Tag Archive | "dean pees"

Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees listens to a reporter's question at a news conference after an NFL football training camp practice on Saturday, July 26, 2014, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pees staying, Monachino leaving Ravens coaching staff

Posted on 07 January 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Head coach John Harbaugh says he won’t be making any changes to his 2016 coaching staff, but he will be losing a key defensive assistant.

Linebackers coach Ted Monachino has been hired as the new defensive coordinator in Indianapolis, joining friend and former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. The Colts fired defensive coordinator Greg Manusky earlier this week, and Monachino immediately emerged as the top candidate to replace him.

Having coached the Baltimore outside linebackers since 2010, Monachino is extremely close with six-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs and served as his defensive line coach at Arizona State.

“That’s a great opportunity for him,” Harbaugh said. “It speaks to the quality of the guys that we have.”

Some had thought Monachino might be the eventual successor to defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who will return despite the Ravens finishing 24th in the NFL in points allowed and shattering the franchise record for fewest takeaways in a season with only 14. First-year defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt will also return after drawing criticism as Baltimore allowed 30 touchdown passes and collected a league-worst six interceptions, both franchise worsts.

Many fans and media had wondered if Pees’ job might be in jeopardy, but Harbaugh expressed confidence in his entire coaching staff while acknowledging they will make adjustments in schemes and other processes this offseason. With Pees and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman both set to return, the Ravens will begin consecutive seasons with the same coordinators for the first time since 2009 and 2010 with Greg Mattison and Cam Cameron.

“I know what kind of coach Dean Pees is,” Harbaugh said. “I look at the season and the improvements that we made — especially in the back end — throughout the course of the season, and that’s what you look for. You’re going to face struggles and trials, and things don’t always play out the way you want them to.”

The Baltimore defense improved substantially in the second half of the season after ranking 25th in total defense through the first eight weeks. The Ravens finished eighth in the league in total defense — they also finished in the same spot in 2014 — and were second in yards allowed over their final eight games.

Harbaugh hopes that second-half improvement will carry over to 2016.

“We were up and down and inconsistent throughout the first eight games of the season, for sure,” Harbaugh said. “We went to battle and went to work to correct those things and found a way to correct most of them throughout the course of the season.

“We still have plenty of work to do, but I trust Dean. I know he’s a very good coach and all those guys — I know they’re good coaches. You work side by side with a bunch of guys through a season like this, you find out what they’re made of, and I like our guys.”

Comments Off on Pees staying, Monachino leaving Ravens coaching staff

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.50.37 AM

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Report: Indianapolis interested in Ravens’ Monachino as coordinator

Posted on 06 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Though the Indianapolis Colts surprisingly retained Chuck Pagano as their head coach, they could now be after a top Ravens defensive assistant.

After firing defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on Tuesday, the Colts consider Baltimore linebackers coach Ted Monachino to be a strong candidate to replace him, according to FOX Sports. A Ravens assistant since 2010, the 49-year-old Monachino has been considered by some as the eventual successor to current defensive coordinator Dean Pees and is highly respected within the organization.

Monachino is extremely close with six-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs after also serving as his defensive line coach at Arizona State. He has been mentioned as a defensive coordinator candidate in the past, but he has never served in that capacity at the collegiate level or in the NFL.

Head coach John Harbaugh has often said he won’t stand in the way of his assistants receiving promotions elsewhere and has seen a number of assistants do exactly that over the years.

Comments Off on Report: Indianapolis interested in Ravens’ Monachino as coordinator

mallett

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 02 January 2016 by Luke Jones

For the first time since Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens enter a game knowing it will be their last one of a season.

Their playoff hopes may have been all but crushed by Halloween, but John Harbaugh and his team have looked toward the future and believe they’re already laying the groundwork for the 2016 season despite 20 players — eight of them starters — currently residing on injured reserve. Last Sunday’s 20-17 upset win over Pittsburgh served as their version of a Super Bowl in Baltimore’s first season with double-digit losses since 2007.

