The Ravens didn’t have to play anyone in Week 10, a relief after nine mostly hectic, consistently draining weeks. So during their bye, as players rested and recuperated ahead of the season’s second half, Ravens coaches went back to studying themselves.
“You get a couple extra days to just kind of look at yourself and see where you think you’re strong, where you’re weak, see if you have any tendencies that you weren’t aware of ... and then just try to make a few decisions in terms of direction,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “Personnel-wise, who do we have? What are we doing well? What can we get better at? Where do we need to focus our time at practice? Whatever we’re going to need to do to win in the next few weeks. So we tried to do that, and we’ll see how it looks.”
There’s a lot to like about where the Ravens (6-3) stand entering Sunday’s game against the visiting Carolina Panthers (3-7). They’ve won three straight games to retake first place in the AFC North, and they’ll face one of the NFL’s softest schedules over the next two months.
But the more they show, the more their opponents will know. Here are 10 stats that have defined the Ravens’ first 10 weeks on offense, defense and special teams. Unless otherwise noted, all data comes from TruMedia, including expected points added, a measure of efficiency that accounts for situational factors such as down, distance and field position.
In 2019, even as quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens rolled from one rushing record to another, punishing defenses with heavy formations, they remained lethal on lightly protected passing plays. Jackson led the NFL in EPA per drop-back on plays with just five pass blockers (0.41), miles ahead of runner-up Patrick Mahomes (0.27 per drop-back). He had an NFL-best 115.4 passer rating with five receivers in the pattern, completing 70.7% of his passes for 22 touchdowns and four interceptions, and averaged 8.8 yards per scramble.
This season, even with comparable receiver and offensive line talent, Jackson has struggled in similar situations. While he remains an effective scrambler (6.9 yards per carry) behind five pass blockers, his accuracy has fallen to 61.8%, and his yards per attempt have dropped from 8.2 in 2019 to 6.1. Among 38 qualifying quarterbacks, Jackson ranks 27th in the NFL in EPA per drop-back, behind even Zach Wilson and Kenny Pickett.
The Ravens rank second in ESPN’s pass-block win rate (70%), which measures how often players can sustain their blocks for 2.5 seconds or longer, and first in ESPN’s run-block win rate (76%), which measures how often players “win” their block, or blocks, on designed running plays. They finished 10th and fifth, respectively, last year.
Morgan Moses is sixth among tackles in pass-block win rate (94%), and Ronnie Stanley is sixth in run-block win rate (80%). Kevin Zeitler is sixth among guards (95%) in pass-block win rate, while Ben Powers is ninth in run-block win rate (76%). Center Tyler Linderbaum is first in run-block win rate at the position (76%).
Over the Ravens’ first three games — their only three with wide receiver Rashod Bateman fully healthy — Jackson wasn’t afraid to bomb it deep. He averaged 10.8 air yards per attempt, the second most in the NFL over the season’s first three weeks, behind only Jameis Winston (11.5 yards). Nearly a fifth of Jackson’s passes (18.2%) were thrown at least 20 yards downfield.
With Bateman limited and then sidelined by a foot injury, the Ravens’ downfield passing game has downshifted. Jackson is 18th over the past seven weeks in average air yards (7.7 per attempt), and his deep-shot rate has been nearly halved (10.1%). Overall, Jackson is 8-for-33 on passes (24.2%) of at least 20 air yards this season, with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Running for history
After opening the season with just 63 rushing yards against the New York Jets, the Ravens have run for at least 150 yards in eight straight games. That’s the longest streak by a team within a season since 1985, when the eventual Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears rushed for at least 150 yards in nine straight games.
Only two teams in NFL history have pushed their streak to double-digit games: the 1972 Miami Dolphins (11) and the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers (10). Both won the Super Bowl that season. So did the 1973 Dolphins, who rushed for 150-plus yards in nine consecutive games.
Beating the clock
The Ravens have run 578 offensive plays this season, including those wiped out by pre- or postsnap penalties, according to play index site nflfastR. A large share has started without much time on the play clock. Excluding the Ravens’ four delay-of-game and eight false-start penalties, Jackson has snapped the ball with three seconds or fewer on 191 plays this season, or 33.7% overall.
