By the time the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens kickoff at Century Link Field on Sunday afternoon, the Hawks may be locked in second place in the NFC West, depending on how things play out in for the San Francisco 49ers when they travel east for an early game against the Washington Redskins.
Thus, while the Seahawks may play Sunday without a chance to move up in the division, the game against the Ravens will give readers a chance to look smart in front of their friends while watching the game. I’ve been highly critical of the predictability of the Seattle offense under Brian Schottenheimer, including the directional tells and play tipping. However, with Baltimore coming to town, it’s a chance for me to point out how a single player on the Ravens offensive line often tips whether a coming play is a run or a pass based solely on his alignment.
For those fans who recall the 2018 NFL Combine, while Saquon Barkley was grabbing the headlines for his astounding athleticism, it was Orlando Brown who was grabbing whatever remaining headlines were available because of his astounding lack of athleticism. Brown’s performance at the combine was historically bad, especially considering that heading into the combine many observers felt he was a lock to be a Day 1 pick. However, when he put up absolutely horrific athleticism numbers at the combine, that quickly changed. He was able to improve on his performance at his Pro Day, but the concerns about his lack of speed still led him to slip into the third round of the draft.
In any case, for those who do not pay attention during the offseason, here’s how Brown tested at the combine and at his Pro Day.
Orlando Brown Combine and Pro Day results
The reason why this is interesting is that through the first six weeks of 2019 Brown has already been flagged twice for running plays out of an illegal formation when Brown lined up too deep in the backfield to be considered on the line of scrimmage. Thus, the question becomes, why would a player line up that deep in the backfield?
The answer may be as simple as the fact that Brown may have lined up that deep in order to get a head start on a pass rusher with better footspeed.
Opponents this season have looked to take advantage of Brown with speed rushes, such as TJ Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers did successfully in Week 5.
So, in order to combat edge rushers who are quicker and faster than himself, Brown appears to be lining up a half step deeper in order to be able to better address the pass rush. Unfortunately, for the Ravens, he’s only doing that on pass plays, which means that in looking his alignment in relation to the right guard, it’s possible to tell whether a pass or a run is coming with relatively high accuracy.
For example, this alignment is indicative of a run play coming from the Ravens.
From this angle, and thanks to the fact that the Ravens are near midfield, it’s very easy to see that Brown is lined up in line with the guard next to him. The same goes for this running play as well.
And this one.
As well as this one.
Finally with this one as well.
Now, in contrast, when the Ravens are passing, Brown tends to line up a shade deeper than the right guard. We see that here.
As well as here.
It’s seen again here.
And again here.
And then it’s obviously a pass here.
Even with the Ravens pinned deep in their own territory and two tight ends in the game, Brown’s alignment screams that a pass play is coming, and sure enough the Ravens passed on this play.
Now, this is obviously not a perfect tell, but after picking up on it while watching film I tested it by watching the Ravens Week 6 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. I quit testing 25 plays in because in spite of ignoring the down and distance, I had guessed 21 correctly based on nothing more than Brown’s alignment in relation to the right guard. So, it not’s a perfect tell, but keep an eye on Brown’s alignment on Sunday when he’s lined up against the Seahawks defense, as it may give you an opportunity to look like you’ve been hanging out with Tony Romo in predicting what’s coming. It should be especially prevalent when the Ravens are moving left to right on the television screen, as that should give the best view of Brown in relation to right guard Marshal Yanda.