3 major changes to Baltimore Ravens defense

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Wink Martindale, Baltimore Ravens
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1. Baltimore Ravens play two-high safeties more often

The last signature of a Wink Martindale defense is running single-high coverage, or middle-of-the-field-closed (MOFC). Martindale would add an extra layer of run support, and he packed the boxes, making the box safety a threat to blitz at any time. Of course, as we keep noting the big plays can come from the defense thanks to this style, but the back end can be burnt just as easily.

Mike MacDonald has adopted more of a two-high shell, or middle-of-the-field open (MOFO). This has been a trend that has started to take over in the NFL. The thought is that when the best teams have Tyreek Hill and Ja'Marr Chase, you have to be able to accept a run for a few yards if it means those names do not get loose for huge plays.

So, teams are bringing their safety out of the box, and leaving the short areas of the field more open. However, both safeties will then form a two-high shell over the defense that prevents the big plays toward both sidelines.

The middle of the field is more open, but the shell allows the defense to tackle the catch, and keep things in front. This is what MacDonald has done. Last year, the Ravens were MOFC on about 50% of their snaps. This year, that number is down to 40%. The rate is about the drop from 12th in the NFL to 29th. So, the Ravens were already average in this area, making it easier to drop to the bottom five.

This does show that even in the areas where Martindale leads the league, those shifts closer to 20th in the NFL may be transitions that lead to MacDonald being bottom five in all of those categories. It is pretty clear that MacDonald will call things completely differently from Martindale, and the differences are likely to only grow over the next few years.

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Martindale was all about his blitzing, and playing man and one-high, while MacDonald is going to rush four, play zone, and run two-high. We will see how much more the sides diverge in 2023.