Defensive Notes vs. Falcons 10/19/14
The Ravens received solid performances from a number of defenders who will be central to their 2nd half push en route to a 29-7 thrashing of the Falcons.
The arrival of Will Hill and commitment to Dominique Franks helped clarify what had been a murky rotation in the secondary.
The Ravens still found playing time for 4 safeties (Brooks, Elam, Hill, and Stewart), but there were no big nickel (3-safety) alignments and no cases where a safety was asked to play a WR in the slot.
Instead, the Ravens reverted to traditional 3 CB alignments with Dominique Franks entering to play on the outside and Webb playing opposite the slot when the Falcons had 3 WRs on the field.
The results were outstanding as the high-powered Falcons passing game was held to 3.8 yards per pass play (YPP).
I heard it suggested the Ravens could move to some dime alignments, but they have a technical complication in doing so. Their defensive signal caller is Daryl Smith, who typically plays every snap. Their best playmaker, CJ Mosley, also plays every snap. While either ILB sometimes rushes the passer, neither would be part of a 4-man front the Ravens play on passing downs. So, those 2 plus the 4 pass rushers leave only 5 spots for defensive backs.
With the pass rush so effective, the least disruptive way to have the dime as an option would be to give signal-calling responsibilities to Mosley. I would imagine that is the long-term plan, but there must be some reason why the Ravens don’t believe that option is ideal currently.
The Ravens deployed 7 DBs for the final snap (to be verified from coaches video), which was the first with more than 5 this season.
The Falcons ran 65 plays, all of which were competitive. That total excludes penalties, so my snap counts differ in definition from other published totals:
Versus the Run: 16 plays, 68 yards, 4.3 YPC
Versus the Pass: 49 plays, 186 yards, 3.8 YPP
Overall: 65 plays, 254 yards, 3.9 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
4 DBs: 21 plays, 115 yards, 5.5 YPPA
5 DBs: 43/121, 2.8 YPPA, 5 sacks, 1 TO
7 DBs+: 1/18
By number of pass rushers:
3: 1 play, 7 yards
4: 34/147, 4.3 YPP, 2 sacks
5: 11/27, 2.5 YPP, 2 sacks
6+: 3/5, 1.7 YPP, 1 sack, 1 TO
• Franks had a number of contributions in 44 snaps despite being beaten for the only TD:
o (Q1, 4:56) He was up quickly as White dropped the WR screen from Ryan. No PD was awarded, but Franks was positioned to make a tackle for little or no gain.
o (Q2, 12:45) He was soft in coverage of Toilolo at the snap, but flashed up to take down Freeman for a loss of 3 by the right sideline.
o (Q2, 2:31) Ryan threw a screen right to Antone Smith which was diagnosed by Mosley and Franks. The 2 both flashed up with Franks first to make contact around the legs, but Mosley received solo credit for the tackle for a loss of 5.
o (Q3, 7:45) Ryan threw to White by the right sideline. Franks registered the PD, but was unable to control the football inbounds.
o (Q3, 1:26) On 2nd and 18, Ryan threw a 5-yard pass to White between the numbers and right hash. Brooks and Franks converged to shut down the play for 0 YAC.
o (Q4, 8:15) Ryan threw 40 yards to the right boundary of the end zone for Jones. The ball fell incomplete, but Franks not only had good coverage, he delivered a clubbing hit to Julio’s left arm just as the ball arrived. Had Jones initially collected the ball, it would have been stripped.
o (Q4, 7:18) Franks was not able to find the football on a fade to White in the end zone that resulted in the Falcons only score. It was the big mistake in a solid game and it came against one of the NFL’s best receivers.
• Webb had an up-and-down game, but anticipated the ball better and had 3 drive-ending tackles (Q1, 14:12 and Q2, 12:11 and Q3, 0:10), the last 2 of which had 0 YAC. His other highlight was a diving PD between the right hash and numbers (Q4, 3:52). He missed a tackle (Q3, 0:49) which nonetheless turned the play inside to Mosley and Smith to set up 4th down. He was soft on Jones who burned him for a 24-yard reception (Q4, 9:57). He’s headed in the right direction with these last 2 games and he doesn’t need to be as great as he was at his best to help the Ravens tremendously.
