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Ravens News 7/23: Ground dominance and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Ten best-performing NFL O-lines by expected rushing yards - Nick Shook

Rank

1. Baltimore Ravens

2019 stats: 4.69 xYPC, 1,815 ERY, 125 RYOE, 0.32 RYOE per attempt

This ranking should be expected, seeing as the Ravens led the entire league in rushing in 2019, but their sheer dominance on the ground extends beyond simply leading the league in xYPC (an achievement in its own right). The Ravens ran the ball 387 times, tied with the Cowboys for seventh-most in the NFL, yet they led the NFL in yards per carry as the only team to break 5.0 in the category. Their RYOE per attempt of 0.32 landed them at ninth in that category, suggesting that while their running backs — by the way, these numbers don’t include the efforts of Lamar Jackson, because of position limits — were incredibly effective on the ground, their offensive line was even better. It was so good and set the bar so high, the ball-carriers didn’t manage to lead the league in RYOE because, well, they were expected to do well thanks in part to the superb play of the guys up front. Greg Roman’s offense was spectacular in 2019 because of the ground attack and the special play of Jackson, but that offensive line also deserves as much credit. We’ll see how it does without retired guard Marshal Yanda in 2020.

NFL 2020: 15 under-the-radar storylines heading into training camp, regular season - Tyler Sullivan

Ravens going for rushing record again

The Ravens are going to be good in 2020. Lamar Jackson will continue to play at an MVP level and Baltimore will be major players in the AFC. All that doesn’t need to be discussed here. What I do want to talk about is Gus Edwards saying back in June that he believes his club has the ability to break the rushing record again in 2020.

For those who may be unaware, the team rushing record that Baltimore broke last season with their 3,296 yards on the ground stood for 41 years after the New England Patriots rushed for 3,165 yards in 1978. If the Ravens were simply able to break their record just one year later, it’s hard to describe how unfathomable that would be, especially in today’s NFL where passing is at the forefront.

Still, it’s not out of the question.

Baltimore not only retained all the main pieces from that record-breaking backfield last season but they also drafted J.K. Dobbins in the second round to add alongside Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill. Having that many skilled backs and a quarterback who can be just as lethal with his feet as he is with his arm, the Ravens are in a position to make history yet again.

Ravens training camp preview: After trading Hayden Hurst, ‘opportunity looms’ for third tight end spot - Daniel Oyefusi

Who’s back

Charles Scharff: An undrafted free agent in 2019, Scharff spent the entire season on the practice squad. The Delaware product is one of multiple players who will compete for the team’s third tight end spot.

Who’s new

Jacob Breeland: Breeland is one of two undrafted rookie tight ends the Ravens signed after April’s draft. A four-year player at Oregon, Breeland’s senior season was cut short after a knee injury. In five-plus games last season, he was one of the most-productive tight ends in college football, recording 26 catches for 405 yards and six touchdowns, which led all FBS tight ends.

Eli Wolf: Wolf is the second tight end the Ravens brought in as an undrafted free agent. He played three seasons at Tennessee before moving on to Georgia as a graduate transfer. Wolf had limited production in his college career, recording 13 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown in eight games last season.

MARLON HUMPHREY’S INCREDIBLE 2019 SEASON SHOULD BUST STEREOTYPE - Benjamin Solak

The Ravens’ defense under Don ‘Wink’ Martindale is all about pressure packages, and particularly, pressure from some, but not all of a amorphous blob of second-level defenders. This theory of “creepers”—stand-up rushers with equal likelihood of dropping into short zones or shooting gaps—only works well if you have players like Humphrey who can be dangerous as blitzers, effective in true man coverage without safety help, and sound in hot zones when the quarterback wants to get the ball out quick.

By bringing Humphrey into man coverage over Beckham in the slot, the Ravens were able to at least threaten the idea that they were only committing one defender to Beckham, even if they didn’t do it every time. Otherwise, they would have tipped their hand via alignment, and their blitzes would have taken the Browns less by surprise. As Ravens DB coach Chris Hewitt said: “He did so well that I was just like, ‘Hell, let’s just keep him there.’ And it worked out.”

Indeed it did. Humphrey tracked JuJu Smith-Schuster into the slot in Week 5 and Tyler Boyd on the A.J. Green-less Bengals in Week 6.

For Humphrey to be a good outside cornerback, push into the slot, and become a better cornerback is ridiculous—but it happened. Humphrey once again had more than 10 passes defensed (14), which puts him with Giants CB James Bradberry and Eagles CB Darius Slay as the only three corners to have more than 10 PBUs in each season since Humphrey entered the league (2017-2019). According to PFF, Humphrey’s 10 “forced incompletions” in man coverage was third-best in the NFL, behind only Slay and 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore.