Loss of Humphrey Hamstrings Ravens

Marlon Humphrey’s play has been steadily improving this season as most of the total targets have been funneled to Brandon Stephens despite the third-year corner’s outstanding statistical rankings.

Early in the season, Ronald Darby and Rock Ya-Sin had provided plenty of backup value with the Ravens safeties threatening long passes and reducing their responsibilities.  That dynamic came to an end on Sunday with Humphrey’s 3rd-quarter injury, which left the defense exposed.  As Watson was recovering from a horrible passing start, the Browns run success was apparent, the Ravens had multiple coverage breakdowns, and much of the team had a collective tackling failure that may have related to workload on 3 long drives in the second half.

With Humphrey in the game, the Ravens had allowed just 6 points defensively and 4.3 YPP over 43 defensive snaps.  When he was not on the field, they allowed 20 points and 5.8 YPP on 32 plays.  Both totals exclude the Newsome pick-6.

The loss of Ronnie Stanley had a similarly devastating impact on the offense, but I’m going to limit the discussion to the defensive breakdown here.

Missed Tackles/Missed Assignments

It’s difficult to pin the blame for the defensive breakdown on any 1 player, since there were multiple standouts.  To review:

  • Marcus Williams is playing with 1 arm and is by far the worst tackler on the field.  Time and again he approached tackles with no intent for contact, attempting to direct the ball carrier with his positioning.  Tackling impacted by his injury included (Q2, 2:00; Q3, 5:38; Q4, 11:12; Q4, 10:18; Q4, 4:55; Q4, 1:39; Q4, 1:24).  Not once did he use both arms to wrap up, choosing (or being forced) instead to throw his shoulder into opponents.  It’s very difficult to hide a player like that when the opponent’s run and screen games are working and led by physical players (Ford, Njoku).   Macdonald stayed with Williams rather than insert Worley down the stretch and it might have been his most costly decision of the season.  I believe there is a good chance they’ll flip that decision for Thursday versus the Bengals.
  • There was lots of emoting after plays that were clear indications of missed assignments.  Examples from this game include (Q3, 11:31, Humphrey), (Q3, 8:42, Queen vacated zone and tilts his head up as Roquan talks to him), (Q4, 9:04, Williams is upset with Ya-Sin for abandoning assignment on TD pass to WR Moore).
  • Kyle Van Noy had 3 pressures among 22 pass snaps but lost his head with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty after he was pancaked by WR Cedric Tillman on a high peel-back (crackback?) block then pushed Tillman down after the play in response to his jawing.
  • Poor tackling across the rest of the team, including Stephens (MT at 15 on PL19, Q1, 8:49), Jones (MT at 2 on RM28, Q2, 10:29), Queen (MT at 8 on PM11, Q3, 5:38 and MT at 16 on PR23, Q4, 10:18), Smith/Hamilton (MT at 10 on PR23, Q4, 10:18), and Van Noy (MT at 0 on RM16, Q4, 1:39) to name a few.

Watson Scrambles

This game provided a test case for the Ravens frustrations with a scrambling QB.  In addition to the sacks, Watson scrambled from the pocket on 7 occasions.

In looking at the scrambles, several were in fact defensive wins while others were costly.  In the past, I’ve used Forced Not to Pass (FNTP) as the average yardage on all sacks and scrambles as an indicator for elusiveness that underscores Jackson’s effectiveness.  However, looking at this game and the continuum of results, I think a more detailed, points-based model could have value.

