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17 Aug 2011

The Air Coryell Ravens

Guest Column by Chris Berney

This winter, I had a great idea. I decided I was smarter than Cam Cameron. My great idea stemmed from one basic theory I couldn’t get out of my head: Cameron was running an Air Coryell offense with players who were not suited for it, and he was failing at it.

However, the data proved me wrong.

Like many Ravens fans, I saw another frustrating offensive season from the team. Baltimore held the lead at some point in the fourth quarter of every regular season game, only to relinquish that lead in a staggering nine of them, many times because they couldn't move the ball in the fourth quarter to keep the defense off the field. The offense was once again in the bottom half of the league in many categories and wasn’t top ten in anything but interceptions allowed, rushing attempts and turnovers allowed.

The Air Coryell system that Cameron employs relies on two things. A power running game that picks up tough yards through the middle of the field, and speedy downfield receivers that are used to strike deep without warning. The Ravens have neither of these assets, which is why I believed Air Coryell was the cause of the offensive issues.

Ray Rice is not a power runner. At 5-foot-9, he’s a shifty back who forces tacklers to miss and is a stellar receiver. Chuck Muncie, who was the Chargers’ primary back under Coryell, was a 6-foot-3, 225-pound pile-pusher who was used as a receiving back half as often as Rice. The receivers weren't deep threats. Between 2007 and 2009, teams threw passes of 16 or more yards (through the air) to Anquan Boldin only 14 percent of the time and T.J. Houshmandzadeh 18 percent of the time. Derrick Mason has been known as a possession receiver specializing in short and intermediate routes with both the Titans and Ravens. Yet in 2010, Boldin and Houshmandzadeh had 28 and 36 percent of their targets go 16 or more yards, respectively. In fact, nearly one quarter of all Joe Flacco passes went 16 or more yards.

The problem is, while that sound like a nice theory, the data doesn’t support that the Ravens were ineffective at throwing the ball downfield. Flacco, when throwing the deep ball, had an 84.2 quarterback rating, primarily due to a relatively normal 36 percent completion percentage. Flacco’s rate of first downs/touchdowns per pass was 34 percent on passes of 16 or more yards to Boldin, Mason and Houshmandzadeh. It was 40 percent for passes of 15 or fewer yards. Here's the real kicker; looking at the DVOA numbers, the Ravens were significantly better when throwing the ball 26 or more yards. Their DVOA when throwing the ball that deep (which they did almost 40 times) was 67.5%, versus the league average of 22.6%.

Additionally, it doesn’t look like they were trying to force Rice into a power middle running role or misusing the run in general. Only 60 percent of his rushes were behind an offensive guard or center.

LeSean McCoy –- another relatively small scat-back who is also used regularly as a receiver –- rushed to the center of the line 58 percent of the time, so the Ravens weren't pounding Rice in true Air Coryell fashion. The Ravens also ran the ball only 52 percent of the time in the fourth quarter. This seems to be an absurd number for a 12-4 team that held a fourth-quarter lead in every game, but the Patriots, Steelers and Falcons – who finished with records equal to or better than Baltimore – ran only 50 percent of the time in the fourth quarter.

With that, my great idea turned into a bad one. If Cameron wasn’t really misusing their players by running an offensive system that couldn't mesh with their talents, where was the problem? The two main culprits seem to be the poor play of the offensive line and the ineffective running game.

The offensive line was a big problem last year. Flacco was sacked 40 times, second highest in the NFL, with the seventh highest sack rate of quarterbacks with at least 14 sacks. Football Outsiders ranks their Adjusted Sack Rate 25th in the league, and while they finished in the top 10 of Adjusted Line Yards last year, they were just 24th place in success rate on power running situations. Michael Oher was injured most of the season and played poorly at left tackle, Matt Birk had an awful year at center, and Chris Chester was a backup forced into a starting role because Marshal Yanda was playing out of position at right tackle. The cascade effect of losing Jared Gaither ran deep for the Ravens last season.

The running game was also ineffective, and the Ravens treated it as such, rushing on only 46 percent of their plays. Rice finished 19th out of the 46 running backs with 100 or more carries in DVOA, and had a career low 4.0 yards per attempt. The Ravens finished 29th in Second-Level Yards and 27th in Open-Field Yards. That points to Rice also deserving a share of the blame, although Willis McGahee (32nd in DVOA out of the same 46) "helped" by tying his career low with 3.8 yards per attempt.

