Next Gen: Ravens Pass Rushing 2018
NFL’s Next Gen stats are relatively new in the world of advanced metrics. You’ve probably seen them show up once or twice during an NFL game broadcast, noting a players top speed on a long run, or a catch probability on a pass based on how tight the coverage is and distance of the throw.
If you follow them on twitter, they are always putting out a wealth of information. A lot more than you find on the site. One can only hope that they will integrate more information to the site, and organize data found in game charts, to season stats making it easier to compare players. They have done this with offense, passing, rushing, receiving. But not on defense, and pass pushing is one area I’m looking at here.
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The Ravens have some free agents to be within the front seven. Notably the solid C.J. Mosley, the ageless veteran Terrell Suggs, and the Ravens breakout performer on the front seven, Za’Darius Smith.
When Next Gen charts games, they calculate pass rushing prowess by measuring the average distance a pass rusher gets from the quarterback on any play resulting in a pass, or a sack. Only counting plays in which they are rushing the passer. Since getting a sack would put your distance from the quarterback at zero, the more sacks you get, the better your average is going to be.
NFL average distance from the quarterback on pass rushes is 4.49 yards and Next Gen lists the top four from each team in each game. Here is how the Ravens stacked up.
Za’Darius Smith – Averaged 4.31 across 16 games
Brandon Williams – 4.35, 5 games
Matt Judon – 4.59, 10 games
Willie Henry – 4.59, 2 games
Chris Wormley – 4.74 , 3 games
C.J. Mosley – 4.75, 2 games
Brent Urban – 4.79, 9 games
Terrell Suggs – 4.87, 17 games
Michael Pierce – 4.88, 4 games
Za’Darius Smith appeared to be the Ravens best pass rusher across most games. He beat league average in 10 of those games in 2018, as well as putting up marks below 4.0 yards away in five contests.
Terrell Suggs on the other hand, you can see where age might be catching up with him. 4.87 is well below league average. He did go sub 4.0 on three occasions on the year, but also went over 5.0, 10 times. Including a very poor 6.1 mark in week 14 @ KC. Smith never went over the 5.0 mark.
Matt Judon was pretty average, just above the 4.49 mark, going sub 4.0 twice, and over 5.0 twice as well.
You can see how little of a role C.J. Mosely plays in pass rushing, only showing up on the sheet in two games.
I think that Za’Darius Smith excels a lot more in Don Martindale’s style of defense. A hyper aggressive front with a lot of deception in who will rush and who will drop into coverage. Under Dean Pees hyper conservative fronts, with no deception, where he is asked to line up and beat the opposing blocker clean, he posted a PPF grade of 54.0 in 2016, and 60.5 in 2017. Last year he shot up to a 73.2. Of the free agent pass rushers out there, only Kansas City’s Dee Ford posted more sacks and QB hurries than Smith.
The Ravens and Seahawks run a very run heavy offense, but the rest of the NFL threw on 62% of their plays. Being able to rush the passer is essential. Though C.J. Mosley is the most anticipated free agent on the Ravens, he doesn’t change games like a pass rusher can.
Whether or not to keep Terrell Suggs around is a tough one. Could he be converted to a situational rusher so he stays fresher longer? But since he is a great edge setter in the run game, would that be more detrimental to the defense as a whole?
Considering the other free agents or cap casualties in the secondary, how much of one of the top units in the NFL are the Ravens willing to break up this offseason? It’s probably the top question we’ll keep an eye on.