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Ravens News 2/24: Explosive Plays and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns

Some of the Ravens’ most important decisions this offseason will come in evaluating their own roster - Jeff Zrebiec

If Bozeman walks — and he and the Ravens certainly don’t appear close on a contract extension despite periodic negotiations over the past year — does Baltimore project Trystan Colon as a solid starter? Colon, an undrafted free agent in 2020, has held his own in three starts over the past two years. If the Ravens feel like he’d be a quality starting center, they can move on from Bozeman, avoid spending significant cap space on a free-agent center or using the 14th pick on Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, and earmark the asset toward filling another hole.

Defensively, the Ravens have a handful of relatively unproven players who may or may not be long-term starting answers. That list includes outside linebacker Daelin Hayes, defensive linemen Broderick Washington and Isaiah Mack, and defensive backs Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone and Ar’Darius Washington.

If the Ravens believe in the potential of Stephens, Stone and Washington, would they prioritize adding another safety in the draft or free agency? Would it influence their decision on whether to move on from veteran nickel corner Tavon Young, who has been frequently mentioned as a potential salary-cap casualty?

Which Free Agents Will Be Back With The Ravens? Part Two: Defense - Bo Smolka

S Tony Jefferson: 35 percent

Before Eric Weddle made his remarkable unretirement run to the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams, his former Ravens secondary mate Jefferson was making his own return to the field in Baltimore. Signed to plug a decimated secondary, Jefferson played four late-season games for the Ravens, with 17 tackles and a sack.

The Ravens have younger options in the secondary and are looking to upgrade with a ball-hawking starter. Jefferson, 30, loves the Ravens organization and could return primarily as a special teams player, a role he embraced in his one month with the team this season.

DL Brandon Williams: 20 percent

Williams played out his five-year, $52.5 million contract and remains one of the league’s preeminent run stoppers. He finished this year with 35 tackles for a defense that ranked No. 1 in the league against the run.

DeCosta said after the season that the Ravens need to get younger up front on defense, suggesting they will let Williams, 33, explore free agency.

“As long as they want me, I’ll be here,” Williams said after the season ended, “but you never know what they’re thinking upstairs.”

The Ravens’ equation up front is also complicated by the three-year, $12 million deal for defensive end Derek Wolfe, who missed all last season with a hip injury. Cutting Wolfe would create virtually no cap savings, so it’s not as if he could be cut for savings that could be applied elsewhere. And with all contract calculations for DeCosta and the Ravens, the potential extension for quarterback Lamar Jackson looms large.

The Rams Won the Super Bowl by Swinging Big, but Smaller Moves Matter - Nora Princiotti

The players that the Rams acquired by trading their 2017-2023 first-round picks are: Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Ramsey, and Matthew Stafford. Other players that Los Angeles traded for meaningful draft capital during that time frame include cornerback Marcus Peters and edge rushers Dante Fowler Jr. and Von Miller.

From that list, only Ramsey, Stafford, and Miller played for the Rams in Super LVI (though Goff, Cooks, Peters, and Fowler started for the Rams in Super Bowl LIII), but what do all of these players have in common? Quarterbacks, receivers, cornerbacks, and pass rushers. Also known as the four highest-value positions in the NFL, going by 2021 franchise tag numbers. Yes, the Rams go “all in,” but there’s a difference between going all in on quarterbacks and receivers instead of guards and safeties. Los Angeles’s bets are risky because of how big they are, but some of that risk is mitigated because the Rams have made them only on players at the most valuable positions in the sport. And using positional value as a North Star is a takeaway that’s scalable to any team, even those that aren’t willing to part with the better part of a decade’s worth of first-round picks.

2022 NFL Free Agency: Why the Baltimore Ravens should sign Trent Brown in free agency - Dalton Miller

He fits Baltimore’s style like a glove. They’re a mostly downhill-blocking scheme that gives defenses fits because they have talented backs (when healthy) and quite possibly the most dynamic runner in the NFL at QB.

Brown is a people-mover. He’d fit right in alongside Kevin Zeitler and would help Baltimore field an outstanding center-to-right tackle combination. With Stanley on the left side, it makes for four strong offensive linemen. Hopefully, Ben Cleveland can win the left guard job heading into 2022.

But Brown is also an excellent pass protector. In 252 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, he allowed just 1 sack and only 9 total pressures. His width helps him, but his agility in the passing game is underrated. He possesses incredibly short arms and small hands for the position, but that doesn’t seem to hurt him.

For example, defenders struggle to go through Brown because he effortlessly anchors. Then, if a rusher tries going around him, he has the width and agility to run them right up the arc and out of harm’s way.

PFF Data Study: Explosive plays and re-thinking offensive success - Brown & Fortgang

Despite the run-pass ratio reflecting a 38% run to 62% pass split, explosive runs are only a small percentage (16.8%) of all explosive plays, as each run has only a minimal chance of becoming an explosive play (2.3%). So, in addition to their lower success rate, this drive success framework suggests that run plays are inferior to passing plays because they basically cede the chance for an explosive play. Running plays are the epitome of leaning into the less optimal “march down the field” drive strategy, as they only attempt to gain a few yards at a time. Moreover, there is no reason to suggest that run plays disproportionately set up the explosive pass, as the few plays immediately preceding explosive plays are in line with the overall run/pass rates.

To bring it back together, explosive plays are absolutely essential to a drive’s potential success, as a team’s expected points nearly quadruple on drives that have an explosive play. This suggests that the means to drive success is not generating first down after first down but rather, taking shots to generate chunk plays. Explosive plays are overwhelming accrued on passing plays that are driven by high-end receiver play and QB play in addition to the opponent’s talent and scheme.