Could the problem be the play calling? It’s possible, but I can’t find the data to support it. The NFL doesn’t run on data alone, of course, but Cameron’s going to have ten years of coaching experience in the NFL after this season and I’ll still have zero. So until they pay me to watch the games at home ala Tom Moore, the data is what I’ve got, and the data says Cameron’s system wasn’t the problem.

Chris is a Richmond resident with strong family ties to the Baltimore area. An analyst by trade, he writes columns for a Ravens fan-site and his football blog in his free time. He grew up watching Orioles and Colts games, and has been a football fan since elementary school. As a Ravens season ticket holder, he attends as many games as possible.

Football Outsiders is always accepting guest columns that have a unique perspective on either the NFL or college football. Send your ideas or samples to mailbag-at-footballoutsiders.com

Posted by: Guest on 17 Aug 2011

63 comments, Last at 23 Aug 2011, 8:43am by PTORaven

Comments

1
by 0tarin :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 1:34pm

Nice work. I've long held the position that the OL was the single worst aspect of the Ravens last year, despite the majority of fans clamoring to lay the blame at either Cameron or Flacco's feet. It's also worth noting that thus far, they've done relatively little to address this issue--Jah Reed might help eventually, but he's a raw prospect and needs work.

So long as they continue to insist upon shoehorning Michael Oher into an LT spot when he's an average (at best) LT, things will continue along the same path. Note that in his first season, Oher was an exceptional RT, with his only fault being an overabundance of false starts. Being unable to work things out with Gaither has destroyed so many aspects of that offense that it's actually astounding.

2
by Independent George :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 2:54pm

How much are the sacks the fault of the line, vs. Flacco or the receivers? Admittedly, it's been half a year, and 60% of the Ravens games I saw last year were against the Steelers, but my impression was that Flacco tended to hold onto the ball an awful long time before delivery, and the receivers didn't look like they got open very often.

11
by dcaslin :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:39pm

This not-super-scientific article claims Flacco is pretty bad for holding the ball: http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/23/when-it-comes-to-holding-the-ball-joe-...

That said, author is absolutely correct about the Gaither domino-effect that destroyed the running game and somewhat hampered the passing game.

36
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 3:00pm

Oakland passed on Gaither. The "Gaither thing" isn't anybody's fault but Mother Nature's.

3
by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 3:22pm

What does a RB's height have to do with whether or not he's a power back? Jerome Bettis was 5-11 and Chris Brown was 6-3 -- which was the power runner?

20
by johnnie walker (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 8:58pm

Yeah, I'm not buying that argument at all based on height/weight. Muncie at 6'3/225 would be considerably leaner than Rice at 5'8/212. (BMI shows Muncie at 28 and Rice at 32.) Maybe the definition of a "pile-pusher" depends on era, but this was a very weak way of making the argument.

37
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 3:05pm

Quibble all you want: Rice and Muncie were very different backs. Defenders were lighter in Muncie's day. Besides, whatever you say about his BMI, I remember watching Muncie on Sundays: the guy was brutal. They used to call him "Chuck the Truck."

44
by psuasskicker :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 7:18pm

Rice's weight on his own site (www.rayrice.org) has him listed as 200 lbs.

Either way, Rice isn't at all the same type of back Muncie was, which was the point I was trying to make, and still holds. Muncie was a power guy that would grind yards between the tackles. Rice is a scat back that is able to bowl some guys over, but for the most part he's built more to make people miss than run over them.

- Chris

4
by Mike Lowery (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 3:30pm

I wouldn't say the OL played very bad last year. Actually, I thought they were pretty good. Oher had an average year, but Grubbs, Yanda, and Birk were all pretty damn good. Flacco does tend to hold the ball too long, but then again, QBs who play in a Air Coryell have to hold the ball longer (See Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler). They're just going to get sacked more than other quarterbacks no matter who's on the line although Flacco can improve in throwing the ball away.

Rice, Heap and McClain were pretty bad in blitz pickups. Flacco seemed comfortable only throwing to Heap and TJ in the middle of the field and struggled against two deep zone coverages. And the Ravens ran the ball way too much in general, especially how ineffective it was. Also, the Ravens were using some zone blocking schemes that didn't really work.