Compare that with, say, the Bengals, who have run 623 offensive plays this season. Excluding 13 combined delay-of-game and false-start penalties, Cincinnati’s quarterbacks have snapped the ball with three seconds or fewer on just 108 plays, or 17.7% overall.
From 2019 to 2021, offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s first three seasons in Baltimore, the Ravens primarily lined up in “11″ personnel (one back, one tight end and three wide receivers). Only three offenses in that span used the grouping less often than the Ravens (44.6%), but the package was still the team’s default, just as it was for teams across the NFL.
This year, the Ravens have split from the pack, lining up in 11 personnel on just 12.2% of their plays, by far the lowest rate in the NFL. Only five other teams have used 11 personnel on less than half of their plays. The Atlanta Falcons, whose offense most closely aligns with the Ravens’ tendencies, line up with the grouping on 30.6% of their plays.
The Ravens’ two most relied-upon personnel packages this year are 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end and two wide receivers) and 22 personnel (two backs, two tight ends and one wide receiver), both of which feature fullback Patrick Ricard.
Dimes and quarters
The Ravens are just as much of an outlier on defense. On nearly a third of their plays, they’ve lined up in dime (six defensive backs) or quarter (seven defensive backs) packages, the most in the NFL. No one has played a higher rate of dime personnel (29.1%) than the Ravens, and only Don “Wink” Martindale’s New York Giants (9.6%) have turned to quarter looks more than Ravens coordinator Mike Macdonald (2.5%). The Ravens have also run 14 plays in quarter packages, a grouping that 16 NFL teams haven’t deployed once this season.
With six or seven defensive backs on the field, the Ravens are 15th in defensive expected points added per play. With five or fewer defensive backs, they’re 25th. The addition of All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith could make the Ravens more conventional in their personnel groupings, as Josh Bynes and Malik Harrison rarely played alongside Patrick Queen on obvious passing downs over the season’s first half.
The Ravens missed outside linebacker Justin Houston dearly. From Week 3, when a groin injury sidelined Houston early in an eventual win over the New England Patriots, to Week 6, the defense ranked 25th in pressure rate (27.6%) and 11th in sack rate (7.8%) with a 22.4% blitz rate.
His return has boosted the Ravens’ pass rush. Over the past four weeks, they’re 12th in pressure rate (33.6%) and seventh in sack rate (10.6%) despite having a lower blitz rate (19.8%, 11th in the NFL) and facing two sack-averse quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Andy Dalton. Against the New Orleans Saints, with Smith and outside linebacker Tyus Bowser added to their defense, the Ravens had a 45.7% pressure rate and 11.8% sack rate.
‘Cover 0’ carryover
Even as Macdonald has left his own stamp on the Ravens’ defense, he hasn’t shied away from the blitzes favored by his predecessor. In 2020, Martindale’s Ravens finished second in the NFL in “Cover 0″ plays (67), a man-to-man coverage scheme in which the defense blitzes everyone who’s not matched up with a receiver. In 2021, despite crippling injuries to their secondary, the Ravens finished fourth in “Cover 0″ looks (40).
This year, the Ravens have blitzed less than they ever did under Martindale but still have called the fourth-most “Cover 0″ plays (27), behind only the Miami Dolphins (33), Martindale’s Giants (31) and the Kansas City Chiefs (30). Opposing quarterbacks are 10-for-22 for just 49 yards, with a passer rating of 53.0, and have been sacked four times against the Ravens’ all-out-blitz looks.
There might not be a more reliable unit in the league than the Ravens’ special teams. Last year, the team finished first in the league in Football Outsiders’ special teams DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), at 5.0%. Through 10 weeks, they’ve been even better, with an NFL-best DVOA of 6.8%.
Baltimore Ravens Insider
Led by kicker Justin Tucker and returner Devin Duvernay, the Ravens rank second in DVOA in field goals and extra points, first in kickoff returns and third in punt returns. Even their two weakest groups, kickoff and punt coverage, grade out among the middle of the pack.
Panthers at Ravens
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 45
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens by 12 1/2