What to Expect when Expecting…Flags

The Ruling On The Field What to Expect when Expecting…Flags

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Earlier this week, we brought you the grim 2015 Penalty Review. Here’s the quick highlight reel:

-The Ravens were the 6th most penalized team in 2015, and regressed in terms of both drawing and committing penalties.

Jimmy Smith was one of the top offenders (duh).

-At least they drew a ton of false start calls?

While 2016’s penalty outlook can best be summed up as ‘there’s nowhere to go but up from here,’ there’s still plenty to take into consideration when debating where the Ravens will likely fall in terms of dirty laundry in 2016.

New Faces & Positional Changes

Let’s start with some optimism, shall we?

stanley dab

There’s been quite the revolving door with the Ravens roster since last season; we’ve seen the departure of starting players in LG Kelechi Osemele, LT Eugene Monroe, LB Courtney Upshaw, S Will Hill, along with a handful of replacements for the injury-riddled starters.

So why is this good news?

Simply put, Osemele and Hill were both top 5 in Penalties Against (PA) last season with six infractions each, while Upshaw wasn’t far behind with four (for the record, Monroe was a blip on the radar with one penalty, but only played in six games last season, so take that with a grain of salt). The backup band in the secondary- namely Rashaan Melvin, Brynden Trawick and Asa Jackson– committed nine penalties combined during limited, uninspiring play.

Is this to say that their replacements will fare much better? Not exactly, but optimism does arise after seeing some solid, clean play from the rookie duo of Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis on the left side of the line, and the same can be said for the likes of Will Davis, Tavon Young, and newly minted Free Safety Lardarius Webb.

And speaking of Webb, his positional change should help this team drastically. At corner last season, Webb committed seven penalties with five accepted (3 DPI, 2 holding, 1 illegal use of hands & a roughing call). Moving Webb back to a safety position should prove to be helpful as he’s seeing less one-on-one downfield coverage than previous years.

Also back at safety, Eric Weddle brings a HUGE upgrade over Will Hill, especially in terms of penalties, where Weddle committed a total of three penalties over the previous four seasons.

Healthy Roster Factor

So first and foremost, ‘knock on wood,’ but the health factor should play a major role in the Ravens flag fest in 2016.

joe knee 2

Relying on so many backups, late additions to the roster via practice squad or free agency, and positional changes due to lack of depth can never be helpful for a team, and from a penalty standpoint, is likely to cause issues, be it route confusion, protection issues, missing blocks, so on and so forth.

IF the Ravens can remain healthy this season – and there’s really nothing out there indicating that they won’t (unless you’re one of the firm believers in ‘injury prone’ tags after a single injury) – then the consistency of the starters should not only help from a production standpoint, but also from a consistency of play standpoint, thus leading to fewer flags.

Jimmy Smith Factor

And now… the negative.

As mentioned in our 2015 Penalty Overview, Jimmy Smith has been a top-5 guilty party in the penalty game in three of the last four seasons, with his injury-abbreviated season in 2014 as the only time he kept a (relatively) clean nose on the field. While Webb has impressed in his move to safety, and thus should eliminate some of his flaggage (that’s flag baggage, thank you very much) from his time at corner, I don’t see a similar clean slate ahead for Jimmy.


As long as he remains a step behind his receivers – something he has consistently struggled with over recent years – he will continue to grab, pull and do anything he can to make up ground. As we all know, DPI’s and Defensive Holding calls won’t be far behind whenever Smith is targeted.

Quantifying Penalty Projections


This should be fun… and likely wrong. But I’m confident enough to say it’s within reason, so you can take it to the bank CoinStar.

Here’s some numbers to be aware of as we move into the 2016 season:


Projected season total penalties based upon Ravens 4 year trend.



Average season total penalties of NFL based upon 4 year trend


Projected penalties per game committed by the Ravens.



Projected penalties per game committed by NFL average.


Projected penalties by Jimmy Smith based upon 4 year penalty record over games played.


Projected Defensive Holding/Defensive Pass Interference Penalties committed by Jimmy Smith. Alone. Quantified by a 2/3 rule of Smith’s penalties since ’12.


What to Take Away From It All


Based on trends and recent results, I believe it’s all but expected that the Ravens are guilty of the following penalties on any given week:

(1-2) Offensive Holds

(1) False Start

(1) Defensive Pass Interference 

(1) Unnecessary Roughness

Then again, while the overall numbers suggests more ‘doom and gloom,’ just remember- projections are rarely spot on, and plenty of questions cannot be answered until we see some live action in the regular season:

Will the left side of the offensive line hold up?

Will the health of the entire team hold up?

Will Jimmy Smith finally realize that grabbing a receiver downfield is an actual penalty and not worth a head shake or a ‘what did I do?’ shoulder shrug?

All of the unknowns can shift the projected penalty log, so make sure you check out RSR’s weekly ‘Ruling on the Field’  (shameless plug!) where we’ll be evaluating officiating crews as well as the Ravens/opponent from a penal aspect (prepubescent humor, you’re welcome), in order to determine whether our disgruntled, profanity laden verbal assaults should be launched on the zebras or the Ravens.

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Adam Bonaccorsi

About Adam Bonaccorsi

Known by his fellow 227ers at M&T Bank Stadium as “Are You Kidding Me?” Adam is a vocal and opinionated Baltimore sports fans, who appreciates thinking outside of the box and offering far-fetched perspectives that tend to leave readers left wondering ‘what if?’ or sometimes ‘seriously bro?’ and occasionally, ‘I’ll have what he’s drinking!’ Or just 4-letter expletive-laden responses. Those are the best.

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