FILMSTUDY: Major Changes in Store for Ravens Defense

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
of the Baltimore Ravens during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

We’ve seen the last of some defenders, but it’s not clear how the defense will be realigned in 2014.

The week 10 overtime win against Cincinnati was a turning point in many ways.  In that game, the Ravens sacked Dalton 5 times and put themselves back in the playoff hunt.  Since then, the pass rush has fallen apart despite an overall resurgence of the team and stellar play in the secondary.  This is easier to show in chart form:

The Ravens have actually generated just 3 sacks in the last 5 games, so this would look worse if I made the split after the Jets game.

Injuries to Suggs and Dumervil were central to the drop off, of course.  Dumervil had a fine year as a situational pass rusher.  It’s possible he’ll recover to play well again.

The Ravens’ off-season plans will center on Suggs.  He registered just one sack in his last 8 games but despite all evidence to the contrary Sunday (see below), he remains one of the best edge setters in the game.  With a potential cap savings of $7.8 million, he will likely have to take a pay cut in the last year of his contract to stay.

Ngata suffered through another difficult season physically, but he’s like pizza – even when not at his best, he’s still pretty good.  He’s also a very expensive cut, so I expect he will be retained.

The Bengals ran 64 offensive plays excluding 2 kneels:


Versus the Run:  28 plays, 112 yards, 4.0 YPC

Versus the Pass:  36 plays, 281 yards, 7.8 YPP

Overall:  64 plays, 393 yards, 6.1 YPPA

By number of defensive backs:

3 DBs:  2 plays, 1 yard, 0.5 YPPA, 1 TO

4 DBs:  26/146, 5.6 YPPA

5 DBs:  31/190, 6.1 YPPA, 2 TO

6 DBs+:  5/56, 11.2 YPPA, 1 TO

By number of pass rushers:

3:  4/56, 14.0 YPP, 1 TO

4:  21/126, 6.0 YPP, 1 TO

5:  9/93, 10.3 YPP, 1 TO

6:  3/6, 2.0 YPP, 1 TO

7+:  None

Other Notes

  • Matt Elam is a case of “right player, wrong position”.  He’s not going to make it as a free safety.  He’s been late covering a number of times this season including 2 notable instances Sunday:
    • (Q1, 0:26) Green ran right by him and was open by 5 yards despite a slight underthrow on his 53-yard TD.  I first heard it said by Billick that as a defender “you can’t let anyone get wider than our widest or deeper than our deepest.”  This was a case where Elam needed to risk the route being cut off in order to stay deeper than Green.
    • (Q2, 2:00) Webb lined up in press coverage on Jones who was in the left slot.  Jones ran past Webb and beat the handplay by tipping the ball to himself.  Elam arrived very late on a ball thrown between the numbers despite the fact he was the single high safety with all 10 other defenders within 4 yards of the LoS.
  • I think he’ll be good playing in the box disruptively, contributing to run defense, and foiling plays run to the outside.  There were lots of good examples of play near the line of scrimmage against the Bengals:
    • (Q2, 8:16) Elam beat Collins’ block to take down Green for no gain.
    • (Q3, 8:47) He navigated through traffic to tackle Bernard for a loss of 4 on a run right.
    • (Q3, 1:12) He contained the WR screen right to Green for a gain of just 1 with Graham tackling.
    • (Q4, 4:36) On 3rd and 1, He turned Bernard inside where he was gang tackled for a loss of 3.
  • The future is not as clear for Ihedigbo.  He has played well in an unexpected full-time role, but he has a similar skill set to Elam with less upside and he is a free agent for a team strapped for cap.  Ihedigbo will have suitors and may not command a big contract but it appears neither he nor Elam can make significant contribution as a centerfielder.
  • With the exception of Elam, the secondary covered well.  Jimmy Smith had a costly PI, but made up for it with a clutch takeaway (literally) from Green that kept the Ravens’ season alive a few minutes longer.  Every starter in the secondary except Elam had an interception.
  • The Ravens played a 4 CB dime on 5 snaps Sunday.  They have played just 39 dime snaps all season and 25 of those came in weeks 3 and 4 when Arthur Brown was not active.  The remainder of the season, their primary 3rd-down defense has been the nickel with Arthur Brown next to Daryl Smith.  Arthur was active for week 17 and it’s a fairly significant indictment of his rookie season that he was off the field in favor of Chykie Brown in such situations.  Arthur played just 5 snaps.
  • McClain had great difficulty on runs up the gut.  The Bengals were able to get a lineman on him on each of BJGEs runs of 6+ yards except the first and last:
    • (Q1, 1:43) He missed the tackle as BJGE ran for 12.
    • (Q4, 9:16) Green-Ellis ran through tackles by McClain and Ihedigbo for 11 yards.
  • Arthur Jones was inactive.  He’s had a fine season and it will be interesting to see what another team is willing to pay him.  While the Ravens probably have interest in retaining him, I suspect it will be difficult to fit him under the cap.
  • Brandon Williams was effective in 16 snaps.  His highlight was driving back the RG (missed the number, but I don’t think it was Zeitler) to take down Bernard for a gain of 1 (Q3, 2:59).  He also contributed to the pursuit and takedown of Green-Ellis for no gain (Q3, 5:07) although he did not get tackle credit.
  • Dalton ran left after a fake handoff on 3 occasions with damning consistency:
    • (Q2, 13:43) The Bengals lined up with an extra offensive lineman to the right.  Dalton faked to Bernard and ran left past Suggs for a gain of 9.
    • (Q3, 4:06) On a play where the Bengals lined up 4 wide, Dalton faked to Green-Ellis then beat Suggs and Ihedigbo on the left side for another gain of 9.
    • (Q4, 13:33) With 1st and goal at the 1, Dalton executed and outstanding fake to Green-Ellis.  Suggs appeared to take down BJGE for a loss of 3, but Dalton rolled into the end zone to put the Bengals up for good.

