May 20, 2022

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AGL by Position 2022: Ravens Wrecked at RB/DB

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AGL by Position 2022: Ravens Wrecked at RB/DB


NFL Offseason – A couple of days ago, we examined adjusted games lost at the team level. Today, we’ll switch perspectives to evaluate the impact of injuries on each position. You’ll see how the Baltimore Ravens got slammed at both the running back and defensive back positions, how the Saints and Jaguars had problems at wide receiver, and how the Eagles led the NFL in offensive line injuries… but not by as much as they did the year before.

Offense

Quarterbacks

After a youth movement on the defensive line in 2020 spurred a jump to a third-place finish in defensive DVOA and an unexpected NFC East title, Washington appeared to be a competent quarterback away from a 2021 playoff run. Instead, their defense reverted to its 2019 standard of 27th in DVOA, and veteran quarterback addition Ryan Fitzpatrick (16.0 adjusted games lost) injured his hip in Week 1 and missed the rest of the season. Washington has finished in the top three of quarterback AGL in both of head coach Ron Rivera’s seasons with the team, and so one can follow the logic of their apparent trade overpay for Carson Wentz. But with a 1.8% passing DVOA in 2021, Wentz was barely more efficient in his bounceback Colts season than Taylor Heinicke was (-5.7% DVOA) in his turn as Washington’s emergency starter. Washington will need more than good health to contend in 2022.

The Saints and Texans had big quarterback shoes to fill after the former’s 15-year starter Drew Brees retired and the latter’s Deshaun Watson found legal trouble that spurred his relegation to the bench in 2021 (a distinction that excluded him from adjusted games lost). Jameis Winston (10.0 AGL) fared better than the expectations he set in his 30-interception final season in Tampa Bay in 2019. He produced a 13.6% passing DVOA rate that was the second-best of his career and would have netted him a 10th place finish if a knee injury hadn’t cut his season 39 attempts short of qualification. The Saints provided plenty of drama after the injury with Taysom Hill and Ian Book experiments, and Trevor Siemian even beat the Buccaneers on Halloween. But they couldn’t keep pace with the Bucs in the NFC South.

Tyrod Taylor (6.0) was a plan for the Texans to save face—which failed at times—but his hamstring injury proved to be a blessing in disguise when it thrust third-round draftee Davis Mills into the lineup. Mills was not a preseason member of the lauded quintet of rookie quarterback prospects, but his -8.7% passing DVOA placed him second among regular first-year starters behind only Mac Jones (6.1% DVOA). Mills plus the bounty of draft picks they recouped in the Watson trade to Cleveland could have the Texans on the fast track to a rebuild—if their front office can rise to the occasion.

No other contenders suffered as many quarterback absences as Washington and New Orleans. But even the handful of AGL that the Dolphins, Ravens, and Seahawks went through at quarterback did major damage to their playoff chances. For all of the criticisms of Tua Tagovailoa (3.6), he still bested his backup Jacoby Brissett -(0.7% passing DVOA to -22.9%.) And Russell Wilson’s (3.0) Seahawks finished ninth in team DVOA.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Giants (7.0)—Daniel Jones (6.0, neck)
  • Panthers (5.3)—Sam Darnold (5.3, shoulder)
  • Bears (4.6)—Justin Fields (2.6, ribs) and Andy Dalton (2.0, knee)
  • Jets (4.0)—Zach Wilson (4.0, knee—PCL sprain)

Running Backs

The Ravens, and to a lesser extent the 49ers, ran away with the unwanted crown of most adjusted games lost at running back with their totals of 54.9 and 27.2, respectively. And in doing so, they provided even more evidence of the decreasing importance of heavy investments into the position. With J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill all missing the full season with a pair of ACL tears and an Achilles tear, the Ravens turned to veteran cast-offs Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray, who both delivered above-average rushing DVOA seasons despite their age. After a year with just two carries and on the heels of a meager free-agent contract with just $1 million guaranteed from the Dolphins, Raheem Mostert may seem like a relatively minor loss for the latter team. But he led all backs with 26.8% rushing DVOA in 2019 and was a plus contributor with a 4.0% DVOA in 2020 as well. Still, the 49ers barely felt his absence as sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell (6.3) produced a 5.7% DVOA on 207 carries between rib and knee injuries and a concussion. And even with their many losses, the Ravens and 49ers finished 11th and fourth in rushing DVOA.

