Deep Freeze Ravens Roundtable
Dan, Mike, Matt and Chris are back again, thawing out their brains during what feels like the dawning of a new ice age, for another Ravens roundtable discussion. The OC search is on, thoughts on the Ravens mindset after the State of the Ravens presser. Among other things, Super Bowl Sunday is ten days away. Enjoy!
Give us your thoughts on any of these topics over on our message board
1. As the search for a new offensive coordinator continues, and four candidates have become public favorites, is there anyone in particular you would like to see get the job? What do you like about them?
Dan Bryden: My favorite given the four candidates at this point is Kyle Shanahan. Assuming that a brash personality doesn’t hinder him from doing his job, I think he can flexibly use the Ravens tools and get the offense back on track. Passing strategies implemented with Robert Griffin in Washington can be similarly effective with Flacco (i.e. half-field reads, deep shots off play-action, 3-level flood concepts). I would even be ok with incorporating Shanahan’s familiar zone-blocking scheme as long as it isn’t overused given the Ravens offensive line personnel.
Mike Randall: I would list Kyle Shanahan, Scott Linehan, Kirby Wilson, and Jim Hostler in that order. If I had to go with one of those four that Harbs lists as the front runners, I think I would go with Shanahan and it’s not even close. I like that he’s a young guy that has had success with two different styles of quarterbacks. That shows me that he is able to adapt to whatever situation is thrown at him. But I wouldn’t stop looking there. I think you have to at least put in a call to Adam Gase from Denver after the Super Bowl, now that he’s told the Browns to move on with their HC search without him. Probably a long shot, but you never know. A visit to the castle might really impress him.
Matt Jergensen: I’d say Shanahan. He’s had success wherever he’s been and I think he’d be able to most importantly get the running game back to where it needs to be. I do think that his personality may get in the way of him actually getting hired though. Something tells me that Jim Hostler will get the keys and that just doesn’t make sense considering he helped with game planning this past season. It simply time for a fresh perspective and to get that you need to go outside the Castle.
Chris Worthington: As I stated on Sports Tonight, I’m in favor of Kyle Shanahan. I know he has character issues that people are concerned about, but I think he has a high football IQ, and to me that’s a critical trait. He has learned a lot from his father and from Gary Kubiak, who are both influential minds when it comes to the west coast offense and the zone blocking scheme. I also think that Kyle, rather than Kubiak or other WCO proponents, is willing to adapt his scheme to the personnel. Obviously he ran a vastly different offense in Washington than the one he helped coach in Houston. That leads me to believe that he will play to Flacco’s strengths, while also bringing some important variety because of his background.
2. The Ravens had their State if the Ravens press conference shortly after our last roundtable. What opinions did you take away from it that you agree with?
DB: Going back and watching the Ravens struggle defensively toward the end of the season, I thought that a priority in the off-season was bringing in a Free Safety. The Ravens shared my opinion on this. Poor angles and inexperience in the deep middle of the field limited the defensive play-calls and forced underneath defenders to play uncomfortable positions themselves (i.e. Jimmy Smith as a Cover-2 CB).
MR: Ozzie was very forward pertaining to Terrell Suggs. He made it very obvious that they don’t have a problem releasing him. I think the quote was, “We let go of good players last year.” The way he disappeared in the second half of the season, the Ravens can’t pay him what he would be on the books for in 2014, $12.4M. Too many other places to upgrade and there are decent players behind him in Dumervil, Upshaw, McPhee, and Simon.
MJ: The defense needs to be aggressive and attacking. They need to act and not react to what offenses are trying to do and use more disguise in blitzes and coverages. Perhaps the argument can be made that the personnel on defense didn’t allow Pees to do as much of that as he’d hoped and to be fair there was great turnover among the starting unit. Still Baltimore needs to get back to the style of defense that has been its trademark – causing turnovers and disrupting an offense.
CW: I thought their assessment of the team’s needs was spot on. We need a receiver. We desperately need a free safety. And we need to bolster the interior of the line. I think a highly effective slot receiver who is a great route runner OR a big outside threat who can take some pressure off of Torrey Smith would improve the offense significantly. I also think the receiver search will depend on who the team brings in as the OC. In my opinion, free safety is the team’s biggest need. The defense was hamstrung all year because they lacked that rangey, athletic presence in the deep middle of the field. Both Ihedigbo and Elam are much better as strong safeties. Once the team gets a true FS, they can use many more coverages and play to their strengths better. I think with the right player, the Ravens could have a great Cover 1 defense next year, with some Cover 3 sprinkled in there. As far as the O-line, we all know what went wrong there. Depth is an issue, size is an issue, and inexperience is an issue.