• Will Hill played his first 23 snaps coming off suspension and split time with Stewart. That broke down as 12 with Brooks, 10 with Elam, and 1 with both (the final play). I had been hearing he was the ideal FS, but his positioning and contributions were primarily near the LoS. Here are my notes:
o (Q1, 10:32) He blitzed unblocked through the left B gap and crushed Ryan from the blind side as he threw incomplete.
o (Q2, 2:43) He met and dropped Hester at the 13-yard line on an ill-advised kickoff return.
o (Q3, 8:17) Hill shed a block from Jake Matthews to take down Smith on a stretch left. Smith had lowered his head to drive through contact, but Hill stopped him squarely for a loss of 1.
o (Q4, 8:45) Ryan threw complete to White for 15 yards (15 + 0 YAC) near the right sideline. Franks made a clean tackle from behind, but Hill was underneath. Amongst 3 receivers, Will was unable to anticipate the throw or locate the football.
There were some plays to like here, but no specific demonstrations of coverage or ball skills. Those are areas where he has been graded highly by PFF over the past 2 seasons and what the Ravens need most from him.
• Chykie Brown was inactive (he practiced all week), despite the fact he would have been just the 4th healthy corner.
• Daryl Smith came back with a solid game after several weeks taking a backseat to Mosley. Among his highlights, he defensed a pass intended for Toilolo (Q2, 1:19), he crossed through the right A gap for a QH (Q2, 0:49), and he penetrated to force Smith outside where Hill dropped him for a loss of 1 (Q3, 8:17). He had a grinding 13-tackle effort which included contributions to 8 tackles that were defensive wins per the Football Outsiders definition.
• The Ravens continued to plug and play effectively along the defensive line in support of their 3 pressure machines, McPhee, Dumervil, and Suggs. Jernigan returned and was used primarily with McPhee in pass rush situations. Total snaps for all of the front 7 were:
• The week after knocking down Mike Glennon 16 times in 49 drop-backs (see last week’s defensive piece for a description), the Ravens had a similar total versus the Falcons. They had 13 confirmed QHs with 6 other possible knockdowns for which I need to check the coach’s video. The QHs (additional to be reviewed in parenthesis) by defender included:
o Hill 1
o Tyson 1
o Suggs 2 (3)
o McPhee 3
o Dumervil 5
o SmithD 1
o Jernigan (1)
o Multiple players possible (2)
• Dumervil was again outstanding. In addition to the pair of sacks, he recovered the fumble forced by McPhee (Q1, 4:23). He knocked down Ryan (Q2, 1:19) on a play made possible by Suggs’ jersey tug. He beat Carimi outside to take down Ryan for an apparent safety and his third sack (Q4, 3:49). While the truck played several different replays and probably were repeating it in their ears, neither announcer played the “Now-let’s-see-if-his-knee-is-down-before-the-ball-is-out” game. Elvis’ pressure on the very next play (Q4, 3:44) would help force Ryan up in the pocket into the waiting arms of Suggs for the safety. Dumervil would beat Carimi one final time (Q4, 0:28) to knock down Ryan.
• Gabe Carimi is a Michael Oher comp who was drafted in 2011 by the Bears with the 29th overall selection and now playing for his 3rd team. When he’s been on the field he’s occasionally shown skill as a run blocker and looked like he’s been wearing cement sneakers as a pass blocker. Sunday was one of those days where he was abused by a technique pass rusher and Elvis was the beneficiary.
• Suggs’ sack/safety is described above and it was just 1 of 8 pressure events I have recorded. His snaps increased again (see above) as well, which may be a sign he is past his injury.
• McPhee deserves his own list of pressure events as well, but I’ll simply say I think his pass rush grade from PFF understates his value because I believe it treats him as an outside linebacker rather than the position from which he actually rushes. Since he frequently rushes from the inside when on the field with Suggs and Dumervil, he may be graded as an OLB. In Ravens history, only Trevor Pryce is in his class in ability to generate pressure from between the tackles.
• It’s unusual for a team to have 3 pass rushers simultaneously performing at such a high level. Most of you remember the 2006 team and the four complementary pass rushers in Pryce, Suggs, Scott, and Thomas. Those four meshed well with Ryan’s aggressive schemes and a talented secondary to propel that team to a franchise-record 60 sacks. The 2014 Ravens won’t come close to 60 sacks, but the pressure they are generating will determine how far this team can go.
Gifs courtesy of Gordon Dixon