The Rams were a tier below the Ravens and 49ers with just 17.1 running back AGL. They had more advanced notice after Cam Akers (14.3) tore his Achilles in July to replace him with a trade for Sony Michel, and even got Akers back in early January for their playoff run. Akers enjoyed an abnormally quick recovery from his Achilles injury. And while his 2.5 yards per attempt from the regular and postseasons combined was the lowest among backs with 50 or more carries and might suggest he returned too quickly, Akers also had the league’s lowest average yards before contact (0.95). The Rams offensive line that led the league with a 68% pass block win rate missed the top 10 in run block win rate (71%, 12th). But that clearly wasn’t a deal-breaker for their Super Bowl chances.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Jaguars (20.2)—Travis Etienne (17.0, foot) and James Robinson (3.1, Achilles tear)
  • Patriots (18.9)—James White (14.0, hip)
  • Seahawks (14.5)—Chris Carson (12.3, neck) and Alex Collins (2.1, groin, abdomen, and COVID)
  • Browns (10.6)—Kareem Hunt (7.6, calf and COVID) and Nick Chubb (3.0, calf and COVID)
  • Panthers (10.0)—Christian McCaffrey (10.0, hamstring and ankle)
  • Titans (9.0)—Derrick Henry (9.0, foot)

Wide Receivers

Many of the disappointing quarterbacks from 2021 owe at least some of their difficulties to a lack of healthy pass-catchers. Jameis Winston excelled despite Michael Thomas’ full-season absence for an ankle surgery that he may have delayed until the summer because of a falling out with the Saints organization. But Taysom Hill may never have had a real chance after Tre’Quan Smith (6.0) and Deonte Harris (1.0) suffered hamstring, shoulder, and chest injuries and the latter was suspended, leaving an already thin receiver room even thinner. Trevor Lawrence may have entered 2021 with the least receiver talent on his roster, but DJ Chark’s (13.0) ankle and Jamal Agnew’s (7.0) hip injuries thrust failed prospects such as Laquon Treadwell and Tavon Austin into Jaguars lineups. Jaylen Waddle (1.0) more than lived up to his No. 6 draft pick and missed just one game on the COVID list. But Tua Tagovailoa lost close to 20 games from outside starters Will Fuller (13.0) and DeVante Parker (6.6).

And neither New York quarterback enjoyed the expected benefits of his team’s injection of receiver talent. Big-money Giants free agent Kenny Golladay (3.9) missed time with a knee injury; first-round rookie Kadarius Toney (7.6) dealt with a disquieting series of ankle, quad, abdominal, and shoulder injuries as well as COVID; and incumbent Sterling Shepard (7.1) missed his customary couple of months with hamstring and quad injuries. And the analogous Jets receivers Corey Davis (7.8), Elijah Moore (6.0), and Jamison Crowder (4.3) fared just as poorly with their myriad hip, groin, abdominal, head, quad, and calf injuries. The Giants and Jets remained committed to Daniel Jones and Zach Wilson despite their underwhelming -10.6% and -32.3% passing DVOA seasons—the latter of which was the worst among regular starters—and expected injury regression is undoubtedly a major source of their optimism.

By a broader comparison to those teams, Tom Brady has little reason to complain about the Bucs’ 18.1 wide receiver AGL, nearly half of which came from a situational player in Scotty Miller (7.0). But the timing of Chris Godwin’s (3.4) ACL tear and Mike Evans’ (1.3) hamstring injury gives him justification. Those injuries came on the eve of the playoffs and in step with Antonio Brown (6.4)—who had already missed time with an ankle injury and COVID—losing his jersey and maybe his mind on the field and earning his dismissal from the team. What looked at the start of the year like the deepest position on the Bucs roster was down to players such as Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, and Cyril Grayson at the most important time of the year. And Brady still overcame a 24-point deficit to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams before Matthew Stafford sealed the playoff win with a last-minute drive for a field goal.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Vikings (20.6)—Bisi Johnson (17.0, knee, ACL tear) and Adam Thielen (3.6, ankle)
  • Lions (20.4)—Quintez Cephus (12.0, clavicle) and Tyrell Williams (7.0, concussion)
  • Colts (18.2)—Parris Campbell (10.3, foot) and T.Y. Hilton (6.6, neck and concussion)
  • Steelers (15.5)—JuJu Smith-Schuster (12.0, shoulder)
  • Falcons (15.3)—Calvin Ridley (10.0, mental health)
  • Ravens (14.0)—Rashod Bateman (5.3, groin), Miles Boykin (4.0, hamstring and finger), and Sammy Watkins (3.5, thigh and COVID)

