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The Ravens Aggressive Offensive Style Cultivated by Lamar Jackson, Analytics & Early Down Success

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About The Analysis

Motivated again by the Raven’s aggressiveness on offense after going for it on 4th and one to seal Lamar Jackson’s first win against the Patrick Mahomes led Chiefs, I decided to examine the Ravens run game since 2019 using data from SIS Data Hub Pro. I started out just examining 1st and 2nd down run success and the correlation between their 3rd and 4th down run success and it turned into an examination of Lamar Jackson’s ranking among all NFL QB’s using the SIS W.A.R. metric, and points earned. I then decided to revisit the primary driver behind the Raven’s aggressiveness which is driven by their heavy use of in-game analytics.


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Why Greg Roman’s Offense Is Perfect For Lamar Jackson

My obsession with the Ravens offense started in the offseason prior to the 2019 NFL season. I became infatuated with their offensive scheme once current offensive coordinator Greg Roman was named offensive coordinator. I knew right away the vision of the Ravens offense would be a close copy of John Harbaugh's brother Jim who coached the Colin Kaepernick quarterbacked 49ers, whose offensive coordinator was also Greg Roman.


Lamar Jackson Is The Engine (Not Ground Breaking)

The identity of the offense is fueled by Lamar Jackson and his skill set as a player. Jackson’s dynamic playmaking ability is the engine that drives a Greg Roman offense. His ability to force a defense to defend all 11, and wish they had 12 on the field is something you cannot fully quantify, though there is data that correlates Lamar Jackson’s value as a runner as you will see below where I combine his W.A.R. as a rusher and a passer in an effort to see where he ranks among all NFL QB’s.


Lamar Jackson's WAR (Average Wins Above Replacement) Since 2019

According to the SIS W.A.R. model, which is broken down nicely by fellow SIS contributor Alex Vigderman, W.A.R. measures points above replacement using a points-per-win conversion that is based on the scoring environment. According to the SIS W.A.R. metric, Lamar Jackson ranks 13th (1.53) as a passer since 2019. As a rusher, Jackson ranks atop the NFL as a rusher since 2019 posting an average W.A.R. of 0.63. If you combine the two metrics (running and passing) Lamar ranks 5th among all QB’s in the NFL using the SIS W.A.R. metric.


Lamar Jackson's Total Points Earned SInce 2019

In addition to Lamar’s wins above replacement value, Jackson’s total points earned combined as both a runner and passer ranks 7th among all QB’s with Mahomes, Rodgers, Brady, Watson, Wilson, and Carr ahead of him since 2019. If you were to subtract his points earned as a runner, Jackson would rank 13th in points earned since 2019. What the data is saying, Lamar Jackson’s running ability is what differentiates him which is obvious, but it also places him squarely among the top 10 QB’s in the NFL since 2019.


Ravens Play Calling Driven By Data and Analytics

As mentioned earlier, the Ravens' usage of analytics to help them make better play calling decisions is just as important as their play style. In 2019, John Harbaugh told the media that he relies heavily on analytics for every big play-calling decision he makes; the Raven's aggressiveness on offense directly reflects the analytical data delivered to John by his primary analytics guy Daniel Stern.


Who is Daniel Stern?

Stern is listed on the Ravens official website as the Ravens Football Analytics Coach, and as mentioned by John in the past, Stern sits with offensive coordinator Greg Roman in the box and has a lot of influence on play calling.


The Ravens Use of In-Game Predictive Analytics Once Again Told Them To Go For It Against The Chiefs On 4th And 1

Stern incorporates a percentage-based predictive analytics model that provides data in real-time based on the game situation. In week two, against the Chiefs, the Ravens faced a 4th and one from their own 43-yard line in the 4th QTR. With 1:05 left in the game and a one-point lead, the decision did not warrant an analytics-based approach with Patrick Mahomes waiting on the other side. But the analytics did back John's decision. Going for it increased the Ravens win probability to 90%; it drops to 73% if they punt. These decisions are made easier when you have a QB behind center as dynamic as Lamar Jackson.


Ravens History of Early Down Run Game Success Allows Ravens To Be More Aggressive With 3rd and 4th Down Play Calls.

A lot of the Raven’s success is driven by their ability to dominate early downs. So far, through two games in 2021, the Ravens lead the NFL in SIS Boom Percentage (17%) which is a number that signifies the percentage of rushes that resulted in an EPA of at least 1 (i.e. a very successful play for the offense). The Ravens are 5th through two games in SIS Positive Run Play Percentage (50%), Positive Run Play Percentage; the percentage of rushes by the player that resulted in a positive EPA (i.e. a successful play for the offense).


Early Down Run Success Against The Chiefs In Week Two

Against the Chiefs in week two, the Ravens posted a 63% Boom Percentage, and a 20% Positive run Percentage on 1st and 2nd down. Lamar Jackson on his own in week two vs the Chiefs posted a Boom Percentage of 25%, with a Positive Run Percentage of 58%. Latavius Murray and Ty’son Williams combined for a 67% Positive Run Percentage. The Ravens led the NFL in expected points added (3.74) on 3rd and 4th down rush attempts in week two, which is a testament to their ability to win on 1st and 2nd down.


Ravens Early Down Success Since 2019

I pulled the total rush yards on 1st and 2nd down since 2019 combined for all NFL teams to get an idea of what I already knew; the Ravens dominate early downs to set up higher percentage 3rd and 4th down opportunities where they can still run the football if they choose. The Ravens have amassed 5763 yards on early downs (1st since 2019) while averaging 5.4 yards per rush on early downs since 2019 (also 1st). In addition, no team has attempted more runs on 3rd and 4th down and three yards or less since 2019. The Ravens convert 73% of their rush attempts on 3rd and 4th down and three yards or less.


All Decisions Made Easier In This Style Of Offense When You Have Lamar Jackson

Once again, all of this is made easier when the offense is predicated on your best player’s skill set. The Ravens have done a great job maximizing Lamar Jackson’s ability to put stress on opposing defenses. Now the final question that needs to be answered is, can this style of offense win a Super Bowl in the NFL?

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