Here is what I propose as a starting point for evaluating QB containment/scrambling value (negative points are good for defense, positive good for offense):

  • Sacks are -1 point for anywhere at or behind the LoS, -1 additional point for every 3 full yards, so an 11-yard sack is worth -4 (for this element) and a push OOB for a loss of 1 is worth just -1.
  • A sack that results in change of possession on downs, -3 additional points
  • If a sack brings up 4th down and 3 or more, -1 additional point
  • If a sack brings up 4th down and 8 or more, -1 additional point (so -2 extra for a sack that brings up 4th and 10, for example)
  • If a sack brings up 3rd down and 5 or more, -1 additional point
  • If a sack brings up 3rd down and 10 or more, -1 additional point
  • A scramble that results in change of possession on downs, -3 additional points
  • A scramble that brings up 4th down and 3 or more, -1 additional point
  • A scramble that brings up 4th down and 8 or more, -1 additional point
  • A scramble that brings up 3rd down and 5 or more, -1 additional point
  • A scramble that brings up 3rd down and 10 or more, -1 additional point
  • Scrambles are +1 point for every 10 yards
  • A scramble resulting in a first down is +2 additional points
  • A scramble which results in a defensive win by the FO definition (but not a first down) is -1 additional points
  • A scramble which results in a win for the offense by the FO definition (but not a first down) is +1 additional points

It’s important to note that I’m not making an attempt to balance the sacks and scrambles to a total average of 0.  When a QB drops back, he’s intending to produce a gain for the offense with the pass first and any scrambling is salvage value.  I’m sure I have forgotten a key corner case or value element, but modeling must start somewhere and be allowed to evolve.

Scoring Watson’s sacks/scrambles in this game:

  • (Q1, 2:51):  2nd/8, RL6, Smith tackles, +1
  • (Q1, 2:10):  3rd/2, S-3, Clowney, -3
  • (Q2, 11:59):  2nd/9, RL3, Queen/Van Noy, -2
  • (Q2, 11:14):  3rd/6, RR6, Smith, +2
  • (Q2, 9:02):  2nd/18, RL2, Smith, -3
  • (Q2, 1:22):  1st/6, S-1, Clowney, -1
  • (Q2, 0:43):  1st/10, RL2, Pierce, -1
  • (Q3, 10:14):  2nd/4, RL3, Hamilton, +1
  • (Q4, 11:34):  1st/10, S-5, Madubuike, -2
  • (Q4, 3:02):  1st/10, S-9, Oweh, -4
  • (Q4, 1:39):  1st/10, RL16, Queen, +3

Should the Ravens have gone to a full-time spy for Watson?  Queen certainly has the required speed at the cost of some other utility in coverage or as a pass rusher.  However, aside from a 6-yard conversion on 3rd down, Watson did not have a truly painful scramble until the final play above set up the Browns game-winning FG.


Note: all snap totals exclude penalties resulting in no play, kneels, spikes, and specials team plays resulting in a run or pass.  As such, they will be lower than other published totals.

The Browns ran 74 such snaps.

Super Jumbo and Jumbo (3):  The Ravens ran 1 play with 5 DL and 2 others with 4.  The Ravens 5-DL package was inserted at the 3-yard line (Q3, 2:25) and included Hamilton as the only DB.  Hunt ran right for a 3-yard TD nonetheless. These included 3 runs for 9 total yards with no passes.  3 plays, 9 yards, 3.0 YPP.

Base (8): The Ravens used their 4-DB/3-DL package just 8 times.  Each such alignment included Harrison at OLB paired with Robinson on 6 occasions.  These included 5 runs for 8 yards and 3 passes for 27.  8 plays, 35 yards, 4.4 YPP.

Standard Nickel (13): The Ravens used their standard nickel as the primary response to the Browns 11 personnel packages.  The Ravens played Maulet at SCB on each such snap.  These plays included 5 runs for 14 and 8 pass plays for -2 net yards.  13 plays, 12 yards, 0.9 YPP, 2 sacks.

Big Nickel (49):  The Ravens used the big nickel as a response to 12 personnel and as a change of pace vs 11 personnel packages.  In past weeks, with Hamilton playing every down at SCB, I have simply referred to this as “standard” nickel, but I’m making a distinction now since this is a choice between Maulet/Hamilton and Hamilton/Stone.  Each big nickel snap included Hamilton at SCB and Stone at SS.  These plays included 22 runs for 148 and 27 pass plays for 170.  49 plays, 318 yards, 6.5 YPP, 2 sacks, 1 TO.

