8 pulls in a typical game. Based on this game, I’d be happy to see the Ravens try Yanda/Cousins on the right side vs. the Bengals. He continues to fall more often than the other linemen (ex: Q1, 7:17). Scoring: 66 blocks, 6 missed, 1 penetration, ½ sack, 1 illegal hands to the face penalty, 58 points (.77 per play).
Ngata: Haloti was the only 6th lineman to see action Monday, playing 3 snaps. He had a lead block on McGahee’s TD run, but that was primarily a personal effort by Willis that got the ball in the end zone. For the first time I can recall, he was inserted on 1st down outside the red zone (Q4, 2:00) and promptly shared in a penetration. Scoring: 2 blocks, ½ penetration, 1 point, (.33 per play).
· The Ravens ran unbalanced left 10 times for 24 yards and 1 interception. They ran unbalanced right twice for 2 yards.
· The Ravens made use of their depth at TE, playing a number of 2 and 3 TE sets. Each play has 5 eligible receivers aside from the QB and I record the number of wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs as a 3-digit number (see toolbox above for details). I find it’s a lot easier not to mess up if you record all 3 numbers and check that they total 5, but pro coaches/players would refer to 311, for example, as “11 personnel”. On non-penalty snaps Monday, the Ravens used:
o 032 (No WR, 3 TE, 2 RB): 4 times (3 times on the goal line plus Ngata’s other snap mentioned above)
o 131: 10 (!) times (19 yards)
o 122: 10 (!) times
o 221: 14 times
o 212: 1 time (this was a bread-and-butter formation for the 2008-09 Ravens)
o 302: 9 times
o 311: 7 times
o 401: 16 times for 122 yards
o 500: 3 times
· There are theoretically 18 such combinations which constitute legal formations with 7 men on the LoS. However, these 9, along with 410 and 320 represent at least 99% of NFL (real) snaps.
General offensive notes
· Dickson had an awful blocking game. While I don’t score blocking by the TEs, his play had a significant impact on the running game. He was targeted just once as a receiver. Despite his speed and size, he was not targeted on any deep passes.
· Pitta saw some action in the first half and more in the 4th quarter. He was not targeted for a pass.
· I’ve seen a number of assertions about Flacco and the deep ball on Monday. I thought he threw very well and we must include the impact of the penalties in his success. Heap and Mason each misjudged a deep ball which should have been caught, although Heap also made a spectacular catch. The big PI calls on Wilson and Cromartie as well as the defensive holding calls on Revis, Wilson, and Cromartie were all a function of putting those players in man coverage against big, physical receivers. Flacco threw those balls close enough to force those DBs to twice commit pass interference. You’ll often hear an announcer say that a QB threw a pass “where he needed to” meaning that his receiver could get to it, but the opponent can’t. With deep passes thrown into single coverage, however, the underthrown ball becomes a significant weapon, because the receiver can typically adjust more easily and the defender will often commit pass interference by running right through the receiver when starting from a step behind. Given the physicality and lack of speed of the Ravens receivers, I expect we’ll see many such passes this season.
· The Ravens did a good job of picking up the blitz The initial sack was a simple 4-man pass rush. The later sack by Thomas was a 5-man rush. The Jets rushed 6 5 times, 7 twice, and 9 on the goal line overthrow of McClain (Q2, 0:16) once. None of those resulted in sacks.
· What can be said about Anquan Boldin except that he’s exactly what we’d hoped through 1 game? He caught 1 ball beyond 20 yards from the LoS last season with Arizona.
· When studying film I’ll often find myself reexamining a belief I’ve held for years. I thought of Ravens history as loaded with bad free-agent wide receivers (Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson being the 2 best examples. Kevin Johnson was actually acquired by trade) who fall drastically short of their production with their previous team. Honestly, Sanders and Robinson are the outliers and not the standard. Qadry Ismail made a significant contribution (and far outperformed any previous play) and the last 3 such free agents, Mason, Washington, and Boldin, were all solid investments.
· Heap had his best game in some time. He used his body effectively to box out on short routes (ex: Q1, 5:52). He was asked to do much more vertically and showed good hands despite the TD drop.