3. Anything that rubs you the wrong way, or worries you after the presser?
DB: Newsome’s first response to the question “what do you identify as the top needs in this offseason?” was “We’ve got to get bigger in the interior of our offensive line.” Center and Left Guard were clearly weak spots last season, but with Osemele coming back (presumably to Left Guard) and Gradkowski improving toward the end of the year, I don’t think addressing the interior line should be a huge priority. A veteran guard/center could go a long way from a competition stand-point, but I don’t think substantial money or early draft picks should be allocated to this area.
MR: Harbaugh mentioned that he thinks Aaron Mellette could be a factor in the deep passing game. Does this mean he’ll take Jacoby Jones spot if he’s not retained? Are they content with trotting out the same style of offense that didn’t produce much at all last year by having Mellette and Torrey run deep routes/low percentage passes all day? Are they content with the group of Smith, Brown, Mellette, Thompson, and Doss(if he is tendered). I wouldn’t be. I just worry that they might consider Mellette the upgrade they are looking for, rather than exploring other options.
MJ: Did Andy Moeller get fired? I don’t know considering his name was never mentioned before or after Juan Castillo’s elevation to Offensive Line coach. The whole Castillo situation was handled poorly. If you want him as your line coach, then give him the job. Don’t create some made up title that now supercedes your current coach. It causes confusion and uncertainty.
CW: I hope that everyone in the front office feels the same way Bisciotti does about finding a receiver in the draft. I believe he called it a crap shoot – and it is. Unfortunately, as Mike detailed in his latest article, the list of FA wide receivers is pretty weak this year. I think the team needs to make a trade for an impact player at this position, despite how supposedly deep the WR class in this year’s draft is.
4. We have heard every mock draft pundit predict players from O-Line to WR to TE, even inside LB for the Ravens to select in the first round of the draft. We assumed O-Line would be the top priority. What are your thoughts on where to go now with the first round pick?
DB: Without doing my own film study of the college players coming out, I can’t say I have a favorite player that fits the Ravens yet. But Offensive Tackle and a physically gifted Wide Receiver would be on the top of my wish-list.
MR: I completely trust the judgment of the Ravens scouting department. I think they need to protect Joe Flacco with the first pick, and give him a weapon with the second pick. But if they feel like they can get the lineman they want in the second and the receiver they want will need to be taken first, I trust their judgment there. Just don’t draft a fullback please. I’d like their receiver to be of the bigger variety. Also would like to see a TE taken at some point. Signing Pitta is a priority, but he’s the only TE unless they promote Furstenburg.
MJ: I’d take an Offensive Tackle or a big receiving target in the first round. We’ve seen a few early names tossed around like Mike Evans and if he’s still there when the Ravens pick I wouldn’t mind seeing him in purple.
CW: I think a tackle is a priority, although as Rob and Mike pointed out last night on their show, the Ravens may be considering Ricky Wagner for a starting position next year. That would certainly help, but I remain very skeptical about the depth across the offensive line. That being said, if there is a stud ILB available when the Ravens are on the board, that would be a tempting pick. Daryl Smith isn’t a spring chicken and our other ILBs haven’t convinced me they can be reliable, every-down players.
5. Who do you feel has the most to prove next season? A second year guy that will compete for more playing time? Maybe a player in a contract year? Maybe a veteran guy?
DB: I think Arthur Brown has a lot to prove this coming season. He was highly praised coming out of K-State and I thought he would play far more that he did in 2013 (211 total snaps). He is a light-footed linebacker with good technique but he could use a bit more bulk on his frame in order to handle second-level blocks. With the Ravens ILB corps in a state of flux, I think he has an opportunity to be more than a nickel linebacker.
MR: I would say someone like Flacco, or Rice have to prove that 2013 was a blip in an otherwise solid career. But if they don’t improve on last year, what happens? Nothing. They’re still going to be here in 2015, getting paid big money with that big shiny ring from a year ago that can never be taken away. I think the guy with the most to prove not only to the Ravens, but the rest of the league, is Torrey Smith. He’s playing for his first free agent contract and if he’s going to be looked at as a team’s number one option, I think he needs to find the endzone more than four times. He needs to be better in press coverage to win in the red zone. Coaches can scheme better to give him better opportunities as well.
MJ: I think the entire 2013 draft class needs to take a step forward. Media and staff raved about the players they drafted yet only Matt Elam made any real impact on the field. In the age of the Salary cap it is crucial to get production from low cost players that you control for multiple seasons. The Ravens have had a pretty decent track record of developing players over the years and I’m hoping they do the same with that group. Don’t forget about Kapron Lewis-Moore and Aaron Mellette either.
CW: A good question. I think Torrey Smith will have a lot to prove next year. If a deal doesn’t get done in the offseason, it’ll be a contract year for him. And yes, his numbers are up, but I think the team and the fans expected him to blossom into a true threat, a top-10 guy at his position. At this point, he isn’t even close. He’s still young, but he remains very raw, and I think that he needs to look the part in his fourth year or else the Ravens will have to think long and hard about paying big money to a guy that, so far, hasn’t earned it.
