Can Terrance West Lead the Ravens Ground Attack?
The running game, or lack there of, is all the buzz in Baltimore right now. This past Sunday, the Ravens as a team rushed for 6.2 yards a clip and only 4.5 yards per passing attempt. Score and time was never a factor in the play calling and despite the successful ground attack, the Ravens put it in the air 47 times versus 11 carries. 78% of the plays were passes in the Ravens 16-10 loss that dropped them to 3-2 on the season and 1-2 at home.
The in-game decision making cost Marc Trestman his job the very next day. Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg will take over play calling duties for the remainder of the season and the question on everyone’s mind is, will Mornhinweg commit to running the football?
The answer to that question is to be determined. But one question you can ask is if Terrence West is the guy to lead the ground attack.
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Terrence West is an interesting case. A Baltimore native who has had his issues in the past. Academics kept him from getting into Division I-A schools. He missed a couple years of football when he transferred around and landed at nearby Towson University. He set NCAA and Towson school records but not without controversy. Threatening to quit the team mid-game after he was benched for insubordination.
West would do more than enough on the field to make his selection in the 2014 draft worth the risk. Cleveland took the Towson Tiger in round three and he finished his rookie season making six starts with 3.9 YPC and four scores. But after showing up to camp in 2015 up to over 240 pounds and out of shape, he was traded to the Tennessee Titans. West didn’t survive but for two months before being waived by the Titans and claimed by the Baltimore Ravens that November when Justin Forsett was lost for the season. West would see action in six games here and rush for 3.9 YPC.
2016 training camp started with Terrance West looking noticeably trimmer. The Ravens site lists him at 225 pounds which was his weight at the NFL Draft. He was reportedly more explosive, making quicker cuts, showing great vision. We saw that translate to the preseason games, and now we are seeing it translate to the real deal action.
Through five games in the 2016 season, West has gotten 10+ touches in every game, cracked 100+ yards two weeks ago against the Oakland Raiders, and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 65 rushes. He is on pace to rush 208 times for 1,064 yards. Likely on pace for more now that Justin Forsett has been released. Forsett was picked up by Detroit this week. Also hoping for a stronger commitment to the running game leading to more carries.
West broke off two big runs on Sunday. One for 35 yards, another for 27. Of his 95 yards gained on the day 70 of those came after contact.
Terrence West is the hot handed back and will continue to be the lead back with Buck Allen behind him, and rookie Kenneth Dixon looking to be more of a passing game and open space asset. But the advanced numbers are telling us not to declare Terrance West the answer just yet.
West’s 5.0 YPC ranks 10th among 39 qualified qualified backs in the early going. The top quarter of the league. Sounds nice, but Football Outsiders advanced metrics aren’t as kind. Here’s a breakdown of his standard numbers versus the advanced numbers.
While the standard numbers are common and speak for themselves, here is a summary of the not so common advanced metrics of Football Outsiders.
DYAR – Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This gives the value of the performance on plays where this RB carried/caught the ball compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.
DVOA – Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This number represents value, per play, over an average running back in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player’s performance. Negative DVOA represents below-average offense.
Effective Yards minus Standard Yards – Translates DVOA into a yards per attempt figure. This provides an easy comparison: in general, players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate
Success Rate – Successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher DVOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower DVOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn’t often get more.
Clearly Terrance West has been performing well enough. But he is far from a lock to continue to put up 5.0 yards a run. Football Outsiders considers him to be about average at his job. Which in standard numbers suggests he’s about a 4.0 YPC back. Slightly better than par with how he’s been for the better parts of his career. Around 3.9 YPC in his rookie season and Ravens stint in 2015.
The X-factors are the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, like maturity. West is back to his college weight and adhering to a pretty strict diet. No confrontations with coaches or teammates that we have heard of. Another one is being able to focus on one job. Last year he put on three different jerseys. Part of that was his problem with the attitude, weight, fumbles. But how are you to ever prepare properly if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder for someone asking you to turn your playbook in? Some people thrive in that moment, some break.
Terrence West has been given new life and a new opportunity now that he isn’t playing with his job status on life support. He is playing to cement his status as RB1 on the Ravens depth chart. Down the road, playing the pay day that he thought might never come. Instead of worrying about what’s happened, it’s time to try and better control what’s ahead. In that regard, Terrance West is on the right track.
Now if the Ravens would just run the ball more…
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]