Ravens Reportedly Were Interested in Jordan Reed
Before it was announced that the Ravens signed Jerell Adams yesterday to compete for the third tight end spot, it was reported that the team was pursuing former Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed, who later agreed to a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
Reed was hampered by injuries during his seven years in Washington. He sat out the entire 2019 regular season after suffering a concussion in the third preseason game. Overall, Reed ended four seasons on the injured reserve list.
Reed's best season was in 2015, when he had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Despite signing the 27-year-old Adams, who has spent the past two seasons on the practice squads of the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints, it's possible the Ravens still could be in the market for another veteran tight end such as three-time Pro Bowl selection Delanie Walker, who turns 36 next week.
Analysis: Throwing More Often Won't Be Problem for Lamar Jackson
Even though Lamar Jackson led the league in touchdown passes in 2019, some pundits still seem to underestimate his skills as a passer.
"What will happen when he has to throw more often?" is the question doubters often pose about Jackson, who set the record for rushing yards by a quarterback last season.
According to Sharp Football Analysis' Dan Pizzuta, there's no reason to believe throwing more often will be a problem for Jackson and the Ravens.
"Jackson's throwing ability is only a question because the rushing was so good last season and the Ravens rarely had to rely on the pass to move the ball down the field or score," Pizzuta wrote. "Last year, no team ran a higher percentage of plays with the lead than Baltimore, which led to the Ravens running at the highest rate in the league. It would be unwise to assume Baltimore can repeat that again in 2020, but it would be just as unwise to assume just because Jackson didn't have to throw all that often last season that he is unable to do so."
Pizzuta used analytics to illustrate that Jackson excelled with his arm in addition to his legs.
"If we eliminate everything Jackson contributed on the ground in 2019, he was still one of the league's most productive quarterbacks," Pizzuta wrote. "He led all quarterbacks in EPA (expected points added per play) on pass attempts and had the third-highest positive play rate (percentage of plays with positive EPA) among 42 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts, per Sports Info Solutions (SIS)."
While the Ravens used the highest rate of play-action and pre-snap motion last season, Jackson's numbers on throws without play-action were still among the best, wrote Pizzuta, who noted that Jackson was second in EPA per attempt on straight drop-back passes from the pocket, behind only Patrick Mahomes, per SIS.
Jackson also thrived with an empty backfield.
"A majority of passes from empty come on quick reads to get the ball out, but Jackson also got a decent amount of deep attempts off without a running back beside him," Pizzuta wrote. "One area of the field where the Ravens really trusted Jackson out of empty was in the red zone. … Baltimore had the fifth-most dropbacks from empty in the red zone last season and the Ravens were easily the most productive. Every team had at least five such dropbacks last season and only 11 produced positive EPA. The Ravens led all teams with 0.68 EPA per attempt, thanks to eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Jackson excelled where many other offenses struggle to produce positive plays.
"Fifteen of those dropbacks and four of the touchdowns came in the high red zone (from the 19-11). But also, Jackson went 4 of 5 for the other four touchdowns inside the 10 with nearly double the EPA of the next highest team (10.5 to 5.6). His ability to be patient and look to throw while knowing he has an option to run, is what makes him so dangerous as a passer all over the field, but especially in this high leverage area."
Ravens Offense Was League's Best in Three Different Personnel Groupings in 2019
ESPN's Matt Bowen picked the best offense in each personnel grouping based on last season's performance, and the Ravens took the top spot in three of them.
The Ravens were especially dangerous when Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman had all three of his tight ends (Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst) on the field at the same time, whether it was 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends, one wide receiver) or 23 personnel (two running backs, three tight ends).
"The Ravens posted some ridiculous numbers out of 13 personnel, starting with a successful play rate of 60.7% on 61 snaps," Bowen wrote. "Baltimore averaged 8.11 yards per play, 10.71 yards per pass attempt and 5.08 yards per rush. Plus, Jackson completed 75% of his throws while leading the league with six touchdown passes.
"All three of the Ravens' tight ends ranked in the top 10 on 13 personnel receptions. Remember, with three tight ends on the field, the Ravens created both blocking angles and numbers in the running game while throwing seams and crossers against single-high coverage defenses."
The Ravens ran a league-high 16 snaps of 23 personnel last season and scored nine touchdowns.
"[Mark Ingram II] posted a league-leading six touchdown runs out of 23 personnel, while Jackson totaled three scores (two pass, one run)," Bowen wrote. "With the threat of downhill runs on the goal line, the scheme also gave Jackson the option to hit his tight ends on play-action."
Bowen also ranked the Ravens as the best on 02 personnel (two tight ends, three wide receivers).
"The Ravens had only 14 snaps out of 02 personnel, but their production jumps out a bit," Bowen wrote. "The Ravens averaged 9.89 yards per pass attempt, as Jackson completed 7 of 9 passes for 89 yards and three touchdowns. Plus, with Jackson's ability to pull the ball down, he rushed for 50 yards on four carries."
The Ravens led the NFL with 179 snaps of 22 personnel (two running backs, two tight ends, one wide receiver), and while Bowen did not rank them as the best team with that personnel grouping, they did have a lot of success with it, ranking third in yards per carry (4.06) and fourth in yards per attempt (6.06).
Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr. Ranked Among NFL's Top 15 Offensive Tackles
A major component of the Ravens' record-setting offense last season was the play of their offensive line, including tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr.
Both are ranked in the top 15 on Pro Football Focus' list of the best offensive tackles in the NFL, with left tackle Stanley at No. 4 and right tackle Brown at No. 15. They were ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle tandem in the league, behind the New Orleans Saints' Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead.
Stanley, who was selected sixth overall in 2016, took his game to another level last season. The protector of Jackson's blind side, Stanley earned All-Pro status for the first time and went to his first Pro Bowl.
"The fourth-year tackle posted a 93.3 pass-block grade and a 76.2 run-block grade, making him one of three tackles to rank in the top 10 at the position in both metrics last year," PFF's Anthony Treash wrote. "And it's not like his elite-level play as a pass blocker was heavily influenced by the Ravens' offense, either.
"On true pass sets (i.e., no play action, screen, designed rollout or quick throw), Stanley still ranked first in pass-block grade. He had always been an above-average player at the position prior to 2019, but he has now solidified himself as one of the NFL's premier tackles."
The 6-foot-8, 345-pound Brown came into his own last season and was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
"Just a couple of years into his NFL career, the former third-round pick has made his name known as one of the future stars at the position," Treash wrote. "This past year, Brown produced the eighth-best grade on true pass sets and was 14th in negatively graded run block rate among NFL tackles."
Brown, 24, appears to be just scratching the surface of how good he can be. He was named the Ravens' most promising building block entering this season by Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport.
Thanks in large part to the play of Stanley and Brown, the unit was ranked the most valuable offensive line in the league in 2019 based on PFF WAR (wins above replacement), although eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, who retired after last season, also played a huge role.