Late for Work 11/16: Four Stats Ravens Need in Second Half of Season

111621-LFW
The defense makes a group tackle

Four Stats Ravens Need to Turn Around in Second Half of Season

Week 10 began with the Ravens suffering a stunning defeat to the 2-7 Miami Dolphins, but it ended with them still in first place in the AFC North.

So while the Ravens (6-3) remain in the thick of a congested AFC playoff race, there's clearly room for improvement in certain areas.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec identified 10 statistics that must get better if the Ravens are going to be more consistent during the second half of the season.

Here's a look at four of them:

Minus-5: Ravens' turnover differential

"The Ravens have forced just seven turnovers and have committed 12. That's not a winning recipe. Given its myriad injuries, Baltimore is not explosive or talented enough to continue to lose the turnover battle and win games. ... Causing more turnovers will help the offense and give it shorter fields. Committing fewer will keep the defense out of more tough spots. The Ravens have to play better complementary football, limiting their mistakes on offense and forcing more on defense."

7 and 0: Number of 50-plus yard plays allowed by the Ravens defense and gained by the Ravens offense

"In the Ravens' three losses, their opponents have 11 total plays of more than 30 yards. Any defensive improvement starts with allowing much fewer chunk plays and forcing teams to win by stringing together long drives. Offensively, the Ravens are much improved in the downfield passing game. However, they are the only team in football without an offensive play of 50-plus yards. Hitting on more big plays would make life easier for [Lamar] Jackson and give the Ravens more margin of error."

34.21 percent: Ravens third-down conversion rate

"The Ravens' yearlong struggles on third down hit rock bottom against Miami, as they went 3-for-14 against the Dolphins and didn't convert one until the third quarter. … If the Ravens aren't winning on first and second down, they've provided little evidence that they will be able to get the necessary yardage on third-and-longs, when defenses are attacking them with blitzes. The Ravens need to be far more productive on early downs to set up more third-and-shorts. When they get to third down, they have to convert at a much higher rate."

85.2: Jackson's passer rating against the blitz

"Coaches and players from 30 other teams were watching the Dolphins blitz Jackson at will and hold the Ravens to their worst offensive output in the Jackson era. Jackson looked uncomfortable throughout, and the offense as a whole was disjointed and dispirited. The Dolphins took it to an extreme, but more teams are using the blitz against the Ravens and getting relatively good results. Four of the Ravens' nine opponents have blitzed the Ravens on at least 40 percent of Jackson's dropbacks. Until the Ravens start punishing the blitz, they are going to see it more and more."

Tim Tebow: Jackson Still in Great Position to Win MVP

When Head Coach John Harbaugh said recently that it's a week-to-week league, he was talking about what happens on the field, but he could just as easily been referring to the pundits' hot takes.

Heading into Week 10, the consensus was that if Jackson wasn't the front-runner for MVP, he certainly was among the top two or three leading candidates.

However, it took just one bad game for ESPN's "First Take" to raise the question of whether Jackson just "lost the MVP." Tim Tebow vehemently dismissed the suggestion.

"Every one of the players right now [in the MVP race] has had a bad game," Tebow said. "So if you want to say he's out of the picture because of this game, you have to bring that up [about] the rest of the players. … Were they out-schemed? Absolutely. Did Miami have a great game plan? Yes. It's the NFL; sometimes that happens. But to say he's not No. 1 or 2 right now, him and [Tom Brady] for the MVP, I just don't think that this game mattered that much.

"They're 6-3. They still have a shot. And people are going to remember December and January way more than they'll remember the second week of November. I think he absolutely is in a great position to win the MVP. He's dominated this entire year."

The past two weeks prove Tebow's point about other MVP candidates having bad games:

  • Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions as the Rams were outscored 59-26 in back-to-back losses.
  • Tom Brady threw two interceptions in the Buccaneers' 29-19 loss to 2-6 Washington on Sunday.
  • Josh Allen committed three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) in the Bills' 9-6 loss to the 1-6 Jaguars in Week 9.

Also in Week 9, Dak Prescott completed 19 of 39 passes with two touchdown passes and an interception in the Cowboys' 30-16 loss to the Broncos. Both of Prescott's touchdown passes came in the final four minutes after the Cowboys were down 30-0.

It's yet another example of Jackson being held to a different standard than other quarterbacks.

Should Ravens Prioritize Offensive or Defensive Line in Draft?

In yesterday's Late for Work, we discussed possible solutions for the Ravens to upgrade their offensive line this season. Looking ahead to next season, Ravens Wire's Steve Rudden said the team should prioritize the offensive line in the draft.

"With a very important offseason coming up in a few months for Baltimore, investing in their offensive line to protect Lamar and spark the run game would do wonders for [the] offense as a whole," Rudden wrote. "They could opt to add a veteran or two in free agency, but the draft seems like a more likely option for the team to find a talented player or two (or more) who could either start right away, grow into a star with coaching and development, or even both."

Rudden noted that in a perfect world, All-Pro Ronnie Stanley will be back at full strength next season, veteran tackle Ja'Wuan James returns from injury to be a solid contributor, guard Kevin Zeitler still plays at a high level, and some of the Ravens' younger offensive linemen continue to improve.

Still, Rudden believes the Ravens, who are slated to have 10 picks in 2022, need to devote significant draft capital to the unit.

"If I was drafting in the 2022 NFL draft for Baltimore, I would put a lot of eggs into the offensive line basket, even going as far as potentially using their first five picks on linemen," Rudden wrote. "If the team can get top talent early on, they won't have to rely on trying to find steals later on, although the team has proven more than capable of using both methods well."

Meanwhile, Baltimore Beatdown's Adam Bonaccorsi contends that the defensive line should be a top three priority next season.

The defensive line has been solid despite Derek Wolfe being sidelined all season (and likely for the rest of the season). However, Calais Campbell (35), Brandon Williams (32) — who has missed three games this season due to injury — and Wolfe (31) are getting up in age. Wolfe will be coming off a back injury that cost him the entire season.

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