Q&A With Chris Johnston
Ravens 24×7 took a few minutes to sit down with Chris Johnston of Complete QB. The topic was Joe Flacco and the Raven’s recent Offensive approach.
24×7: Did you notice if the Ravens O-line tipped the Texans with their stances?
Chris Johnston: The simple answer is yes, especially on some of last week’s pass plays. That said, this is not entirely unusual for a team with the Ravens’ Offensive personality. Much of the Ravens’ 27 pass attempts vs. Houston were in “obvious” passing situations, so I think the impact of OL personnel resting their elbows on their thigh-boards, etc. is minimal, in terms of tipping to the defense.
24×7: Did Flacco alter cadence? Live and from my seat it didn’t appear that he did.
Chris Johnston: I agree with you on that, and believe it was a byproduct of a calculated conservatism on the Ravens’ part vs. the Texans. It was clear from early in Sunday’s game that the Ravens were committed to letting the clock run, passing the ball out of run-heavy sets, and playing soft coverage vs. T.J. Yates and letting him throw the ball to the wrong guys.
24×7: Yanda struggles against the Texans. I guess it’s simply a match up issue. Your take?
Chris Johnston: Sunday was a tale of two halves for Yanda. He was nearly flawless at RG during the first half, setting a passing lane for both of Flacco’s TD passes and executing nearly all of his zone blocking assignments in the run game. Immediately after the half, however, he appeared a bit stiff and made some mistakes that led to sacks (at least two). I had Yanda’s overall performance as 4 Mas (missed assignments) on 58 Offensive snaps – a pretty good day. When the right side of the Ravens’ O-Line was at fault vs. Houston, it was a combination of factors, including Ravens’ RT Michael Oher (#74) getting beaten on a number of assignments. On the Texans’ side, J.J. Watt (#99) had a career day at DE, and made a number of great plays.
24×7: It seems to me that Flacco throws outside or near the hash marks a disproportionate amount of the time and those tendencies can hurt him. Sort of like a basketball player who can only go to the right. Seems to me that either he or Cam or both aren’t keen on going over the middle.
Chris Johnston: The short answer is that your impression is correct: the Ravens pass game is heavily dependent on single coverage matchups for their #1 receivers. They frequently use 7 and 8-man protection schemes in which only 3 receivers release downfield. A passing game that attacks the middle of the field usually utilizes a lot of crossing routes – routes that require at least two interior receivers taking inside releases. This is a luxury the Ravens don’t have with their approach to pass protection and apparent reluctance to let Flacco go through progressions that lead him to look at targets between the hashes.
24×7: Did you notice how much time was left on the playing (ball park average) when the Ravens broke the huddle. It just seems to me there’s no rhythm or tempo (sound like Billick?) and it leaves them with few checkout options pre-snap. Thoughts?
Chris Johnston: My unscientific take on the Ravens’ snap-to-snap behavior vs. the Texans followed this pattern:
1. Flacco spends the first 15+ seconds after the previous play receiving the play via helmet communication
2. Ravens break the huddle with less than 15 seconds left on the play clock
3. Ravens arrive at the LOS with less than 10 seconds left on the play clock
4. The ball is snapped with 6-8 seconds left on the play clock.
Although this sort of timing leads to limited time for check-offs, audibles, etc., I believe it is by design. This approach certainly prevents any sort of up-tempo approach, but does fit with a philosophy of running the game clock and doing enough to win games, no matter how ugly.
24×7: Do you think that having the play list on a QB’s wrist helps them get in and out of the huddle more quickly?
Chris Johnston: The wrist coach is useful for that purpose, and can certainly speed up the rate of Offensive play calling.