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Ravens News 9/10: Efficient Lamar, defensive scheme and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Inside Week 1’s five most surprising QB performances - Bill Barnwell

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

The story: ”Not bad for a running back.”

Jackson’s instant classic of a quote from his postgame news conference sells the former Heisman Trophy winner short. The goalposts keep moving on him in disingenuous ways. Before the draft, he was too small to play quarterback and needed to move to wide receiver. After Jackson started his career by leading a 4-5 Ravens team on a 6-1 romp to the playoffs, critics said he was running a gimmicky scheme and that Baltimore’s 23-17 playoff loss to the Chargers had revealed Jackson to be a one-trick pony. Jackson wasn’t a good enough passer to succeed as a pro.

Well, on Sunday, Jackson posted one of the most efficient games you’ll ever see from an NFL quarterback. On a day in which he ran just twice for 7 yards, Jackson picked apart the Dolphins in a 59-10 rout. Before being relieved by Robert Griffin III, the second-year quarterback went 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns to post his own perfect passer rating. Jackson averaged 21.2 adjusted yards per attempt, the second most for a quarterback with 20 or more attempts in a game in NFL history and the most since Johnny Unitas in 1967. His 99.4 Total QBR was the best single-game performance in more than four years.

To put Jackson’s day in context, we can take a look at the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which build an expected completion percentage for each pass attempt based on the locations and movement of each of the 22 players on the field at the time the ball is thrown. If the Dolphins were just leaving receivers open for easy throws, we would see a high expected completion percentage for Jackson’s passes. Instead, Next Gen Stats projected that Jackson would have completed 60.2% of his throws on Sunday, which ranked as the sixth-lowest expected completion percentage for any quarterback in Week 1. In other words, Jackson actually faced a pretty difficult slate of throws across his 20 attempts.

Jackson instead completed 85% of his pass attempts, good for the largest gap between expected and actual completion rate during the opening week of the season. His completions were difficult, in part, because his average pass traveled nearly 12 yards in the air. His three incompletions included a narrowly overthrown bomb to Marquise Brown and a drop in the red zone by Willie Snead.

The 83-yard touchdown pass Jackson threw to “Hollywood” Brown is a good example. Brown has top-tier NFL speed, but this is a rookie who wasn’t healthy for most of camp playing in his first NFL game, and he’s matched up out of a reduced split against Fitzpatrick, who was one of the league’s most promising rookie corners a year ago. When Jackson lets go of the pass, Next Gen Stats projects it has a 32% chance of completion. Jackson isn’t supposed to have a rapport with Brown yet, but he throws an absolutely, positively perfect pass. Brown doesn’t have to break stride, which is the difference between this going as a long completion (or a possible incompletion) and a touchdown.

The second Brown touchdown wasn’t the only such throw. Jackson lofted a perfectly thrown pass to Snead up the seam for a 33-yard score. Those two throws gave Jackson all day to throw, but when the Ravens went empty and ran five verticals, Jackson stayed upright under pressure and delivered a pinpoint strike to Mark Andrews for 39 yards. Later, Jackson improvised under pressure and found Hayden Hurst for a 23-yard completion with both Reshad Jones and Christian Wilkins bearing down.

I would imagine that Jackson and the Ravens probably aren’t going to hit on virtually all of their deep throws from week to week, if only because nobody does. That’s fine. The threat of players like Brown getting downfield is going to occupy safeties and terrify opposing defenses from stacking the box for Baltimore’s expansive running game, which is going to be the core of its offense.

Defense Notes : Ravens @ Dolphins - Ken McKusick

Scheme by Usage and Success

Martindale did not reveal much in terms of surprise personnel packages in this game. To summarize:

· The Ravens lined up in their base 3-4 on just 6 of 47 snaps. The Dolphins gained a total of 1 yard on those plays (0, 4, -3, 0, 0, 0).

· Playing without Tavon Young, Martindale used Chuck Clark as a big nickel (safety lined up opposite the slot receiver) on 12 plays. The last time they used the package frequently was the 2018 opener vs the Bills (8 times). The Dolphins registered 67 yards (5.8 YPP) against big nickel, but those included Humphrey’s interception.

· Martindale also deployed a conventional nickel with 3 cornerbacks on 13 snaps (70 yards, 5.4 YPP).

· The dime was the most regularly used package (16 snaps) and included either Levine (13 snaps) or Trawick (3) in the title role. The Ravens allowed jut 3.9 YPP in dime, including 3 sacks.

There are surprises remaining in terms of packages for future opponents.

What the Dolphins Said After Their Week 1 Loss - Ryan Mink

RB Kenyan Drake

On posting just 21 rushing yards:

“The defense – they’re a great defense. You’ve got to tip your hat to them because they came out and had the ability to stop us and we didn’t execute the game plan to our maximum potential. Once you get down early, you can’t really run the ball because you’re trying to pass the ball to get back into the game, so it was just a recipe for disaster from a running standpoint.”

NFL Team of the Week: 2019 NFL Week 1 - PFF

QB LAMAR JACKSON, BALTIMORE RAVENS

In what was the best game of his young career, Lamar Jackson reminded everyone that it wasn’t just his legs that saw him win the Heisman Trophy at Louisville. Jackson was fantastic between the numbers, completing 10-of-11 pass attempts for 276 yards and five touchdowns. In half a season worth of starts in the 2018 regular season, Jackson threw for 224 yards on throws 20-plus air yards downfield. In just three quarters yesterday, he racked up 155.

WR MARQUISE BROWN, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Quite a way to make an entrance for the Ravens’ 2019 first-round draft pick, who found the end zone on his first two career receptions. The Ravens appeared to ease him in gently after limited work in preseason as he recovered from injury, but his 147 yards from eight snaps as a receiver saw him average 18.38 yards per route run, the highest average of any receiver in the NFL this week.

TE MARK ANDREWS, BALTIMORE RAVENS

There were questions this offseason on how the Ravens would split time between their top three tight ends, and we got some answers in the season opener. Andrews led the group with 18 receiving snaps and eight targets, catching all eight for 108 yards and finishing the game having averaged 6.00 yards per route run.

The New Versions of Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott Should Terrify the NFL - Robert Mays

As the Ravens get deeper into the season, smart defensive coordinators will do all they can to take Jackson out of the comfortable surroundings this system provides. The long, arcing throws to Brown and Snead on Sunday may have been gorgeous, but they weren’t particularly refined. Defenses will try to force Baltimore into difficult down-and-distance situations that limit the use of play-action while shutting off the middle of the field and forcing Jackson to shape throws to different levels and areas.

Of course, with the combination of Jackson and Mark Ingram (who ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday) as rushing threats in the backfield and a back-breaking speed threat like Brown on the field, that’s easier said than done. And there were already indications on Sunday that Jackson has made strides with the types of throws that gave him trouble last season.

Brown’s first touchdown came on an RPO that required a well-placed, short throw, and Jackson put the ball on the money. He also fit a pair of quick passes outside the numbers to Brown and tight end Hayden Hurst that showed much improved accuracy to that area of the field. Baltimore may not have the luxury of playing the Dolphins every week, but Sunday’s aerial display did show that Roman has created the right blueprint to get the most out of Jackson.