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Ravens Coach’s Film: The Zach Orr Effect

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How will Zach Orr’s retirement impact the Ravens moving forward?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Each week I will watch one Raven’s season and give an analysis based upon what I saw on tape. Due to the retirement of Zach Orr, I elected to make my first offseason film room piece about him and how they may replace him. Orr’s impact goes beyond his 132 tackles and three interceptions. He provided a legitimate playmaking threat on defense alongside Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley. When I breakdown a player or a game I like to do it in sections such as the good and bad aspects of said player’s game and that’s what I will do with Orr.

The Good

It goes without saying that Orr’s athleticism and speed were some of his best traits, but the combination of speed can get you in trouble. When watching Orr’s tape, he always showed burst and was never caught out of his gap or position, but I’ll get into that a little later. One of Zach’s primary duties was to cover running backs out of the backfield and keep receivers in front of him. In the play above he initially drops into a zone over the middle of the field but reads quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s eyes and closes out on the HB as soon as he secures the ball.

Above cornerback Shareece Wright drops elusive Bills RB Lesean McCoy for a loss of six yards, but Orr does a good job of being patient and filling the gap that McCoy initially wants to run through. Orr made plays like this all season that assisted the defense but didn’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet. In the second play you’ll see Timmy Jernigan beat his man off of the snap immediately. McCoy has nowhere to go as he’s met by Orr and Jernigan’s pursuit eliminates the option of a cutback lane. With an elusive runner like McCoy, it’s nearly impossible to tackle him one-on-one. Orr’s athleticism and instincts clogged up most of McCoy’s running lanes and forced him into a swarm of Baltimore defenders in Week 1.

One thing Baltimore fans hate hearing more than anything is how patient Steeler’s RB Le’Veon Bell is, but patience works two ways. Watch as Orr navigates his way to the right side of the line, avoiding the right tackle’s block upfield and drops the HB before he’s able to hit the hole and take the offense 20 yards upfield.

I mentioned earlier that Orr was never out of his gap or position. In the play above against the Jaguars, Orr, No. 54 is patient and doesn't over pursue the HB T.J. Yeldon on the outside run. Ultimately it’s not Orr who finishes this play off, but I wanted to use this play as an example of the consistency he displayed. One issue faster linebackers run into is that they like to show off their speed and will often over-pursue plays. The second play however shows him utilizing speed to perfection. The left guard tries to come block down on Orr but the athletic ILB is able to shoot the gap and join C.J. Mosley for the tackle.

This was one of my favorite examples of Orr navigating through traffic and staying disciplined in order to make the play. Despite the line blocking to the right, Orr recognizes where the ball carrier is going and greets him at the backside hole.

These are the last two plays involving Orr’s run defense that I want to touch on before moving to pass defense. The first one is a zone read for the HB and Orr plays it perfectly. If Carr has kept it, then Orr would've been in position to make the play on him, but he elected to hand it off and the LB still played it well forcing him to cut into traffic. On the second play it looks like an option play for the toss, but Orr cuts off the option to pitch it and a veteran quarterback like Josh McCown is not going to have much success running the ball.

One aspect that I thought made Orr extremely valuable to the defense was his ability to play coverage, keep receivers in front of him and not give up big plays in the passing game. In a man coverage situation in the play above, Orr does an excellent job of driving on the tight end and breaking the pass up.

Orr was not afraid to play deep in coverage either. Here he ends up playing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and nearly comes away with an interception of Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. Bortles had a tendency to stare down targets that ended up getting worse as the year went on, but Orr did a great job reading his eyes and recognizing where Bortles wanted to go. The second play ends up being a completion, but I wanted to use it as an example of Orr keeping receivers in front of him and not allowing them to get past him for big plays. Charles Clay and Julius Thomas are both athletic tight ends who can make big plays in the passing game, but Orr was able to limit their impact.

The final play I will use to highlight Orr’s coverage abilities is this one against Eagles QB Carson Wentz. The Ravens come out in Cover-1 man with Orr playing robber coverage. In robber coverage, Orr is a stray linebacker who plays a zone over the middle and has the freedom to read the QB’s eyes and roam. Typically teams will use a safety or linebacker in this coverage (the Seahawks run this coverage often with Kam Chancellor). This is a terrible decision from Wentz, but he attempts the throw regardless and Orr takes advantage of it.

The Bad

There weren't a lot of flaws in Orr’s game, but one I noticed in particular was his inability to blitz well. Below are a couple examples of Orr coming on a blitz, but failing to generate pressure.

Orr attempts to blitz the A gap in between the center and right guard but gets demolished by the RG as soon as he hits the hole.

Again Orr blitzes to no avail. The RB picks him up and provides Derek Carr with nearly two and a half seconds to go through his reads and find his man.

On the plays below I’m highlighting Orr’s struggles with guards and outside runs.

In all three plays the one thing that consistently stands out is Orr’s inability to shed the block, as initial contact gets him off balance. What helps Orr make up for this are his instincts and patience. As stated in the strengths of his game, he can dictate what a runner does just because he stays in his gap.

Conclusion

The Ravens may be able to plug somebody in beside C.J. Mosley and mask the loss of Orr with coaching and surrounding talent, but Orr was special. When looking at the stat sheet his team leading 132 tackles may be what sticks out, but on film the opportunities he created for his teammates is an impact that will be hard to replace. I wish you the best of luck in retirement, Zach Orr.

Follow me on Twitter @tjack94