Tight Ends

The Vikings, Football Team, and Cardinals suffered the most significant 2021 tight end injuries to Irv Smith (17.0), Logan Thomas (11.0), and Maxx Williams (12.3), respectively. And they responded to those losses with disparate approaches and enjoyed different degrees of success. The Vikings traded a Day 3 draft pick for the once-promising Jets tight end Chris Herndon, but Herndon saw just 184 offensive snaps and seven targets with his new team as the notoriously two-tight end-reliant Mike Zimmer shifted toward 11 personnel. Slot receiver K.J. Osborn rose to that occasion with 50 catches and a 2.5% receiving DVOA, and the Vikings improved their passing offense from an 18.8% DVOA with Smith in 2020 to a 23.4% rate without him in 2021.

Washington had a pair of internal candidates to replace their 2020 breakout star Thomas in veteran Ricky Seals-Jones and fifth-round rookie John Bates. And while Seals-Jones provided a bottom-three -25.7% receiving DVOA for his position, Bates showed promise with an 8.0% DVOA that echoed the early success of another mid-round Washington tight end draft pick, Jordan Reed, who had a tremendous 19.6% DVOA as a rookie in 2013 before concussions derailed his career. Bates’ development would be a major boon for Washington since the quarterback-turned-tight-end Thomas was a late bloomer. He’ll be 31 at the start of the 2022 season.

The Kliff Kingsbury Cardinals have tended toward the other end of the two-tight end spectrum compared to Zimmer’s Vikings. But interestingly, Arizona responded to Williams’ knee injury with the most ambitious move of the trio, a trade for three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz. Now in his 30s, Ertz may not be the player he was in his late-2010s prime. But he bounced back from a -12.0% DVOA start with the Eagles in 2021 to -4.2% with the Cardinals and helped the latter team maintain its top-10 passing offense (24.8% DVOA), a distinction that has undoubtedly been lost in the Kyler Murray drama this offseason.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Steelers (10.1)—Eric Ebron (9.0, hamstring, ankle, and knee)
  • Jets (9.5)—Tyler Kroft (6.3, back, chest and COVID) and Ryan Griffin (3.2, knee)
  • Packers (9.1)—Robert Tonyan (9.0, knee, ACL tear)

Offensive Linemen

With pectoral and foot injuries, Brandon Brooks (15.0) and Isaac Seumalo (14.0) suffered their second consecutive lost seasons for the Eagles and pushed the team to a position-leading 38.6 AGL on the offensive line. But compared to 2020—when the team lost expected starters Brooks, Seumalo, Lane Johnson, and Andre Dillard, as well as replacement starter Jason Peters, for half the season or more—two season-long injuries were a nice reprieve. With a non-outlier high AGL total, the Eagles jumped from a 60% to a 67% pass block win rate and helped sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts improve from a worrying -17.6% passing DVOA in his rookie season to a near-average -0.4% rate as a sophomore.

The Packers followed the Eagles’ example of excellent line play despite significant injuries to All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (13.3) and Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins (8.5) plus Josh Myers (11.1) and Billy Turner (3.0). The Packers may have been even more impressive with their top-five finish in pass block win rate (66%) when you consider the team lost offensive line starters Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga to the Chargers in free agency the previous two offseasons.