Of course, a number of Ravens could be playing their final game with the franchise on Sunday as offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, linebacker Courtney Upshaw, and kicker Justin Tucker headline a list of pending free agents this offseason. Specifics remain cloudy, but Baltimore will undergo a number of changes this winter in an effort to bounce back from the first losing season of the Harbaugh era.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Cincinnati for the 40th time in franchise history and own a 20-19 mark. Baltimore has lost four straight and five of the last six to the Bengals, who are trying to clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Denver loss.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to wrap a disappointing 2015 season on a high note with back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati …

1. Ryan Mallett will come back down to earth after a surprising Ravens debut. I still can’t quite believe how easy it looked for the quarterback against the Steelers as he made good decisions and commanded the huddle less than two weeks after being signed. That said, Mallett was playing at home and against a defense inferior to the one he’ll see this week. The Bengals are effective disguising their blitzes and coverages before the snap, which will result in choppier results from the Baltimore offense playing in a hostile environment. Mallett showed against Pittsburgh why the Ravens envision him as their 2016 backup to Joe Flacco, but he’ll make more mistakes and turn it over twice in his second start.

2. The Ravens secondary will not hold down A.J. Green like it did against Antonio Brown. Asked how to stop the Bengals’ five-time Pro Bowl receiver, defensive coordinator Dean Pees joked, “Make him inactive.” The Ravens threw everything but the kitchen sink at Brown in coverage last week and held him to seven catches for 61 yards, but Green is a different player because of his 6-foot-4 frame. It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Smith shadows Green, but the cornerback had one of his worst games of the season against him in Week 3. Green’s recent numbers have been stunted with AJ McCarron starting, but that will change as he goes over 100 receiving yards and catches a touchdown.

3. Maxx Williams will finish with the best game of his rookie season. It’s been a quiet year for the second-round pick, but his 26 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown have outdone the likes of Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta, and Crockett Gillmore in their respective rookie years. The 21-year-old needs to mature physically and improve his agility and quickness this offseason, but he’s been targeted 10 times over the last two games and should have an advantage when matched up against Cincinnati’s coverage-challenged linebackers. With the Bengals strong in the secondary, Mallett will look Williams’ way over the middle portion of the field and he’ll catch a touchdown and surpass 50 receiving yards.

4. Giovani Bernard and Buck Allen will each catch touchdown passes against linebackers who struggle in coverage. McCarron and Mallett will see check-downs to their backs as their best friend. Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley have both struggled against the pass this year, so look for the Ravens to again use Zach Orr in some obvious passing situations in an effort to slow Bernard out of the backfield. Meanwhile, the Bengals’ trio of A.J. Hawk, Rey Maualuga, and Vontaze Burfict simply lack the athleticism to cover, which should create some open space for Allen. Neither quarterback will put up big-time numbers, but their running backs will help in moving the ball through the air.

5. The Ravens will conclude the 2015 season with a 24-17 loss, their 14th game decided by one possession. You couldn’t help but be impressed by the way Baltimore played against its arch rival in Week 16, but the Bengals are a more balanced team than Pittsburgh and have something to play for in the regular-season finale. The Ravens will compete despite their personnel deficiencies and misfortune, but I just can’t see Mallett playing at such a high level again on the road and against a better defense that’s given Flacco problems over the years. Ultimately, a couple crucial mistakes will be the difference as Baltimore is left wondering what might have been in the final game of a lost season.

Comments Off on Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

clausen

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ravens preparing to go with Clausen if Schaub can’t play

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Veteran quarterback Matt Schaub failed to practice for a second straight day as the Ravens continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

That meant backup Jimmy Clausen received the lion’s share of the practice reps on Thursday as he could face Seattle for the second time this season. Clausen filled in for injured Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in Week 3, a 26-0 loss in which he threw for just 63 yards against the NFL’s fourth-ranked pass defense.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman says Schaub continues to prepare mentally in their meeting room, but the Ravens are doing everything they can on the practice field for Clausen to prepare to make the start at M&T Bank Stadium if needed. Of course, Clausen only joined the Ravens on Nov. 24, making his learning curve a challenging one.

“We have a menu of things that we can run,” Trestman said. “Last night, we sat down after practice and went over the things we feel really good about. We’ll continue to pare it down and get to the things that he feels the best with — both running and throwing the football — and that’s what we’ll do on Sunday.

“But we have enough in [the game plan] that we can stretch the field vertically and horizontally. We have a run game in where we have an adequate menu of runs and things that he can do. I think we feel good about that.”

Should Clausen start on Sunday, he would become just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start two games against the same opponent in a season while playing for two different teams.

“I’ve been through this with Jimmy before in Chicago where we had to get him ready quickly as well,” Trestman said. “I think it’s something that we’ll do well with.”

Offensive line shuffling?