Pretty much any team who could play two deep safeties and cover the out-route simultaneously could shut down the Ravens because the running game was so ineffective.

26
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 9:04am

"Flacco does tend to hold the ball too long, but then again, QBs who play in a Air Coryell have to hold the ball longer (See Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler)"

I was very surprised the author didn't make this connection. It seems obvious that running more deep routes would lead to more sacks, and that deep passing attempts is a flawed way of tracking this offensive tendency because it discounts sacks on plays where the ball was supposed to go deep. Maybe more suitable receivers would have got open quicker and turned sacks into completions.

38
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 3:08pm

2010 was the first year Rivers took a lot of hits, mostly because SD's STs were taking the run game away. Before then, he averaged about 25 sacks, even when the run game wasn't working in '08 and '09.

45
by psuasskicker :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 7:26pm

Running deep routes may lead to more sacks, but if you cut the number of deep pass plays the Ravens ran in half, we're not talking about cutting the number of sacks Flacco took in half. Strength of the OL is far more correlated to sacks than length of the field passing plays.

Receivers run the 40 in between 4.4 and 4.6 seconds. QBs are releasing the ball 1-2 seconds before the receiver needs to be under it to catch it. It's not like we're talking about Flacco needing tons of time in the pocket to be able to unleash a deep pass.

A guy like Lee Evans going deep vs. a guy like Anquan Boldin going deep is the difference of right around 0.4 seconds for 40 yards. I don't believe that difference would be enough to make a statistically significant difference in sack rate.

50
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 08/19/2011 - 7:44am

I'd be a little surprised if 0.4 seconds didn't make a statistically significant difference to sack rate, but granted OL play is very important. I just think it's easy to underestimate the effects of scheme, receiver quality and QB play on sack rate. Because I've seen quite a lot of David Carr . . .

53
by af16 :: Sat, 08/20/2011 - 8:18pm

Okay, but isn't Lee Evans actually being open and past his defender (as opposed to Anquan) going to prompt Joe to make the throw?

55
by Intropy :: Sat, 08/20/2011 - 10:46pm

Is Lee Evans a better receiver than Boldin?

In 2010, Evans had -27 DYAR and -16.6% DVOA. Boldin had 152 and 4.8%. Now granted, Joe Flacco is a bit better than Ryan Fitzpatrick (and a lot better than Trent Edwards), and you're talking about long passes rather than all passes. But that's still quite a gulf.

58
by tuluse :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 5:23am

Is Lee Evans a better receiver than Boldin?

Does it matter if they are totally different in skill sets and what the team expects them to do?

More importantly, Evans isn't replacing Boldin, he'll be on the field with him. He's replacing Mason and the other Ravens receivers.

62
by Intropy :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 3:03pm

Oh yeah. I feel silly for forgetting the fact that Boldin was the receiver the Ravens didn't trade away.

59
by Mr Shush :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 6:59am

Boldin's an outstanding possession receiver who doesn't have the speed to threaten people deep. Evans was an outstanding deep threat and may still be: we don't know because it's years since he was in a situation in which his skill set could be exploited. At any rate, I would be very surprised if his deep speed wasn't still better than Boldin's.

5
by EveryFourDowns :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:02pm

I'm new guys so take it easy on me.

This was a great post. Do you think Ray Rice will keep this up or will he take a hit back with McGahee gone?

13
by 0tarin :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:52pm

I actually think Rice will improve a bit from last year's totals, particularly with Leach in there blocking for him. While I liked LeRon McClain, he wasn't as solid a blocker as Leach is.

However, one thing to keep an eye on is how Dickson and Pitta improve as blockers; Heap was excellent in run support, and so far they aren't quite up to his standards. We may also see the 6OL packages more frequently as a result.

6
by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:25pm

I watched every snap of the Ravens last year so I definitely have some opinions on this - first off, the Ravens were rated 12th in offense according to FO, but this article makes it seem like they were bad.

The OL play could definitely improve, but I'm not sure it will. Birk is not very healthy and there is no viable center to replace him (although they might sign Rabach as a backup). My guess is the Ravens are waiting to sign the best RT that gets cut in the upcoming weeks, I wouldn't be surprised if they look at Stinchcombe. But the power running game should improve if Yanda stays at RG, he's a beast in the interior but only average at RT.