While landing in the same offensive line AGL range as the Eagles and Packers, the Giants and Saints fared worse with their major absences—Shane Lemieux (16.0), Nick Gates (15.0), and Andrew Thomas (3.6) for the former and Andrus Peat (11.0), Landon Young (7.0), Ryan Ramcyzk (6.5), Terron Armstead (6.1), and Erik McCoy (4.0) for the latter. The Saints faced a particularly rude awakening from the top-three adjusted sack rates they saw in Drew Brees’ last healthy seasons from 2017 to 2019. The team finished 2021 with a bottom-10 adjusted sack rate of 7.7% and fared dramatically worse than their seventh-best 66% pass block win rate with less experienced and decisive hands under center.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Texans (38.0)—Marcus Cannon (13.0, back), Laremy Tunsil (12.0, thumb), and Justin Britt (5.7, knee and COVID)
  • Raiders (33.6)—Richie Incognito (17.0, calf) and Denzelle Good (16.0, knee, ACL tear)
  • Colts (31.7)—Sam Tevi (17.0, knee, ACL tear), Braden Smith (6.3, foot), and Quenton Nelson (5.1, ankle)
  • Ravens (30.9)—Ronnie Stanley (15.3, ankle) and Tyre Phillips (7.3, knee)
  • Chargers (30.4)—Bryan Bulaga (16.0, back) and Oday Aboushi (12.0, knee, ACL tear)

Defense

Defensive Linemen

The Cowboys figured to be the AGL story on the defensive line with star pass-rushers Demarcus Lawrence (10.1) and Randy Gregory (5.8) playing less than one full season between them, and also losing Neville Gallimore (12.0) and Brent Urban (11.0) for the bulk of the year with elbow and triceps injuries. But even with those losses, the Cowboys jumped from 28th in pass rush win rate in 2020 to 12th in 2021 and finished a surprising second in overall defense and pass defense DVOA. Micah Parsons looked like a generational draft pick hit in his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign. The natural off-ball linebacker often played out of position as a pass-rusher because of those defensive line injuries, and he finished tied for sixth among all defenders with 40 pass pressures per Sports Info Solutions charting. Chandler Jones played a similar role for a Cardinals front that lost Jack Crawford (17.0), J.J. Watt (10.0), and Jordan Phillips (8.6) for half or more of the season. Jones fell short of his peak disruptiveness with just 24 pressures, but he converted 10.5 into sacks and buoyed a top-six pass and run defense by DVOA.

With the Cowboys and Cardinals overcoming their adversity, the Jets and Steelers suffered most for their defensive line injuries. The Jets saw a preview of their disastrous string of injuries when major free agent Carl Lawson tore his Achilles in the preseason. He and Vinny Curry missed the full season and left the Jets with traditional rotation players in John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff, and Shaq Lawson in starting roles. And while T.J. Watt avoided his brother’s injury fate, his incredible productivity couldn’t carry a Steelers front without Stephon Tuitt (17.0) and Tyson Alualu (15.0). The Steelers slipped to eighth in pass defense DVOA and 14th in overall defensive DVOA, upper-half ratings but still dramatically short of their first-place finishes from 2020 that seemed necessary for potential playoff success opposite Ben Roethlisberger’s declining offense.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Vikings (26.3)—Danielle Hunter (10.0, pectoral), Michael Pierce (8.3, elbow and illness), and Everson Griffin (8.0, mental health)
  • Ravens (23.4)—Derek Wolfe (17.0, back)
  • Raiders (22.4)—Gerald McCoy (16.0, knee)
  • 49ers (19.2)—Javon Kinlaw (14.1, knee)

Linebackers

Russell Wilson’s decision to jump from the Seahawks to the Broncos looks strange in light of the teams’ nearly identical 3.5% and 3.0% defensive DVOA rates from 2021. But the Broncos defense was unlikely to slip into the bottom third in football without the 41.7 AGL they suffered at linebacker. Bradley Chubb (9.9) is the obvious blue-chip player. The former top-five pick had 27 pressures in just 14 games in 2020. But off-ball linebackers Josey Jewell (15.0) and Alexander Johnson (11.0) were important under-the-radar contributors. Jewell allowed just an 8.3% broken tackle rate in 2020 per Sports Info Solutions charting. That put him among the five lowest rates among linebackers with 50 or more attempted tackles. And Johnson was even better with a top-two 4.5% rate in 2021, albeit in only six starts. Johnson remains a free agent as I write this, but even Chubb and Jewell returning could spur dramatic defensive improvements when paired with free-agent additions Randy Gregory and D.J. Jones.

