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Ravens News 7/31: Heavy sets and more

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens Used Their Tight Ends Differently - Andres Waters

Although the Ravens used a variety of personnel sets, their heavy formations garnered national attention because they contradicted the rest of the NFL. While the rest of the league was building offenses out of spread formations, Baltimore designed a system that ran nearly half of its plays from heavy formations,1 according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. Out of 1,060 total offensive snaps in the regular season, Baltimore lined up 453 times (or 42.7 percent of its snaps) in heavy formations that featured different pairs of the tight ends plus Ricard. Meanwhile, the rest of the league lined up for only 27 percent of plays from heavy sets.

The members of Baltimore’s tight end/fullback crew were reliable blockers for Jackson and the running backs (Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill) as well as viable receivers, which allowed the offense to use multiple variations of the group within the heavy sets to keep defenses guessing. In some cases, the team even had all four on the field at once.

Despite having fewer total rushing yards and yards per carry with heavy personnel than with spread personnel (the Ravens rushed for 1,089 yards in heavy sets while rushing 1,560 yards in spread sets), the team’s production within the heavy sets was vital to its success because it used them to extend drives and control the clock. But perhaps even more important was Baltimore’s third-down conversion rate on plays from heavy packages: The unit converted 69 percent of third downs during the regular season. Converting on these downs at such a high rate led to the team averaging nearly 35 minutes of possession time.

News & Notes: John Harbaugh Previews Competition to Replace Marshal Yanda - Clifton Brown

Jimmy Smith Will Remain Primarily a Cornerback

“He can play outside, he’s learning to play inside, the nickel,” Harbaugh said. “It becomes more of a situational matchup. It kind of blends into what we do defensively. I don’t know if any team has more defensive packages than we do. It’s really not complicated for us the way our defense is organized. Jimmy, if he lines up at safety, it will be for a reason to do a certain specific task, or number of tasks.

“Any kind of big picture transition, saying Jimmy Smith is a safety, that’s not really where we’re going this year. He’s a corner and he’ll play corner. But he could be out there as the first corner, second corner, third corner, fourth corner. We’ll put different groups out there. It just depends on the job we’re asking him to do within the call and the situation.”

Baltimore Ravens’ John Harbaugh braces for test of patience, flexibility in unconventional season - Aaron Kasinitz

“All the rules came out in — well, they’re still coming out,” Harbaugh said Thursday, two days after the team’s veterans reported to Baltimore for COVID-19 testing and the unofficial start of training camp. “We’re still getting the memos and the emails about the way practice needs to be organized and structured and the timing of when guys report and when they’re eligible to practice or strength and condition.”

“Having the games would be a plus,” Harbaugh said. “It would help us make that evaluation, but we can make that evaluation based on what we have, and that’s just what we’ll have to do.”

Teams also aren’t expected to undergo full padded practices until mid-August, making it more difficult for the Ravens to train their players in fundamental aspects of the game.

“We’re going to have to find a way to get that tackling and blocking done in practice against one another to get to the level that we need to,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh: I respect Lamar Jackson’s stance on signing Antonio Brown - Nick Shook

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about Jackson’s comments related to Antonio Brown. Though he did not rule out the high-profile addition, Harbaugh made it clear no signing appears to be imminent.

“I respect him for feeling that way. I respect his opinion on it,” Harbaugh said of Jackson’s thoughts on Brown. “I definitely appreciate hearing how that workout went whenever it was — I mean, it was a long time ago now. But we will look at any and every player at all times. So, Antonio Brown is no exception.

“Decisions will be made based on whenever they’re made and I don’t think he’s really available to even sign right now so it’s not really a conversation that you have until he’s available to sign. Maybe I’m wrong about that. That’s something I will have to ask (Ravens general manager) Eric (DeCosta) about, where that stands with the league and the player, but that’s where we stand on it. At least from my perspective.”