I’ll produce my end-of-season reports for each defensive player over the course of the next month.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured, Filmstudy by Ken McKusick. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ken McKusick

Ken McKusick
Ken comes to us via area message boards where he has consistently posted some of the most insightful and memorable posts that you'll find anywhere.  Known as "Filmstudy", Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports who grew up about 1 mile from Memorial Stadium.  He attended...more

7 Raves on “FILMSTUDY: Major Changes in Store for Ravens Defense

  1. Reading Comments on said:

    The best word that describes the Ravens on both side of the ball is slow.
    Everything they do is slower than molasses in the winter.

  2. Boldin Raver on said:

    Another great post, Ken. I assumed the front office always knew Elam was more an in-the-box safety but played him at free safety to solve two problems: cover up their miss estimation of Huff, and give Elam a good learning environment. It’s fairly obvious they need another safety, but what’s better – a pure center fielder or another hybrid guy who can switch into either mode to confuse offenses? I wonder if Elam could even develop as a nickel MLB guy in the future like Polamalu. Webb as FS?

    • Ken McKusickKen McKusick on said:

      I agree that the team did not have a good plan in place to replace Huff, but you can’t do that for all positions, of course. Elam was next man up and he’s been a pretty good player playing out of position.

      I think Elam would be outstanding in the Polamalu role. He has good speed and will be a big asset from sideline to sideline. To get an extra player for confusion on the field, you’d like to have another such player on 3rd down. Ihedigbo could do that, as can Arthur Brown. In the Ryan era, the Ravens would occasionally play a 4-safety/3-corner quarter which would maximize pass-rush flexibility.

      During Marvin Lewis’ tenure as the Ravens DC, he frequently used a 3 safety quarter on passing downs which was also very effective. If you want to try something fun sometime, take a look at just the 3rd-down plays from one of those 2000 games and the opponents really had no idea how to attack it.

      • Boldin Raver on said:

        Wish I could see those 2000 games. Memory is sweet but fading. On another note, It’s my second year of reading your film studies, Ken. I devour every one. Thanks!

  3. Torry Lewis on said:

    I would have loved to see Ihedigbo play next to Smith in Dime. He can force the run and is better in coverage. Then we could have had another speedster in the back for over the top coverage.

  4. Westside Bmor fan on said:

    I would love for us to get a aggressive DC and go back to what was us an being top five in defense. It’s like we went very soft on the back side. An I wish some one stop letting harbs do the hiring. An go with a more aggressive type guy.. U kno the type were use to.

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