It Doesn’t Pay to be Average on Defense

Filmstudy It Doesn’t Pay to be Average on Defense

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One of the reasons yards allowed is such a misleading statistic is that defense requires the variation of yardage to stop drives. Said otherwise, an offense can move the ball robotically up the field with average run or pass results each play. It’s the defense which requires substantial variation of result to stop drives, primarily in the form of turnovers, sacks, offensive penalties, and key incomplete passes.

So how did the Ravens fare in these categories versus the Jags:

— No turnovers

— No sacks

— The Jags committed 2 holding penalties which did not stall drives.

— They also had a holding flag and a false start on the same series of downs where they still managed to get a FG.

— While Bortles had 8 incomplete passes in the first half, only 1 stalled a drive resulting in a punt, and only 1 other was in the same set of downs that resulted in settling for a FG.

Take out the kneels and the fake punt and the Ravens allowed a solid 3.6 YPC and 5.5 yard per play on all competitive defensive snaps, but the Ravens defense failed in terms of the pressure required to make the high-variation plays.

Not Scheming for Pressure

pass-rushers-jags

Here are a few supporting details:

— Pees called for just 3 blitzes from off the line of scrimmage (Onwuasor, Mosley, Correa).

— The Ravens had only 1 blitz that was deceptive by my definition (the first pass of the game had Onwuasor’s blitz coupled with a stunt by Suggs).

— Bortles had ample time and space (ATS) on 15 of 24 plays in the first half.

— Of the 9 first-half drop backs which were not ATS, 5 were designed to have the ball out quickly and were not pressure generated by the pass rush.

 If you’re reading this piece after a beating like the Ravens just took, you’ve seen me present this chart and supporting details many times before with a summary in words. I’ll tell you what…you caption this in 1 or 2 pithy sentences, put it in the comments, and I’ll make sure to mention the best ones on the podcast. To be clear, I’m not looking for “the pass rush sucked”, but something that provides a little more insight/explanation as to why.

Individual Notes by Positional Group

Defensive Line

The line was taxed heavily as the defense returned to many more 4-DB sets and 2.5 defensive linemen per play.  That, coupled with the absence of Brandon Williams and injury to Urban left the Ravens shorthanded.

Willie Henry (40 snaps) made his NFL debut on defense. In addition to 4 run stuffs (gains of 3, 1, 1, 3), he lined up as a 1, 3, and 5 tech. He was flagged for encroachment, an ongoing concern after leading the team in penalties during the preseason. Willie didn’t generate any pressure in 18 pass snaps, but his play lends hope that the DL can hold up with the absence of Williams and Urban.

Carl Davis (42 snaps) had his play increased sharply. Similar to Henry, he had 3 run stuffs (1, -2, 0) and drew 1 flag. He also generated 1 pressure in 18 pass-rush snaps.

Michael Pierce (55 snaps) also was effective versus the run with 3 stuffs (2, 3, 2). The issue with run defense wasn’t in the middle as we’ll discuss. Michael had no pressure events in 27 pass rush snaps.

Brent Urban was lost for the season after 18 snaps. He had been the Ravens iron man so far this season and a good source of interior pass rush (1 PD vs. Jags). The Ravens have Bronson Kaufusi available as the most obvious 5-tech replacement for Urban, but I won’t be surprised if they activate both him and Chris Wormley vs. the Steelers if Williams must sit again. The combination of Wormley and Kaufusi give the option for fresh inside pass rushers in a game where the pressure must be effective.

Patrick Ricard (5 snaps on defense) played sparingly despite the scarcity of linemen. Of his snaps, 4 came in goal-line formations where the Ravens used all 4 available down linemen.

Linebackers

The Ravens activated all 8 of their linebackers (5 OLBs, 3 ILBs).

Here are the total snaps, pass snaps, and pressure events for each of the OLBs

linebackers-jags

This is the group that let the Ravens down most, especially considering the mediocre Jags OTs (Parnell, Robinson) who played the bulk of the snaps. In addition, all of the big runs allowed to RBs came on the edge.

Tyus Bowser (8 snaps) regressed badly after being named Defensive Rookie of the Week versus the Browns. He was the first to lose Marcedes Lewis in man coverage for a touchdown (Q1, 3:39) when he bit on the TE’s play-action chip block and did not follow his release until it was much too late. He lost the right edge to TE Koyack, which helped lead Fournette’s 15-yard run right (Q1, 5:00). He capped his day by losing the left edge to the FB Bohanon on Ivory’s 9-yard run left (Q3, 3:24). It was on that play that Mosley was visibly upset. Bowser was removed and did not return.

Kamalei Correa (22 snaps) had his best career game.  His highlights:

— (Q1, 7:25): He pursued quickly to take down Fournette for a gain of 5 (2 + 3 YAC) between the numbers and right hash.

— (Q2, 2:16): He came on a well-timed blitz off the offensive left side to deliver an unblocked QH on Bortles, who grounded his screen pass.

— (Q4, 8:51): He had tight coverage of Bohanon by the right sideline and undercut the short route for a PD and near INT.

He appears to be taking a different stance, closer to the line of scrimmage than Mosley. Since I don’t see how that would help in coverage, I assume it’s a mechanism to get him to make a quicker impact on run plays.

Patrick Onwuasor (33 snaps) got the start. He finished with 7 tackles, including 3 run stuffs (1 an assist), which masked a mediocre day in coverage. In particular, he missed a tackle to allow 4 yards after contact by Lee (Q1, 2:05), appeared to lose coverage of Grant on his 18-yard reception (Q3, 13:43), and failed to cover Bohanon well on his 8-yard reception (1 + 7 YAC, Q3, 1:19) by the right sideline.

Secondary

Jimmy Smith (53 snaps) played well. He was beaten for a 13-yard completion by Cole (Q1, 4:23) despite outstanding coverage by the right sideline. He otherwise did not allow a reception to his assignment and registered 2 PDs, 1 on a big hit of Bohanon (Q3, 12:11).

Marlon Humphrey (21 snaps) extended his playing time and continued to produce at a high level. To summarize his highlights:

— (Q2, 5:04) He both stripped and forced out Lee in the right side of the end zone.

— (Q2, 2:13) He undercut Bortles’ 20-yard pass for Cole between the numbers and left hash for a PD and near INT, but the play was negated by Webb’s illegal contact flag across the field.

— (Q2, 1:25) He had close coverage, leapt to knock the ball away, and was called for a ticky-tack DPI versus Lee down the left sideline for 29 yards.

— (Q2, 0:46) He had tight coverage and was credited with a PD on a ball Cole lost off his fingertips. Humphrey had contact on this play that looked much more like pass interference than the previous play.

He again had the lowest yards per play of any Ravens defender (3.8), including a large personal contribution. For the season, the Ravens have allowed just 2.7 yards per play with him in and 5.8 yards per play with him on the sideline.

Tony Jefferson (61 snaps) didn’t impact the game as Ravens fans would have hoped, which is something that almost has to be true in a game where the opposing TE has 3 TD catches. Jefferson had excellent man coverage of Lewis in the back of the end zone (Q1, 10:33) as the defense stiffened to hold the Jags to their first FG. However, he was victimized in man coverage by Lewis, who split wide for his 3rd TD from an initial Jumbo set (Q3, 7:54). Bortles threw a simple jump ball (it wasn’t really a fade) to the 6’6” Lewis, against which Jefferson had good success in 2016.

In the interest of forgetting this debacle, we’ll dispense with the 3 defensive stars of the game.

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick

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