FILMSTUDY: The Ravens’ new look offensive line

Filmstudy FILMSTUDY: The Ravens’ new look offensive line

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The Ravens used a new blend of line schemes with this past Sunday’s arrival of Willie Anderson.  But whether the unbalanced, 6-man, or standard lines were used, one thing is very clear…these guys really want to block.  Whether

, offensive line coach John Matsko, Lorenzo Neal, Joe Flacco, or the team’s sudden success is the catalyst, you can see it in the way blocks are getting finished, in the way Todd Heap has become an actual force as a blocker, and in the way both Grubbs and Yanda are locating blocks when they pull.  There’s plenty of skill there too with Jason Brown’s footwork, Gaither’s push, and good technical pass blocking across the line.


I again reviewed the game using my simple O-line model.  You can find the description as well as all the caveats of that model here:


All 5 of the starters played all 61 “real” snaps (which exclude Flacco’s 3 kneels).  Anderson entered the game exclusively as a 6th lineman, and I only counted a single time where Terry was announced eligible, but that may hold over for several plays if he does not leave the field.  The team allowed just 1 sack, 1 other QH, and one line penalty (Brown’s FS).  On the sack, each lineman had a block as Hall got by McClain to pull down Flacco, so I did not charge any portion to a lineman.  The Ravens have now outsacked their opponents 7-1 on the year.  Here’s how I saw the efforts individually:

Gaither:  Had a good game for push.  While it’s no doubt demoralizing to get pushed into the center by Gaither, it’s also dangerous to linemen in the middle, which must reduce their effectiveness.  Chop blocking is illegal, but it’s not illegal at all to block a lineman into another and those collisions can end up with tangled legs.  I hope Matsko has trained the Ravens well on this.  Gaither was beaten once in Q2 for penetration 2 yards behind the LoS on what ended as a 1-yard gain.  I split Hall’s QH in Q2 between Gaither and Terry.  Gaither released his block a little early and allowed Flacco to be caught as he threw by Hall, but it was Terry’s man from the other side who flushed Flacco left out of the pocket.  Gaither also allowed his blocker to easily slip off once on the final drive and make a tackle.  He was otherwise superb and in particular held each pass block very well.  Scoring: 58/61 blocks, 1 missed, 1 penetration, ½ a QH, 54.5 points (.89 per play).

Grubbs:  Ben was asked to pull 9 times and each time either found a block or set up to pass block.  Grubbs got good push, often benefiting from the pressure Gaither commonly puts on his man to the inside.  He was part of the reason Rogers was neutralized for the game, and otherwise most frequently blocked Shaun Smith (#91).  He shared responsibility for 1 late penetration by Rogers (Smith also had penetration by Brown) that blew up a play on the final drive, but the Browns were otherwise so tired, the play still went for a 1-yard gain.  Scoring: 58/61 blocks, 2 missed, ½ a penetration, 57 points (.93 points per play).

Brown:  Had a terrific game, especially when opponent quality is considered (Rogers).  Brown blocked Rogers numerous times straight up and contained him very well.  Rogers did not create any significant pocket penetration on passes and disrupted only 1 running play.  Rogers aggressively overpenetrates hoping to create havoc and it looked to me that Brown used this well against him, blocking him to the ground or sealing him behind the play.  Flacco went down once on a handoff (Q4, 9:03) when Smith got good penetration on Brown, but Joe was still able to get the ball to McClain who powered for a yard.  That play is the first time this season Flacco has fallen due to contact with his own player (something we saw a lot more of in the Boller/Flynn era).  Scoring 58/61 blocks, 2 missed, ½ a penetration, and 1 false start, 54 points (.89 per play).

Yanda:  Was asked to pull 10 times and found some sort of block on 9 of those.  Pulling is one thing this scoring system does not reward, since it’s more difficult to find and execute a block when in the 2nd level than to simply engage the man across from you.  The mobility of all 3 interior linemen is something special in players their size.  Yanda released one block too early which allowed his man to blow up a screen pass, but he also had more 2nd level blocks than any other Raven.  Scoring: 59/61 blocks, 59 points (.97 per play).

Terry:  As I mentioned before, he was in every play, somewhere.  As a pass blocker he was a big part of the many AD’s (All Day to pass!) I have recorded on my line scoresheet.  I’d say purely subjectively it appeared to be the best run-blocking game of his career.  He’s staying with his blocks for longer at the least.  Scoring 57/61 blocks, 3 missed, ½ QH, 55.5 points (.91 per play).

Anderson:  Willie did not see action in the first half, but entered for the first time with the 6-man line on 1st and goal from the 1 (Q3, 11:49).  Flacco fumbled that play, but the Ravens then scored on the next.  Anderson played a total of 17 snaps (all with 6 pure O-Linemen), 16 at RT and 1 as TE on the left side.  The Ravens ran the ball on 16 of his 17 snaps.  I recorded him as missing just 1 block.  We obviously did not get to see much of him as a pass protector, but I’m sure that will come.  After the game Terry had, I’d expect they’ll continue to use Anderson as a 6th only for the time being.  Scoring 16/17 blocks, 16 points (.94 per play)

The Unbalanced Line:  The Ravens lined up unbalanced just 5 times (21 yards on 4 rushes and 1 incomplete pass) after using the formation 19 times in Week 1.  Each time it was again Terry lining up left of Gaither.

Jumbo:  The Ravens ran a 6-man offensive line on all 17 of Anderson’s snaps.  Terry lined up left of Gaither on 14 of these plays, as the RTE on 2 of these, and as the RT on one when Anderson lined up left of Gaither.  The Ravens gained 45 yards on those 17 snaps (2.6 YPPA).  It wasn’t earth shattering by any means, but the first 5 of those plays were to close out goal-to-go TD drives.  The last 12 came as the Ravens ground out their 9 minute drive that chewed up most of the 4th quarter.  Even with the Browns completely selling out to stop the run, the Ravens registered 3 straight 1st downs.

Other Notes:

·         Todd Heap had a very good game as a blocker on both max protection packages and running plays.  I know he probably wants to be out in the pattern, but he’s clearly working hard on his blocks.  On two of those plays Heap released (may have faked a fall down a la Jackie Smith on the 2nd) very late and Flacco threw across the field to him.

·         The Ravens twice ran a package with 3 pulling linemen (the 2nd plays of both Q1 and Q2).  In each case Gaither, Grubbs, and Yanda pulled around a sealing TE and Brown.  The plays gained 4 and 5 yards.

·         Something I have never observed before occurred on the flea flicker.  Mason was the only player in the pattern.  As McGahee swept right, 8 Ravens spread right along the LoS to protect from 4 rushers.  Flacco took the throwback and heaved the ball 60+ yards into the end zone where it was intercepted.  Only Wimbley dropped into a short zone and the overhead view shows 6 Browns racing for the end zone and Mason.  It would have been fun to see Flacco try to run the ball in that situation and even more fun to see how the Ravens would set up to block for it.

·         The Blocking on McGahee’s 5-yard TD for the Ravens 1st score was terrific.  Gaither, Terry, Grubbs and Brown all held there blocks an extra couple of seconds as McGahee ran into Gaither, then bounced off to the left. For good measure, Brown blocked Rogers to the ground and Mason had a solid block at the goal line.
Photo by Sabina Moran 




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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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