Breaking down tendencies of Baltimore Ravens DC Mike MacDonald

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the Baltimore Ravens hired Mike MacDonald from Michigan to replace Wink Martindale, everyone knew that it would be a big change in defense. However, some may not have realized how drastic it was. As the season went on, things got better, but the combination of a first-year NFL coordinator and a major change in the defensive scheme took time.

Breaking down tendencies of Baltimore Ravens DC Mike MacDonald

So, what were the trends, or tendencies that Mike MacDonald ran compared to Martindale? Thanks to Sam Hoppen we are able to compare some of the key notes from each.

Heavy Box%

We go on about how the Ravens' defense was so much different, and the first tendency we look into shows they ran a heavy box 12.4% of the time with both Martindale and MacDonald.

Light Box %

They also ran a light box at nearly the same amount. Martindale was at 17.1% with Baltimore, and MacDonald only jumped it up to 17.2%. It is worth noting that Martindale ran much heavier boxes in New York, but that may be due to personnel and not the scheme.

Nickel %

Here is where we start to see the difference. Mike MacDonald ran nickel on 62% of his snaps, more than the league average of 60%. On the flip side, Martindale ran nickel just 53.7% of the time when he was with the Ravens, and that dropped to 41.9% with the Giants. Again, this could be personnel related, and the Ravens eventually moved rookie Kyle Hamilton into the slot on nickel snaps, so this became advantageous to run.

With Hamilton back at safety, and the Ravens needing help in the slot it will be interesting to see if the Baltimore Ravens go back to running less nickel.


One thing the Ravens will always do is run dime. They ran dime 25% with Martindale and then 23.4% with MacDonald. This goes back to personnel; the Ravens always have depth and talent in the safety room. This can be shown by the reality that Martindale immediately dropped to 14% when he went to a team with a much worse depth chart in their secondary.

Blitz %

When we are talking about the difference between Martindale and MacDonald, this is what we mean. Martindale blitzed 41.5% of the time with Baltimore. That number somehow went up with the Giants. Considering the average is 27.8% league-wide, this is one heck of a blitz rate. On the flip side, Mike MacDonald does not blitz. He blitzes 23.4% which is over 4% below the average. So, going from one of the most aggressive blitzing units to below-average is certainly an adjustment.

Zone %

We see another big shift here. Martindale did not run much zone, down at 57.6%. Meanwhile, he was even lower with the Giants last year at 55.8%. The league average is 67.2%. The Ravens immediately shifted to MacDonald, who ran zone on 72.9% of the snaps. That is well above the league average. So, once again, we see the shift from below average to well above.


Of course, if you are not playing zone, you probably are playing man coverage. The Ravens ran man on 42.4% of the defensive snaps with Martindale, and he dialed that up to 44.2% last season. With the average being 32.8%, he was well above in both seasons. Then, we have Mike MacDonald, who only called man 25.1% of the time for the Baltimore Ravens. This is another stark contrast.

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So, personnel dictates the scheme. When the Ravens have a slot, they can play nickel, but they always have the talent to play dime, and their box count remains the same. However, they went from a man coverage unit who blitzed often to a team that sits back in zone and does not blitz. We will see how much these tendencies either shift or find a middle ground based on the personnel changes this offseason.