Right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday, but the Ravens practiced without either starting tackle a day earlier, leading some to believe whether they might do some shuffling along the offensive line.

James Hurst has started six games in place of left tackle Eugene Monroe this season — including the last two — but Pro Football Focus has graded the second-year lineman 75th out of 76 offensive tackles this season. In the past, Baltimore has used guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda at tackle, and offensive line coach Juan Castillo regularly cross-trains his players to be able to play multiple positions in an injury pinch.

“If you’re out here for an entire practice, you see that we move people around,” Trestman said. “Juan does a nice job of giving everybody opportunities to get work at different places because of our injury situation. Everybody has to be ready to do different things. We move people around during practice.”

Pees sounds off

Asked if he could ever recall coaching a defense that hadn’t received an offensive holding call in its favor for 10 consecutive games, defensive coordinator Dean Pees couldn’t help but take the bait despite knowing the NFL’s policy to not criticize officiating.

“Am I allowed to comment on lousy officiating?” said Pees as he laughed. “No, probably not. I don’t even know if I had that [coaching] at Elmwood High School in 1975. Hey, it is what it is. They see what they see. They don’t see what they don’t want to see.”

Injury report

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (back), DE Chris Canty (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder), QB Matt Schaub (chest), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Rick Wagner (ankle), DT Brandon Williams (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), TE Maxx Williams (concussion)

SEATTLE
OUT: RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Michael Bennett (non-injury), Demarcus Dobbs (concussion), DT Jordan Hill (toe), DE Cliff Avril (non-injury)

Comments Off on Ravens preparing to go with Clausen if Schaub can’t play

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 9.51.45 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Landry remains threat despite Miami’s offensive woes

Posted on 03 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens won’t know exactly what to expect from a Miami offense under new leadership on Sunday.

Ranking 27th in the NFL in total offense, rush offense, and points per game, the Dolphins fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on Monday with quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor now taking over the play-calling duties and quarterback Ryan Tannehill having more input with the offensive game plan. It can’t get any worse for a group that’s averaged just 20.5 points per game and ranks 31st in the NFL in third-down conversions at just 27.7 percent.

Now in his fourth year after signing a $96 million extension in the spring, Tannehill hasn’t had a poor season statistically, but his offense simply hasn’t gotten on track in a disappointing 2015 season that began with the Dolphins expecting to compete for a playoff spot.

“It’s a little bit of everything and everybody has their own piece of it for sure, absolutely,” said second-year wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is one of the few bright spots for Miami in 2015. “The key things are definitely turnovers and penalties. I think that has held us back thus far. If we find ways to eliminate that, then I think we can be an explosive offense.”

Building on a solid rookie season, Landry has become the Dolphins’ best offensive player in making 76 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown. The LSU product fell to the second round of the 2014 draft because of an underwhelming 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine, but his 358 yards after the catch are tied for fourth among NFL wide receivers this season.

Though his pass defense has made modest improvement in recent weeks and is now up to 24th in the league, defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows whatever new wrinkles the Dolphins might show are bound to include new ways to get the football to Landry. The Ravens will need to know where Landry is at all times as they try to not only win their third straight game but also win a game in Miami for the third consecutive season.

“There are guys like that who do not necessarily go out and run a 40 that absolutely blows everybody’s mind, but they are just really good football players– great eyes, quick, good vision,” Pees said. “Not every great [skill-position player] in the NFL has been a 4.3 guy. There are guys that have good vision. He is one of those guys that when he catches a ball, it’s like a punt return. He has quick feet, exceptional eyes. His yards come running after the catch, and he makes a lot of people miss.

“I can’t tell you what it is; it’s just it.”

Landry takes a high number of snaps in the slot, meaning it will primarily be the responsibility of cornerback Lardarius Webb to keep him in check when the Ravens are in the nickel package. Maligned due to health concerns and uninspiring play over the last couple years, the 30-year-old has quietly had a solid season playing in all but one of Baltimore’s 11 games.

Despite expressing kind words for the Ravens secondary, the 5-foot-11, 202-pound Landry will be licking his chops against a pass defense that has struggled mightily to defend the middle portion of the field. And Baltimore defenders need to be sure tacklers when he gets the ball in open space.

“Obviously, you see a group of veteran guys,” Landry said. “Guys that have definitely made plays, guys that have consistently made plays, and guys that look like to be still having production. I have a lot of respect for those guys.”

