The 2019 Baltimore Ravens took the NFL by storm in a number of ways. Most of these revolved around the supernatural talents of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who combined his generational rushing ability and rocket arm en route to a 14-2 record and the unanimous NFL MVP.
The NFL is a copycat league, but the tricky part for other franchises is the fact that Lamar Jackson doesn't grow on trees. He is an all-time outlier and teams look to mimic Greg Roman's complex scheme won't find the same success without Lamar Jackson running things.
One area they can emulate, however, comes in how active they are in the seconds leading up to each play.
Like most team sports, football is a game of deception. The chess match between offensive and defensive coordinators is constantly being played, between every game, every drive, and even every snap.
Pre-snap motion gives offenses an extra level of deception. Offenses already have an edge over defenses thanks to recent rule changes and there's also the fact that the former is proactive while the latter is reactive.
It's no surprise, then, to see how much success can come when a team incorporates more pre-snap motion into its scheme.
You're reading that right. The twelve teams with the highest rates of having a player in motion at the time of the snap in Week 1 won their games. With 16 games, only 16 teams won overall, so seeing 12 of them rank at the top of the leaderboard is astonishing.
The Ravens finished fourth on Sunday, while the Washington Football Team was a surprising third overall.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bottom seven teams all lost.
Not only does pre-snap motion help disguise what the offense is trying to do, but it also helps give away defenders' responsibilities. If a wide receiver crosses from one side of the field to another, the defender shadowing him is going to follow. And if a player is still moving at the moment of the snap, then defenses don't have a chance to see the new formation and get everybody set into a new position.
For a unit as reliant on communication and teamwork as defense, this is a killer.
Pre-snap motion isn't necessarily a market inefficiency when it comes to modern analytics, but it is a simple tool that should clearly be used more often than it is. Like play-action, the numbers show that "overusing" this tactic isn't really possible; no matter how often teams go to this well, it continues to boost their likelihood of running a successful play.
It's even less surprising to see the Ravens at the forefront of an analytics-driven concept. They may have only finished fourth in the metric on Sunday but led the NFL by far in 2019, the year their offense shattered records. As teams look to gain an edge on the smallest of margins, numbers like these could drive widespread changes across the league as teams adopt these concepts.
The pre-snap motion revolution is here, and more wins are here with it.