The biggest problem at the end of the year was the WRs could not get any separation, Mason and Housh were really abysmal vs. the Steelers. Without a deep threat, Boldin couldn't work the middle, and Rice couldn't get in space w/ screens and swing passes. Now with Lee Evans (and Torrey Smith as his understudy) the Ravens might actually have a WR combo that complement each other, I'm hoping that will free up a lot more space underneath. Plus, if Flacco improves (like he has each year) the passing game might be really good, even if the line isn't great at pass protection. His pocket presence seems to be getting better, and its true that Heap and McClain weren't good pass blockers but I think Rice was actually fine picking up blitzes.

8
by 0tarin :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:36pm

I've seen a lot of the "with Lee Evans stretching the field, things will open up underneath!" of late, and while I agree to some extent, I can't help but see the similarities between that comment and last year's "with Donte Stallworth stretching the field..." credo. I'm the first to admit that Evans is easily the better of the two receivers, but the prevailing point so far is the perception that the only thing necessary is someone who's fast. I think past experience has proven that that is just not the case.

Don't get me wrong--I loved the Evans signing. I just fear that he'll end up being yet another in a long line of "missing pieces" that end up leaving things in the same condition as when they entered.

But here's hoping I'm wrong!

23
by MattE (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 12:28am

With Boldin, Mason, and Housh, Stallworth wasn't really on the field enough to stretch the D, no?

29
by dcaslin :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 12:09pm

Stallworth on field in 2010 = end-around

He as might as well have had an asterisk next to WR, since they never threw passes to him

30
by 0tarin :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 12:34pm

That's at least partially my point: they had a "deep threat" weapon, but either never utilized it, or as pointed out below, used it poorly and predictably. I'm simply saying having the guy does not instantly translate to success. As to whether that is due to poor coaching, scheming, or simply because Stallworth was a crummy receiver, I'm uncertain.

46
by psuasskicker :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 7:36pm

I watched every snap of the Ravens last year so I definitely have some opinions on this - first off, the Ravens were rated 12th in offense according to FO, but this article makes it seem like they were bad.

I watched every snap as well, most several times. I charted about half the Ravens season for FO. The offense wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either, and as a Ravens fan, it was terribly frustrating.

The OL play could definitely improve, but I'm not sure it will.

I agree with your OL statements completely. The OL last year was really very bad. Grubbs was average or slightly above. Every other position was below average in pass blocking, and average to slightly above at best in the run game. It's still a big weakness, and my biggest fear going into the season.

The biggest problem at the end of the year was the WRs could not get any separation,

I disagree with this. It was a problem, yes. It was not, however, the biggest problem. Their biggest problems were the inability to run the ball against good defenses (35 yards rushing in the Pittsburgh playoff game in which they held a 14 point halftime lead!) and the OL's inability to pass block to allow the receivers adequate time to create separation. I lost track of how many blown blocks I had to chart very early last season.

That's at least partially my point: they had a "deep threat" weapon, but either never utilized it, or as pointed out below

Lots of chatter about misuse or lack of use of Donte Stallworth. Many are forgetting that Stallworth broke his foot in training camp, and never seemed to be the same since. I believe if he were 100% healthy, he'd have been used as a receiver far more.

7
by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:28pm

Oh, also I forgot to mention, how spoiled us Ravens fans have become! Doesn't anyone remember the Brian Billick era? Its very tough to put together a good offense, defense, and special teams w/ the salary cap in place, the Ravens are one of the few teams that have 3 good units.

9
by andrew :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:39pm

This would be the same Cam Cameron who we remember so well from Miami... the guy who drafted Ted Ginn, Jr. in the first round while he didn't have a quarterback to speak of... (granted, Brady Quinn didn't exactly set the world on fire, but still...)

14
by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 6:44pm

Also the same Cam Cameron who developed Brees and Rivers into elite QBs and established SD offensive dominance, Norv Turner is riding on his coattails. No one thinks Cameron is a good head coach, but a lot of great coordinators have been crappy HCs.

16
by Intropy :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 7:19pm

Dick LeBeau comes to mind.

18
by speedegg :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 8:02pm

Um, actually, it's sort of the other way around. Norv was the offensive coordinator in San Diego before Cam Cameron. Cameron kept the same system as Norv, but lacked the receivers to be a true vertical "Air Coryell" offense, so he had to improvise...a lot. After Cam left, GM Smith brought back Turner as the Head Coach instead to keep continuity.

