FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots offense could lull you to sleep with how little players move around before the ball is snapped to Mac Jones.
The Ravens are a totally different story. They can make your head spin — and could give the Patriots fits in Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.
ESPN’s Seth Walder on Monday shared a pair of fascinating stats that underscore a significant difference between New England and Baltimore’s offenses. Through two games, the Patriots rank 19th in pre-snap motion and dead last in motion-at-snap rate. The Ravens, meanwhile, are sixth in pre-snap motion and second in at-snap motion, sandwiched between the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills.
It’s a lot for opposing defenses to handle, never mind how much uber-athletic quarterback Lamar Jackson runs around after receiving the ball. Keeping up with Baltimore’s pre-snap activity will be huge for New England on Sunday as it eyes consecutive wins over AFC North teams.
Ahead of Wednesday’s practice, Bill Belichick went into fascinating detail on the challenges presented by Baltimore’s motion on offense.
Here’s his full, long answer:
“It’s three weeks in a row we’ve seen a lot of that. Miami did a lot of it. Pittsburgh did a ton of it. A combination of misdirection and with all the motion as well. So, you have a lot of motion and then you have some kind of hardball plays. Then you have all that motion. Then you have some misdirection plays to go with it. Play actions to go with it. It really forces a lot of eye discipline for the off-the-ball players, the linebackers and safeties. The guys who are on the ball, they don’t see all of that. They see the blocking scheme in front of them, who’s attacking them, who’s blocking them, and what type of block are they trying to make on them. They react to that. Whether it’s a cut-off block, a reach block, a base block, high arm, whatever it is. They’re really playing the blocker and finding the ball. It’s the guys on the second level, the linebackers, the safeties, could be corners involved, whoever those players are, trying to sort out who’s got who depending on what coverage you’re in. Who’s got who? Do we switch it? Are we locked? Is it a three-man switch? Is it a two-man switch? Who’s got the back after he fakes, after all the crisscrossing happens? Who’s got the quarterback?
“Just takes a lot of discipline, and I’d say pre-snap communication. So, when the ball’s snapped kind of knowing what you’re doing and then recognizing it after the snap. If pre-snap communication is fouled up then it’s hard to get it right. So it starts with that and then everybody has to kind of see it the same way. There’s multiple things to see. Again, you try to set rules, guidelines on how to play those things. They’re not all the same. There’s a difference between a tight end missile motion across, a wide receiver missile motion across, a back missile motion across. Those things are all — the offense does that to try to keep you off-balance and keep the defense confused or hesitant. So they’re kind of the same. They’re not all the same. That’s the idea. But we have to classify the way we classify them. And then again, all see them as they unfold. It’s challenging. The Ravens do a great job with it.”
But what has all that motion ultimately produced? Well, the 1-1 Ravens rank relatively highly in passing yards per game (ninth in the NFL) but atypically middle of the road in rushing yards (18th, one spot ahead of New England). However, Baltimore currently is sixth in the league in points per game (31.0).
It’s worth noting that Jackson reportedly wore a sleeve on his throwing arm and wasn’t seen throwing a pass during the media portion of Wednesday’s Ravens practice. We likely will learn more about his potential injury situation as the week progresses.
The Patriots and Ravens will kick off at 1 p.m. ET.
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