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Having some of the bye week blues? Well don’t fear, The Coordinators are here to bring you a check-in of the Ravens offensive pass catchers.
We also have a special guest today. Friend of the program, long time reader and first time writer, JimZipCode of the RSR Forum is here to offer his analysis.
Over to you Jim, let’s get into it!
The bye is a good time to take a quick look at how the Ravens pass-catchers have produced on the season. My preferred “lens” for that is to use yards-per-target, which is just receiving yards divided by passes-thrown to that receiver. Not just yards per catch, but rather we’re also counting incomplete passes where the receiver is the intended target.
So what are the key takeaways?
— The league average is about 6.9, which is calculated by taking total passing yards across the league and dividing by total pass attempts. That’s probably a smidge low, because some official “attempts” are actually spikes and throwaways, but for ease of use I’m comfortable assuming those are a very, very small portion of the overall sample. If you want to adjust for that, you can think of the NFL average yards-per-target as about 7, just to control for the spikes & throwaways.
— It is a pleasant surprise how few targets the Ravens have given on the season to below-average producers. Just 15! There’s no Crabtree situation here, where a player is getting a ton of targets and wasting them.
— That overall productivity is why The Ravens are #11 in yards-per-attempt in the league (just 0.04 of a yard out of the ten spot).
— Both of the rookie WRs have their YPT boosted by their single longest catch. Miles Boykin & Marquise Brown each drop below 7 if you take those out. Willie Snead is less affected and he stays over 8 if you remove his one big play, the 50-yd TD. Snead is, of course, more consistent compared to the rookies.
— One of the surprises is how little production has come from Chris Moore. In the offseason he was predicted to be a huge breakout player, but that doesn’t look to be the case…obviously.
— RBs other than Justice Hill catching the ball at a 100% clip is…umm positive. Now if the Ravens can get Hill going it’ll be just another high percentage look out of the backfield.
On that last point…SERIOUSLY! Let’s do some comparisons.
Hurst and Mark Andrews play the same position, Hurst probably a better blocker, and they have very close yards-per-target numbers. But Andrews has triple the targets. Of course, Andrews is the team’s best offensive weapon (the drops in the last game are not a trend, but rather an outlier), but it is interesting to see how similarly Hurst is producing, despite not getting the targets to reflect that success.
When looking at Boykin, he has a better catch percentage and slightly better yards-per-target than Marquise Brown (both with and without each’s single biggest play); and Marquise has also missed two games. Yet Marquise has triple the targets!
The Approach to the Passing Game
On the whole there’s a lot to like from what we’ve seen from Greg Roman & Lamar Jackson. That said, it’s pretty clear that the Ravens have been forcing targets to Andrews and Brown a little too much and it raises the question of whether or not that is good for the passing offense.
Targeting your best players isn’t necessarily a bad approach, but so far the most success has been from Lamar spreading the ball around and those plays setting up looks to Brown and Andrews.
I mean, the Ravens traded up to draft Boykin. But he only has a dozen targets? Hurst was a first-round pick! Not even 20 targets? That’s not the best approach from a game plan perspective (they’re producing and should get more targets) or a team building perspective (hello, draft capital).
Another way to look at receiver production is by passer rating when that receiver is targeted. You need five pieces of data to calculate a passer rating. We have four of them in the table above: completions, attempts, yards, TDs. The missing piece is interceptions, but don’t worry, I spent time going back to calculate who was targeted on each interception.
So what does the chart look like when we factor in QB rating?
This statistical look further cements the idea that Boykin, Hurst and Snead should get a larger share of targets.
At the same time, this is a good place for us to start to be cautious. A table like this looks very precise, with percentages and averages out to the first decimal place, but it’s easy to fool yourself. Remember that many of these numbers are generated from a small number of passes thrown.
Here’s an example of the kind of mistake it would be easy to make:
Ravens QBs have a passer rating of 120 when throwing to Patrick Ricard, and “merely” 86 when throwing to Mark Andrews! Clearly it’s a mistake to throw to Andrews. We should give 50+ targets to Ricard in the second half of the season!”
Uh, no, no I don’t think so. Patrick Ricard is a fine player, and Greg Roman has done a great job of deploying him in high-leverage ways. Comparing him to Mark Andrews is silly though. It’s one thing to look at these charts and conclude that the Ravens usage of Boykin, Hurst and Snead should get a little bump; they’re legitimate weapons in the passing game, all of them. It’s another thing to blow 3 targets out of proportion.
Statistics are fun & informative, but only if you keep them in perspective and use them thoughtfully, which is another good thing to remind ourselves of at the bye.
Back over to you, Cole!
First off, thank you so much Jim for joining us.
With the New England Patriots coming to town the Ravens are in a very interesting position. A win would be a statement in the AFC that the Ravens are legit contenders to knock off the undefeated Pats.
Nick Chubb was able to have a big day against a very good NE defense, but to be able to beat them, it’s going to take a full offensive approach and that includes the passing game.
From what we’ve seen, and presented in previous articles, Lamar Jackson really is at his best when the ball is spread. Defenses were keying in on Andrews and Brown, and as Jim presented, it took away from their effectiveness (albeit, still very effective players). However, if Hurst and Boykin can make an impact, it could create some of those big play opportunities we’ve seen from Andrews and Brown.
Establish the run and high percentage passes that spread the ball around should be the approach as the Ravens look to slay the AFC giant on Sunday night.
How excited am I?
Got home to find my brand new @Lj_era8 jersey in the mail.
Okay NOW I’m ready for Sunday #RavensFlock
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonRSR) October 28, 2019
Fresh threads for the big game, doesn’t get any better!