Factors behind Ravens’ declining pass rush

Baltimore finished 2014 with PFF's top-graded pass rush. This season—not so much.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Marc Serota)

(AP Photo/Marc Serota)

Factors behind Ravens’ declining pass rush

Despite escaping with a win against Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Ravens are a team beset by issues. The main problem on the defensive side of the ball is a lack of a pass rush; Baltimore isn’t close to replicating the consistent pressure it applied in 2014.

Starting with the factors beyond their control, Terrell Suggs’ injury is obviously a huge blow. Suggs finished 2014 as our fourth ranked outside linebacker (+21.6), grading positively in every category. He dropped down to ninth for his pass rushing alone (+12.8), recording 14 sacks, 11 hits, and 32 hurries. That’s not elite productivity—Suggs was only our 16th ranked outside linebacker in pass rush productivity (PRP)—but he was at least good in that department last season.

Suggs going down has forced Elvis Dumervil into an every down role. After taking the field for 56.5 percent of snaps in 2014, Dumervil has been on the field for 81.9 percent of snaps this season. An increase in playing time has resulted in diminished productivity. After finishing as our fifth-ranked outside linebacker in PRP in 2014 with 19 sacks, nine hits, and 27 hurries, Dumervil is down to 15th so far through three weeks in 2015. So far, he has two sacks, two hits and 10 hurries, with his only dominant performance coming against Andre Smith and the Bengals. Dumervil wasn’t as effective of a pass rusher prior to taking on his his specialist role in Baltimore, suggesting increased playing time might be behind his slow start.

The other key loss for the Ravens came in the offseason, when Pernell McPhee departed for Chicago. McPhee was amongst the most dominant pass rushers in 2014, recording the second-highest pass rush productivity ranking, ahead of both his teammates. He recorded eight sacks, 21 hits (league high) and 35 hurries in a breakout season. McPhee has continued his fine form since moving to Chicago in free agency, and currently ranks first in PRP with two sacks, five hits, and 11 hurries.

Diminished interior pressure due to the departure of Haloti Ngata has also played its part, but the main reason for the Ravens’ defensive struggles has been a lack of edge pressure. The loss of Suggs and McPhee, and the corresponding impact on Dumervil, has blunted a pass rush that ranked No. 1 in 2014.

| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Zack23

    So their pass rush is suffering because they have no depth. That’s on the GM.
    But hey Ozzie is untouchable in the media so he won’t get the blame.

    • codered5


    • mbear818

      When you lose a former DPOY to an Achilles tear, replacing the productivity is not as easy as having another one just waiting in the wings as depth. That’s not on Ozzie.

      The rookie OLB ZaDarius Smith did have two sacks in Pittsbrugh though. And Ozzie also picked up Jason Babin, who I believe had a pretty high PRP last year.

      • tequila0341

        Both of Smith’s sacks were on Mike Vick – he surrendered two sacks that took longer than six seconds to develop.

      • Zack23

        Did you read the article? Suggs is part one. Letting go McPhee and Nagata and not replacing them are part 2 and 3. Overall depth, that’s on Ozzie.

        • mbear818

          McPhee earned a killer deal, you can’t pay everyone. Looking for Smith/Babin to replace that productivity and Jernigan/Davis to replace Ngata’s.

          It’s a capped sport. It was easy to keep Phee on a rookie deal, but he earned those big bucks he got from Chicago.

          • Zack23

            Right. As the article says the defensive isn’t close to matching its performance from last year, and it’s more than just Suggs. Building depth is a GM’s job. Cap management is a GM’s job.

          • Lord Father

            Zack Rosters take dips when good players play their way out of your cap room. 6th round pick turned out to be a 9mill/yr guy. You cant just magically replace that the next year. They drafted Zadarius to develop into that guy. Pernell wasn’t THAT GUT in his rookie season.
            Rosters take dips. It’s not a GM’s failing if your starter gets hurt. That’s like Arron Rodgers tearing his ACL and your like, that’s their Gm’s fault for not having another Rodgers on the bench…
            The rush was going to take a hit period cause they had an elite player on a 6th round contract last year. It turned out to be worst cause they also lost an elite player to a season injury.

    • Matthew Subtlety Ivancic

      I mean, that’s their strategy though. Ozzie’s strategy is to let good to very good players walk if they have better options on the roster, then collect the compensatory picks, and then attempt to parlay those picks to fill the voids left by free agents they let walk such as Pernell McPhee and Ben Grubbs. It’s a good strategy, and one that’s allowed the Ravens to be perennial contenders in recent memory. It’s not a perfect strategy though, and we’re just seeing the one major flaw in it play out right before our eyes.

  • OH Ravenfan

    I think the main issue is the scheme run by Pees. Look at the aggressive schemes run by Arizona, Seattle, even Atlanta now.. The Ravens have the personnel in their linebackers and young linemen to run more zone-blitzing/ stunting schemes. But Pees style has been diagnosed by the OC’s in this pass happy league.