39
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 3:13pm

Uh, I'm not sure how much "improvising" Cameron had to do because he didn't have WRs. Unless, by improvising, you mean "handing off to LaDainian." Why throw? Just give it to #21 and he'll activate his teleportation belt, and hey!

41
by speedegg :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 3:40pm

Remember how bad the Chargers defense (especially the back 4) was and how much Wade Phillips blitzed? Did you forget how potent the Kansas City and Denver offenses were? Remember the days they could easily put up 28 to 35 points?

Brees had to pass, it just got ugly when you're starting WRs was a journeyman in Keenan McCardell and an undrafted free agent in Eric Parker.

21
by Elroy44 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 10:23pm

Sean Payton made Brees into an elite and Norv Turner made Rivers into one.

22
by jonnyblazin :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 12:05am

Incorrect on both accounts.

Brees DVOA in 2005 was 33.1%, he was already elite before Norv returned, the roster just hadn't been filled out around him.

And Norv coached SD before Cam arrived for 1 season, its not like he'd been there forever. Norv didn't coach up Brees in game situations in 2001, Doug Flutie was the starting QB.

And Rivers put up a 17.9% DVOA his first year starting after being coached up in Cameron's system for 2 years, then regressed to 6.9% under Norv's first year. Then he obviously became elite, but I'm pretty sure he was on that path since he became a starter.

28
by JonC :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 11:35am

DVOA doesn't tell you that the '06 Chargers were primarily a running team which avoided putting Rivers and the passing offense in a position to have to win games. Rivers' traditional stats are useful here, as his completion% and YPA both increased under Turner, as have his passing attempts, and his DVOA has been around 40% the last three years. Flacco wasn't nearly as good a prospect as Rivers, to be sure, but both his conventional stats and DVOA don't come close to Rivers' either in total or in terms of improvement.

48
by psuasskicker :: Fri, 08/19/2011 - 7:05am

Rivers and Flacco in their third year:
460 att, 61.7% comp, 22 TD, 9 INT, 7.4 YPA
489 att, 62.6% comp, 25 TD, 10 INT, 7.4 YPA
Which QB is which?

It's not even a little bit fair to compare Rivers' improvement from year 3 to 5 to Flacco's from year 1 to 3.

56
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Sat, 08/20/2011 - 11:30pm

What you're really saying is that it's not fair to compare early seasons for a rookie starter to early seasons for a player who comes off the bench. You can't compare PR's third season (first as a starter) to JF's third season (third as a starter) any more than you can compare JF's third season to PR's third season as a starter (fifth overall).

61
by psuasskicker :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 2:31pm

Why not? It's a FAR more apt comparison. Rivers is at a slight disadvantage due to lack of the amount of in-game experience Flacco's had, but it's not like he's sitting on the bench twiddling his thumbs and not learning anything. Do you really contend that it's not more fair to do that than it is to compare say Bradford's rookie year with Aaron Rodgers' first year as a starter?

33
by Elroy44 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 2:16pm

Rivers didn't become elite until at least 2008. As noted by someone else, in 2006 he mostly handed off or threw to Gates(yeah, there were a couple games where Rivers aired it out, like in the Cincy game, but he was far from the point of being able to win on his own like he can now). By the end of his second year with Norv, he was one of the best QBs in the game and could carry a team.

57
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Sat, 08/20/2011 - 11:32pm

The last month of 2007 he suddenly turned from starter to superstar. I remember it very clearly: the light went on after that crazy Tennessee game, the one where Kevin Mawae landed that dirty hit that ruined Merriman.

34
by Elroy44 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 2:20pm

Brees dvoa in 2005 was 13 not 33%; he was very good but not elite at that point. In San Diego he only had one season with a top 4 dvoa(2004) and never a top 4 dyar. Since getting coached by payton he's been near the top of both lists every year.

40
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 3:29pm

I don't know what you can draw from that. The common feature of Rivers and Brees in their respective "good-but-not-great" eras is perhaps the greatest RB in post-merger football history. What if the thing that held them back was not Schottenheimer/Ramsdell, but Tomlinson?

25
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 2:38am

... and he squeezed out one of the best rookie qb-seasons out of a very raw, pushed-into-action prospect.

10
by Joseph :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:39pm

First, Chris, thanks for the article. Great stuff.