Dime (1): On the final play of the first half, the Ravens lined up with 6 DBs for only the 4th time this season.  The pass fell incomplete as both Stone and Hamilton went for the interception.  1 play, 0 yards.

Pass Rush

Macdonald used a 5th pass rusher on just 5 of 39 plays resulting in a pass or sack and complemented that primarily with stunts as a means of deception.

For the game, Watson had ATS on 9 of 39 drop backs (23%).  On those 9 plays, he went 3 of 9 for 27 yards (3.0 YPP).  He also delivered the ball before pressure could develop (BOQ) 15 times (39%, 6.7 YPP).  The Ravens generated a pressure event on 15 plays (39%), including 4 sacks and 1 turnover.  With pressure, Watson was 5 of 11 for 67 net yards (4.5 YPP). 

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3 or fewer: 1 play, 0 yards

4: 33 plays, 158 yards, 4.8 YPP, 4 sacks, 1 TO

5: 5 plays, 37 yards, 7.4 YPP

6+: None

Total:  39 plays, 195 yards, 5.0 YPP, 4 sacks, 1 TO

Macdonald dialed up 5 individual blitzes (.13 per pass play) from off the LoS, all singles.  On those 5 plays, the Browns gained 45 yards (9.0 YPP), 1 TO.

The Ravens stunted 20 times among 15 plays.  Those plays resulted in 155 net yards (10.3 YPP) with no sacks or turnovers. 

The Ravens used simulated pressure 2 times resulting in 30 net yards (15.0 YPP) with 2 or more dropping from the line of scrimmage.

I define a deceptive pass rush as incorporating 2 or more of the above elements (off ball blitzes, stunts, and simulated pressures).  There were 8 such instances on which Cleveland gained 81 yards (10.1 YPP).

In words, Watson decoded almost everything Macdonald schemed in terms of numbers and deception but was ineffective overall and exceptionally so with ATS.

Clowney led the team with 2 sacks plus contributions to 3 other pressures.  Madubuike had a sack, 1 QH, another QH which was late, and a pressure.  Oweh had a strip sack, a QH, and a pressure contribution.  Van Noy and Pierce each had contributions to 3 pressures.

Star Treatment

Kyle Hamilton

  • (Q1, 14:26):  He blitzed from 3 yards off ball on the OLS and elevated to tip the pass intended for TE Njoku 3 yards behind the LoS, collected the tip, and walked in for a pick-6.
  • (Q1, 8:12):  He had tight, trailing coverage of WR Proche 35 yards [5] as Watson threw incomplete OOB
  • (Q2, 0:07):  He and Stone each went after an INT either would have made individually, but it dropped incomplete to end the half
  • (Q3, 11:57):  He came off his own man to tackle WR Moore PR4 (4 + 0) [5]
  • (Q3, 6:23):  On 2nd/14, he rushed unblocked off the OLS for QH, Watson threw hot PL3 to TE Bryant
  • (Q3, 4:23):  He was blocked by WR Tillman as part of RB Hunt RR13
  • (Q4, 10:18):  He and Smith bounced off each other to miss the tackle of TE Njoku at 10 yards on PR23
  • (Q4, 9:44):  He made a fast, downhill, twisting tackle of Njoku for PL0 (0 + 0) [1]
  • (Q4, 1:39):  On 1st/10, he rushed unblocked off the ORS to flush Watson for RM16 after MT at 0 by Van Noy

Kyle continued a terrific pass-rush season with his pick 6, a QH, and another pressure lost to a missed tackle by Van Noy.  He was party to 2 drive-ending plays.

