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Ravens News 2/3: Lessons from last offseason and more

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NFL: FEB 01 NFL Honors Red Carpet Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Lamar Jackson’s MVP Season Was Unlike Any Other - Riley McAtee

Let’s start with the numbers. Jackson’s passing line is remarkable. He connected on 66.1 percent of his attempts and accumulated 3,127 passing yards and 36 touchdowns in 15 games, with only six interceptions. He added to that an additional 1,206 rushing yards on 176 carries with another seven scores.

The efficiency with which Jackson guided Baltimore’s offense is remarkable. He averaged 8.2 adjusted net yards per attempt and had a QBR (81.9) that was more than five points higher than anyone else. His 6.9 rushing yards per carry is higher than the passing yards per attempt of nine qualified quarterbacks, including Carson Wentz and Tom Brady. Did you know that Jackson’s passing touchdown percentage of 9.0 was higher than Mahomes’s 8.6 in 2018?

But the stats don’t fully explain what Jackson did this season. He’s arguably the most elusive player since Barry Sanders, so naturally he shines the most when you watch him on tape.

Jackson redefined what a quarterback can do in 2019. NFL teams will no doubt be looking to imitate that success in the years to come—don’t be surprised if mobile quarterbacks start flying off draft boards in the next few seasons. At the very least, a player like Jackson will never make it to the end of the first round again.

But there is only one Jackson, and there’s only ever been one season like his 2019. Regardless of how it ended for him and the Ravens, Jackson’s performance deserves every bit of praise.

John Harbaugh Wins NFL Coach of the Year - Clifton Brown

By a vote count of 27-14, Harbaugh beat out San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shannahan, who helped turn the 49ers around after going 4-12 last season and are now in the Super Bowl following a 13-3 regular season. In the regular season, however, Harbaugh’s Ravens defeated Shannahan’s 49ers.

Regardless of personnel or playing style, the Ravens have continued to thrive under Harbaugh. There have been seasons when Baltimore relied on its defense to win. But in 2019, the Ravens were the NFL’s highest-scoring team, averaging 33.2 points.

Harbaugh is quick to praise others for contributing to his success, but winning Coach of the Year for the first time adds another highlight to his already impressive tenure. He is a coach who prefers to chase excellence over accolades. But this season, Harbaugh received both.

The Baltimore Ravens Fell Short of the Super Bowl, but Their NFL Analytics Revolution Is Just Beginning - Jon Hartley

During NFL games, analysts such as the Ravens’ Daniel Stern, a 25-year-old Yale cognitive-science student, now sit in the coaching booth and dictate win probabilities to on-field coaches based on internal team analysis of what types of plays can deliver the highest chances of ultimately scoring touchdowns and winning games.

The Ravens’ elevation of analytics under Head Coach John Harbaugh this year contributed to their having some of the highest single-season third- and fourth-down conversion rates in NFL history, and encouraged them to “go for it” on fourth down at one of the high rates in the league, a strategy analytics gurus and economists have long suggested makes mathematical sense.

Other aggressive analytics-based tactics being implemented include passing more often on first down, as passing in that situation will net at least five yards 47 percent of the time while running yields five yards or more around only 32.8 percent of the time. The Ravens and Eagles also are among the teams that most frequently go for two-point conversions after a touchdown, another strategy recommended by football-analytics professionals since a 2015 NFL rule change that moved extra-point tries to the 15-yard line from the two-yard line, making them slightly more difficult to convert and slightly less valuable than two-point conversions.

Lessons to be learned from the 2019 NFL offseason - Ben Linsey

LESSON NO. 4: AN OFF-BALL LINEBACKER WHO CAN’T COVER DOESN’T OFFER YOUR TEAM MUCH

One thing that you can not be in today’s NFL is an off-ball linebacker who is a liability in coverage. Offenses are getting too good and coaches are getting too smart for that to slide; those linebackers will be taken advantage of with tight ends, running backs and slot receivers over the middle of the field.

LESSON NO. 5: ADDING ONE PASS-RUSHER ISN’T GOING TO FIX YOUR DEFENSE

Take the 2019 Baltimore Ravens, the darlings of the analytics community, for example. They sought to upgrade their secondary aggressively with the additions of Marcus Peters and Earl Thomas while letting their pass-rushers walk; instead of signing those pass-rushers to big-money deals, they opted to generate pressure via scheme with blitzes and stunts. The result was a defense that ranked fifth in the NFL in EPA allowed per play — that should be the preferred course of action for teams this offseason rather than looking at the defensive line first and building backward.