Ravens special teams once again rank among NFL’s elite

January 23, 2018 | Luke Jones

The Ravens may have fallen from the overall ranks of the elite in recent years, but their special teams remain among the best in the NFL.

Baltimore ranked fourth in senior NFL writer Rick Gosselin’s 2017 special teams report and has now finished in the top five in six consecutive seasons, the only team to do so. Gosselin’s formula is determined by ranking all 32 teams in 22 kicking game categories and assigning points according to their order — one for best and 32 for worst.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg’s group finished first or tied for first in kickoff returns, kickoff coverage, kickoff starting point, punts inside the 20, extra-point percentage, fewest points allowed, and fewest giveaways. The Los Angeles Rams finished atop the overall rankings this season followed by Kansas City, New England, the Ravens, and Dallas.

Kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch, and long snapper Morgan Cox have all been invited to Pro Bowls in recent years, but a number of other special-teams contributors stood out this season, ranging from kick returner and gunner Chris Moore to leading tackler Anthony Levine and punt returner Michael Campanaro. The group’s consistency over the years is a testament to Rosburg, who was even recognized as a “Gruden Grinder” by former ESPN analyst and new Oakland head coach Jon Gruden after the Monday night win over Houston in late November.

The Ravens continued to excel on special teams in 2017 despite the absence or departure of some key performers from past seasons such as linebacker Albert McClellan, tight end Darren Waller, safety Matt Elam, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

While Gosselin’s report is highly respected around the league, Football Outsiders ranked the Ravens as the best in the NFL this season in terms of special teams defense-adjusted value over average, or special teams DVOA. The DVOA was calculated using five major categories: field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kick returns, punts, and punt returns.

Making the first-place finish in DVOA more impressive was that the website ranked Baltimore 24th in the “hidden” category, which considers the advantage teams receive from elements generally out of their control such as opposing field goals and the distance of opponent punts and kickoffs. In other words, the Ravens special teams weren’t considered to be particularly lucky with variables out of their hands.

Regarded as one of the great special-teams minds around the league, the 62-year-old Rosburg will be entering his 11th season with the Ravens after being hired by head coach John Harbaugh in 2008.