Jadeveon Clowney

  • (Q1, 14:20):  He lost the right edge to TE Njoku to help lead RB Ford RR13
  • (Q1, 2:10):  On 3rd/2, he beat the cut block from Ford for S-3 exploiting pocket compression from Jones
  • (Q2, 11:14):  On 3rd/6, he beat RT Hudson outside to flush Watson for RR6 conversion
  • (Q2, 10:29):  He was blocked into the backfield by RT Hudson as part of Ford RM28
  • (Q2, 9:48):  He bulled Hudson who was flagged for holding as Watson threw incomplete
  • (Q2, 8:16):  On 3rd/16, he diagnosed TE screen and tackled Njoku PR4 (-1 + 5) [5] to force FG attempt
  • (Q2, 1:22):  On 1st/Goal, he rushed unblocked off ORS for S-1
  • (Q2, 0:18):  On 2nd/10, he bulled then shed LT Christian for pressure and Watson subsequently threw away, incomplete
  • (Q4, 11:12):  On 2nd/15, he stunted to bull C Pocic for pressure in cone, but Watson threw to Cooper PL25 (18 + 7) [2]
  • (Q4, 9:04):  On 2nd/Goal, he beat LT Christian outside to flush Watson left where he threw PL10 TD to WR Moore
  • (Q4, 1:24):  He was blocked by the pulling LG Bitonio to help spring Ford RM12

Jadeveon continued to provide pressure regularly.  He was party to 2 drive-ending plays.

Marlon Humphrey

  • (Q1, 14:20):  He was blocked by WR Tillman as part of RB Ford RR13
  • (Q1, 13:46):  He beat WR Moore inside to tackle Ford RM-1 with assist Queen
  • (Q2, 13:25):  Watson threw to Cooper PM17 (17 + 0) [3] wide open between Humphrey and Williams in zone
  • (Q2, 10:35):  He had tight coverage of Tillman 33 yards [5] and the ball fell incomplete as neither WR or DB tracked well
  • (Q2, 1:12):  On 3rd/5, he had tight coverage of Cooper in back of endzone forcing Watson overthrow and field goal attempt
  • (Q2, 0:22):  He had tight coverage of Cooper 18 yards [1] on boundary as Watson’s pass sailed OOB
  • (Q2, 0:11):  He had coverage of Tillman 4 yards [2] as Watson grounded ball at his feet
  • (Q3, 11:31):  On 3rd/4, he beat his head with both arms after the play as he left his zone and overran whip route to Cooper for PR5 (1 + 4) [4] to convert
  • (Q3, 10:55):  He was blocked by WR Tillman as part of Ford RR6

For the second consecutive game, Marlon avoided any penalties and big plays.  When he was lost to injury, the Ravens lost not only a top coverage player but also their most physical tackling CB.

Justin Madubuike

  • (Q1, 13:12):  On 2nd/12, he bulled C Pocic for pressure as Watson threw incomplete
  • (Q1, 8:56):  On 2nd/10, after pressure from Pierce and Van Noy flushed Watson backwards, he and Queen chased the QB who threw incomplete
  • (Q1, 8:12):  He chased down Watson for late QH as he threw incomplete 35 yards [5] OOB
  • (Q2, 14:10):  On 2nd/5, he was kicked out by LG Bitonio to help clear hole for Ford RM7
  • (Q2, 0:43):  On 1st/10, he bulled LG Bitonio to flush Watson for RM2
  • (Q2, 0:11):  On 3rd/10, he crossed the face of Bitonio then shed LT Christian for QH as Watson threw incomplete
  • (Q4, 11:34):  On 1st/10, he bulled then shed Bitonio for S-5 exploiting compression from Washington
  • (Q4, 3:02):  He was beaten by RG Teller to recover the fumble caused by Oweh’s sack

Justin extended his streak to 7 games with at least half a sack and continues to lead all NFL IDL with 8.5 sacks among 17 QHs.

I don’t award defensive MVPs after a loss.