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Ravens News 2/21: Defensive analytics, expectations for Crabtree and more

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Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Defense and Rest Time - Ben Baldwin

Putting this all together, the main -- and perhaps only -- channel through which an offense can help a defense on a per-drive basis is through field position. Turnovers and quick three-and-outs make a team more likely to give up points on the following drive, but this appears to have everything to do with field position and nothing to do with defensive rest time. In other words, whether it’s one minute or eight minutes, knowing how long a defense has had to rest tells one nothing about how the defense will perform given its starting field position.

Why is the myth that a running game can help a defense so prevalent? I suspect that a contributing factor is the conflation of pace effects (in which defenses allow fewer points if they take the field on fewer drives) with actual changes in defensive efficiency. If two teams possess the ball an equal number of times, there is nothing inherently valuable about making the other team possess the ball fewer times, because your own team will also possess the ball fewer times (unless, perhaps, an underdog is pursuing a high-variance strategy). In the end, barring defensive or special teams scores, the team with more points per drive will win, whether there are a lot of drives or few drives. But there is no evidence that time of possession helps a defense perform better when it is on the field.

Fascinating work from Baldwin. Despite the narrative, the Ravens offense posted the tenth best time of possession in the NFL last season, yet finished with the 12th ranked total defense. This analysis lends credence to the theory that game script is the determining factor for most statistics.

Reviewing Michael Crabtree’s 2017 Season - Ken McKusick

His hands are neither particularly good or particularly bad. In addition to some drops, he had trouble hanging on to contested balls and had a disproportionately high number of PDs on his targets. His catch rate of 57.4% (59.1% over the last 3 years) is low for a possession receiver. By comparison of 3-year averages, Antonio Brown 67.3%, Danny Amendola 73.8%, and Steve Smith 63.3% (over 2014-16) were all better.

As part of his excellent Filmstudy series, McKusick broke down each of Crabtree’s 2017 targets. He expects a 2018 stat line of 70 receptions, 800 receiving yards and seven to eight touchdowns from the notable acquisition.

Ex-Packers safety Morgan Burnett heading to Steelers - Kevin Patra

Burnett compiled 497 tackles with nine interceptions, 44 passes defended and 7.5 sacks in 102 starts in eight seasons in Green Bay. He was ranked No. 29 in NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

The 29-year-old played mostly as a box safety in 2017, per Next Gen Stats, providing range, coverage against tight ends and running backs, and solid tackling.

Pittsburgh took advantage of the slow developing safety market in free agency. Burnett is a capable defensive back and should be an upgrade over Mike Mitchell. With Jon Bostic and Burnett solidifying the middle of the defense, the Steelers have improved their roster in free agency.

Grading each position for the Ravens after initial free agency moves - Dustin Cox

Tight end: D

The Ravens are in desperate need of a pass-catching tight end, and after Eric Ebron signed with the Colts, their focus should go towards finding one in the draft. Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are good blockers, but neither provides much in the passing game. Vince Mayle is primarily used on special teams.

Cornerback: A

Possibly the deepest position on the roster, from Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young and Brandon Carr, the Ravens are stacked at cornerback. Maurice Canady and Jaylen Hill showed potential as well last season. Humphrey looks the part of the a future shut-down corner in the making. Baltimore has a ton of young talent at corner, with veterans Smith and Carr leading the way.

Running back, defensive line and linebacker earn B grades from Dustin, with quarterback wide receiver, offensive line and safety considered C level groups. If the opportunity arises in the draft, it will be interesting to see if the Ravens opt for a highly regarded prospect at one of their strongest positions, or goes in another direction.