However, I wish you would have analyzed the problems more--esp. with some #'s to "prove" your points. I was disappointed when I came to the end of the article--I thought there was more to come. Keep up the good work.

49
by psuasskicker :: Fri, 08/19/2011 - 7:10am

Thanks, much appreciated. I have a lot more content to add to this, but made a conscious choice to keep this to article length. I could have fit in maybe another 100 words, but that wouldn't really add to this. Significantly adding to this - diagnosing the issues with far deeper stats and noting how they have (and haven't) attempted to address the issues in the off-season - would turn this into an essay.

I'd love to do a follow-up article, but have no idea if I'll have the time to get it together before the season starts.

12
by eli (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:40pm

Nice article. Thanks. Profootballfocus rated Birk as being just a tick below Mangold, but my eyes and this article say there was too much pressure up the middle and not enough running lanes. It's hard to know what to think. I guess the average of stellar and bad is fair.

24
by MattE (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 12:33am

Good at some things, bad at others. Not good for power running, but one of the smartest centers around (and center requires smarts).

27
by TimTheEnchanter (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 9:19am

I wonder how much of the "Birk was awful" sentiment comes from him lining up next to Chris Chester. I'm pretty sure Chester got abused pretty regularly at RG so a lot of the pressure up the middle may have been coming from there - or maybe Birk was trying to help cover that side. I'm not sure. His knee was definitely not 100%, but from what I saw he was not the weakest link on the interior line. If they can get someone competent at RT (they haven't yet) and move Yanda back to RG where he belongs, I'm guessing it will help both the RG and C positions this year.

15
by Jon :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 7:12pm

Rice changed his style in the NFL, but he was a power back in college. He can't play that way every down because he'd be crippled by 25, but he has power to spare when he needs it.

17
by speedegg :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 7:54pm

Good stuff! I've been a fan of Cam Cameron since his days as OC in San Diego and loved his inventive playcalling and mix of personnel packages. Thought he got a bad rap in Miami. Yes, the Dolphins went 1-15, but that was a bad situation to step into and I never figured out who was in charge. The GM, the owner, or the head coach?

Anyway, NFL Matchup did a piece on the Ravens receivers, saying that NO ONE got open on several passing plays. Hodge or Jaws said, "This is an offensive coordinator's nightmare" and illustrates a problem with the offense. I got the impression that Flacco held on to the ball too long, maybe because the receivers had problems getting open.

47
by bengt (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2011 - 6:52am

saying that NO ONE got open on several passing plays
Quick, sign Limas Sweed! Getting open was the least of his problems...

19
by Sergio :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 8:44pm

"Flacco, when throwing the deep ball, had an 84.2 quarterback rating, primarily due to a relatively normal 36 percent completion percentage."

I think that was 63 percent?

-- Go Phins!

32
by Arkaein :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 2:13pm

Sergio, 63% completions on deep balls would be other worldly. 63% would be solid for all passes, including things like quick hitches and dump offs to RBs.

The general rule of thumb I've read is that QB should complete about 1/3 of deep passes to be productive.

31
by vincemullins :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 12:41pm

This article explains well what I like most about football - like life or investing, you can rarely look at just one variable to explain anything.

Flacco held the ball too long - was it due to a 4-verts call, his missed read, or the fact that none of his WRs can separate from coverage? Likely all three, which is why it is so amazing to see this game played well at its hightest level like the Patriots and Steelers have done for most of the last 10 years..

Vince Mullins, Fantasy College Football Analyst
FantasyCollegeBlitz.com
Buccaneers apologist

35
by BDAABAT :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 2:24pm

The O line was a huge problem for sure last year. Unfortunately, it looks like this year will be no better and may actually be worse. Birk is still the expected starting center even though he currently is recovering from knee surgery; Oher is still expected to start at LT when he seems more suited to RT ("False start, #74"). Right tackle hasn't been determined yet, but it looks like either rookie Jah Reid (who was abused by the Eagles backups last week) OR someone who has repeatedly demonstrated that he's not an NFL-level tackle, O'Neil Cousins. All of which means that Flacco will likely be running for his life all season long. Oh, and there's no backup QB. :)

More troubling? The traditionally stout Baltimore defense was more porous than in years past. Yes, the offense couldn't sustain drives in the 4th quarter, largely because of the O-line and RB issues described above. However, the defense gave up yards and leads regularly in the fourth quarter. They were extremely lucky to survive against Buffalo (BUFFALO!?!?!) and Houston. They lost to Atlanta, NE, and, most critically, to the Stillers in the playoffs because the defense could not hold.