L.J. Fort (17.0) carried the bulk of the Ravens’ 22.1 AGL at linebacker and did not seem a keystone loss with first- and third-round sophomores Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison as mostly healthy options—when Harrison wasn’t dealing with the stray bullet he caught at a nightclub that apparently sounded much scarier than it proved to be threatening of his health. But clearly draft status isn’t everything. With 26.5% and 23.1% broken tackle rates, Queen and Harrison were two of the biggest offenders on a defense that finished with the sixth-worst broken tackle rate (11.4%). Without Fort, the undrafted 32-year-old veteran Josh Bynes was the Ravens’ lone linebacker bright spot with a 13.3% broken tackle rate in 2021.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Lions (30.6)—Romeo Okwara (13.6, Achilles tear) and Trey Flowers (10.6, shoulder and knee)
  • Titans (23.9)—David Long (7.3, hamstring), Monty Rice (5.0, groin and ankle), and Jayon Brown (4.6, knee)
  • Raiders (20.6)—Nicholas Morrow (17.0, ankle)
  • Bears (20.1)—Khalil Mack (11.4, foot) and Danny Trevathan (7.0, knee)
  • 49ers (19.5)—Dre Greenlaw (14.3, groin)
  • Jets (19.4)—Blake Cashman (14.0, hamstring and groin)
  • Giants (17.3)—Blake Martinez (14.0, knee, ACL tear)

Defensive Backs

For all of the Ravens’ injury issues on the defensive line and at linebacker, they can’t hold a candle to the 42.5 AGL the team suffered at defensive back. Expected outside cornerback starters Marcus Peters (16.0) and Marlon Humphrey (5.8) missed major chunks of the season with knee and pectoral injuries that put them on injured reserve. And while safety DeShon Elliott (10.1) was the only other defensive back starter or situational player with more than a handful of AGL, the Ravens’ secondary injuries clustered in the second half to an almost comical degree. In Weeks 15 and 16, the team was missing nine different defensive backs, including all four expected starters. In general, the team’s cornerback and safety injuries deserve the bulk of the blame for a decline from 10th in pass defense DVOA in 2020 to 30th last year.

The Jets, Panthers, and Bucs didn’t approach Ravens levels of misfortune, but they each lost multiple defensive back starters. Marcus Maye’s (10.0) Achilles injury robbed the Jets of a top-two safety in yards allowed per target and coverage success rate from 2020. And since the team opted to franchise Maye rather than work out an extension, the injury may have motivated Maye to sign with the Saints this offseason. The Panthers tried to inject their secondary with talent, but first-round rookie Jaycee Horn (14.0) missed most of the season with a broken foot, and his trade replacement and former defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore (4.1) struggled to stay on the field with quad and groin injuries and a stint on the COVID list. And while the Bucs returned to full defensive strength by the start of the playoffs, they saw a cluster of cornerback and safety injuries in September and October with Sean Murphy-Bunting (8.3), Carlton Davis (7.6), Richard Sherman (3.3), Antoine Winfield (3.5), and Jamel Dean (3.4) all missing time.

With 35.8 defensive back AGL, the 49ers came the closest to the Ravens disaster. But they shouldn’t be entirely surprised by that development. Jason Verrett (16.0) had missed time in all six of his previous NFL seasons, playing six or fewer games in four of them, and he lasted just 60 defensive snaps before a knee injury ended his 2021 campaign. Shorter-term injuries to Tarvarius Moore (5.0), Emmanuel Moseley (6.3), and Jaquiski Tartt (3.6) might have accelerated third-round rookie Ambry Thomas’ and other players’ promotions to starters. But the team either planned for that eventually or should have, given Verrett’s lengthy injury history.

Other notable impacted teams and players:

  • Colts (30.8)—Julian Blackmon (11.3, Achilles tear), Khari Willis (6.5, ankle, calf, and COVID), and Xavier Rhodes (4.6, calf)
  • Broncos (27.1)—Michael Ojemudia (12.0, hamstring), Ronald Darby (5.4, hamstring), and Bryce Callahan (5.0, knee and COVID)
  • Lions (26.9)—Jeff Okudah (16.0, Achilles tear)
  • Patriots (22.8)—Jonathan Jones (11.5, shoulder) and Stephon Gilmore (4.0, quad)
  • Falcons (21.1)—Isaiah Oliver (13.0, knee)

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2022/agl-position-2022-ravens-wrecked-rbdb