6. Everyone has an opinion on abolishing extra points and kickoffs. What’s your solution? Love it or leave it?
DB: In the instance of abolishing Extra Points, I’m perfectly fine with the NFL’s proposal to implement NFL Blitz rules (auto-extra point, go for two if desired). Currently it’s a wasted play in the game but on the bright side, they allow me to catch up after I’ve hit the Rewind button too much. Kickoffs should be left alone. This is where players make a name for themselves on Special Teams and moving the ball to the 35 has already effectively taken this play away.
MR: I’m fine with leaving everything as is. But, if they want to do away with the PAT, the conversion for eight if you make it, six if you miss, would make for interesting coaching decisions as the game goes on. I’d rather they move kickoffs back to the 30, but it’ll never happen. Some kids find a spot on the team as a special teamer. Don’t take that away from them.
MJ: Leave it. Extra points seem like a forgone conclusion but they are missed albeit rarely. I wouldn’t make anything automatic. Earn your points. Kickoffs should stay the same as well. It’s another aspect of the game that is exciting and important.
CW: I’m fine with kickoffs as they are. The PAT is certainly boring, though, and I’m all for changes to this aspect of the game.
7. Super Bowl Sunday. Weather permitting, what’s on the agenda? Any traditions or special items on the menu?
DB: Gathering with friends. I assume there will be grilled meats and dips that incorporate a lot of cheese. I try to focus on the game and leave my eating/talking for the commercials.
MR: This is very lame, but I haven’t made plans yet. The only tradition is to get into as many block pools as I can (which I’m pretty sure I’ve never won one).
MJ: I’m firmly in the camp that says the Super Bowl should be on Saturday. No work the next day and it would allow people to truly celebrate and enjoy themselves, though some may do that anyway. It will be low key at my house due to how late it will be on and that I need to get kids to bed and ready for school. As far as menu I’ll probably get or make some Butter and Old Bay chicken wings.
CW: Not too many special menu items for me. I typically make some guacomole. My favorite tradition is gambling on the Super Bowl pool. Fill out some squares and hope that you get the 7s and 4s and 0s. I typically get together with my college friends, and that’s what I’ll do this year, too.
8. Seattle or Denver. Who do you got taking home the 48th Lombardi Trophy and why?
DB: I think Denver takes it although I don’t think the score will be that high. Denver will struggle to hold up against the Seattle pass-rush and the amount of press coverage their bound to face. I see Denver scoring in the low twenties with Manning able to use standard coverage beaters against Seattle’s predominant Cover-3 scheme while Wilson struggles to push the ball down-field with his sub-par receiving group. Lynch has a huge game but Seattle falls just short.
MR: I’ve been wrong about pretty much all of my playoff picks up to this point. So not that it means much, but I’ll take Seattle. The defense is just stifling at times. They should hold Denver’s running game in check which could be huge in keeping Manning in 3rd and longer situations. I think Lynch can have a great game, and has a history of turning up the “beast mode-ness” to another level in the post season. Wilson can do enough to keep the Seattle in the game by not making mistakes. The defense and run game prevail. Plus, what if it’s frigid up there? Manning hasn’t really been tested in the cold yet. The temp at kickoff of the AFC title game was 63! I’ll say Seattle 26 – Denver 24.
MJ: Denver. The Broncos offense should be able to put up enough points to get past a very strong Seattle defense. I will be very interested in how the game is called and just how physical they will let the Seahawks be. It will have a great impact on the score. Still I see a game in the twenties but if Seattle can get a few turnovers and turn the Beast loose they will have a shot.
CW: I like Denver to win this year. As I told Rob and Mike last night, I think that Russel Wilson is an x-factor for Seattle. He could really make or break them. His tendency to take the infinite drop back and then loop around and try to avoid defenders is flashy but disastrous. He took WAY too many 15+ yard drops for my liking against San Francisco, and it’ll come back to haunt him if he can’t stay in or around the pocket. However, if he can calm his nerves, stay in and/or climb the pocket, and keep his eyes downfield, he can certainly make all the throws. A great game from Russel Wilson might make Seattle unbeatable. I just don’t see it happening. Meanwhile, Manning is on a tear and the Denver defense is playing above expectation despite its numerous injuries. I really thought that losing Chris Harris against New England would hurt more than it did. Likewise, I thought losing Von Miller would be a big detriment, but Shaun Phillips continues to prove his worth. What a great acquisition by Denver. I think the Broncos are talented enough to score touchdowns against the stingy Seattle defense, and I think that Seattle’s shabby line and happy-feet quarterback might doom them.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]