I'm a homer, but I have concerns about the Ravens ability to win their division.

Bruce

Acquired sig: Never let your mind remain so open that your brain falls out.

42
by BJR :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 4:54pm

The main problem I see with the defence is the near-total reliance on one player (Suggs) for consistent pass-rush. And because he is such a good all round defender he probably spends too much time on the field. That could be a contributing factor behind the 4th quarter struggles (they similarly tend to overuse Ngata). As a Ravens rooter, the thought of Suggs going down injured probably scares me more than anything else.

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by BDAABAT :: Thu, 08/18/2011 - 6:14pm

@ BJR: Yes, Suggs was the one guy getting pressure last year. Part of that was based on player performance (or lack thereof) and part was based on scheme. Mattison was reluctant to blitz late in the game and would often send just three men to rush the passer.

He's the coach and he knows his players and has more football knowledge than I ever will. But it sure seemed like good QBs saw the three man rush get readily picked up by their O-line, then took their time and picked apart the Ravens secondary. Think of how much time Tom Brady had against the Ravens last year, especially late in the game. As a football fan, it's something to watch and admire (meaning, the performance of the Pats offense). But as a Ravens fan, it was really painful to watch.

That was last year... it's time to look forward to the new season!

Here's hoping that:
1. Sergio Kindle can consistently apply pressure while stopping the run (and do so without his head exploding);
2. Paul Kruger steps up in year 3 and finally becomes a more complete player;
3. Jimmy Smith keeps his head on straight and channels his inner Chris McAlister (at least, the on the field Chris McAlister and not the knucklehead-off-the-field McAlister!);
4. The Ravens finally solve their weakside linebacker problem;
5. Chuck Pagano puts the entire defense in position to perform;
6. That Cameron Cameron can find some way to keep the offense going despite the issues, especially against Pittsburgh. :D

Bruce
Major Ravens Homer
Acquired sig: Never let your mind remain so open that your brain falls out.

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by dcaslin :: Fri, 08/19/2011 - 8:40am

Every statistical analysis I saw of the Ravens 3-man rush made it seem like that criticism wasn't justified last year. In a bunch of games the Baltimore Sun posted articles like "3 man rush loses game again", but upon review there were lots of 4-man rushes that were mislabeled. When you actually looked at the 3-man rushes, they tended to be pretty successful, though relatively rarely used (see Filmstudy's posts on ravens24x7, for example).

Jarrett Johnson made a telling comment when interviewed during the preseason this year. He said he was excited about the outside LB's and DL players stepping up so that the Ravens can actually sub on 3rd down, since the Ravens were basically the only team where the DL played every down (I wish I could find the exact quote again). I don't know why they subbed so rarely last year, either the backups really sucked or the coaches were just being dumb, but I think that was a huge part of the 4th quarter let downs, the big guys up front were just exhausted (esp with such a poor running game keeping them on the field for so long)

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by pdaly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2011 - 6:39pm

"Matt Birk had an awful year at center"

Anything to back this statement up, because another analytical media outlet watched every snap and concluded he had a the best year out of all centers, including Nick Mangold.

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by psuasskicker :: Sat, 08/20/2011 - 8:58pm

Pretty sure I know the other outlet of which you speak and I'm not at all confident in their rankings for a variety of reasons which I won't get into here.

Birk had a few blown blocks I charted which isn't terribly surprising (I doubt there's an OL that had no blown blocks on 16 games), and they were middle of the pack on rushing up the middle according to FO stats. I know what I saw from charting, and overall he did not play well. Much of that may have been attributed to his knee issue, but that still doesn't mean it wasn't a bad year.

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by PTORaven :: Tue, 08/23/2011 - 8:43am

this guy scores each snap for the Ravens O-line every game. going from game to game it seems like birk had an average year. it's a stretch to say he was awful.
http://the247networks.com/columns/Filmstudy/

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by davver :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 8:16am

I think the ravens wanted to get a linemen but couldn't afford it. Hopefully leech helps in power running. I expect yanda to start at rt for the first half of the year. I think Flacco did well with very little support last year.