Major Changes in Store for Ravens Defense

Filmstudy Major Changes in Store for Ravens Defense

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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.

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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.

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