The Ravens will need to show even more respect for Landry, regardless of what else a revamped Miami offense might throw their way on Sunday.

Comments Off on Landry remains threat despite Miami’s offensive woes

hurnsrobinson

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Jacksonville possesses exactly what Ravens lack at receiver

Posted on 12 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s been a long time since the Jacksonville Jaguars had much of anything that the Ravens coveted.

But with nothing but question marks at the wide receiver position after the season-ending injury to Steve Smith in Week 8, the Ravens will find it difficult not to look across the field on Sunday and wish they were the ones who had the most talented receiving duo in the NFL that no one knows about. Second-year wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are quietly blossoming into standout performers in one of the least-heralded markets in the NFL.

“The ‘Allens’ — you don’t hear about them on ESPN SportsCenter every day,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “But whenever you pull out the numbers, their names start coming up and you’re wondering like, ‘Who are these guys?’ You pop on film and you’re like, ‘These are the guys. They can play ball.’ They just hide them because they’re in Jacksonville, so a lot of people don’t really pay attention to them.”

The Ravens’ 29th-ranked pass defense cannot lose sight of Robinson — a 2014 second-round pick from Penn State — or Hurns — a surpising undrafted free agent from Miami a year ago — who enter Week 10 ranked eighth and 18th in NFL receiving yards, respectively. The pair have combined to make 76 catches for 1,342 yards and 12 touchdowns in Jacksonville’s eight games in 2015.

Jacksonville has been without its other 2014 second-round receiver, Marquise Lee, for most of the season, but that hasn’t mattered with Robinson and Hurns emerging as dangerous weapons for young quarterback Blake Bortles, also in his second NFL season. Despite a 2-6 start, Jacksonville finally has hope for the future with such talent at the offensive skills positions.

“I think it’s super special,” Bortles said in a conference call with Baltimore media. “To be able to come in with those guys as rookies and to able to go through and grow and watch those guys grow [is special]. We got our first offseason together and did some work there and then continued to carry that over into the season.”

The debate continues in Jacksonville over which receiver is better as Robinson is considered the “home-run hitter” — 17 catches of 20 or more yards — while Hurns is steadier in catching a higher percentage of passes thrown his way with 36 receptions on just 59 targets.

Opposing defenses have generally matched their No. 1 cornerbacks against the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Robinson, but Hurns has now caught a touchdown in six consecutive games. Against a talented New York Jets secondary featuring Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Buster Skrine last Sunday, Robinson and Hurns each posted over 120 receiving yards in a narrow defeat.

“I think the biggest thing that I really noticed about them is their catch radius,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “They do a great job — when the ball is in the air — of finding the ball, locating the ball, and then catching it. That’s a good feeling for a quarterback when you can throw one up even when he’s covered and think the guy has a good chance of coming down with it.”

Coming off their bye and trying to win consecutive games for the first time all season, the Ravens know they face a below-average football team on Sunday, but Jacksonville has the ability to exploit Baltimore’s biggest weakness with the league’s 11th-ranked passing game. The Jaguars are an opponent that can’t be taken lightly or the Ravens could find themselves in a position similar to Week 5 when Cleveland won at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2007.

The Jaguars haven’t won in Baltimore since 1999 when Mark Brunell was their quarterback and the teams were part of the old AFC Central division. With the Ravens also holding a 2-6 record, they’re in no position to be taking any opponent lightly, and Robinson and Hurns will be ready to take full advantage if they do.

“A lot of people don’t really pay attention to them, but they’re making big plays,” Webb said. “They together are a great duo in the NFL. Our corners — me and Jimmy [Smith] — have to be on point with these guys and knowing where they are on the field. We have to make some disruptive plays to get this victory.”

Comments Off on Jacksonville possesses exactly what Ravens lack at receiver

JSmith

Tags: , , , ,

Criticism not sitting well with Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith

Posted on 12 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — By nearly all accounts, 2015 has been a difficult season for Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Coming back from last November’s season-ending Lisfranc surgery on his left foot was already challenging, but the pressure accompanying a four-year, $41 million contract extension has put the fifth-year defensive under a microscope. The results haven’t been pretty over the first eight games as teams frequently targeted the No. 1 cornerback and even defensive coordinator Dean Pees described Smith’s play as “tentative” late last month.

Asked about that criticism with the Ravens now back from their bye, Smith didn’t give the impression that he agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“Honestly, I don’t even want to … I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” said Smith, who was then asked if he believes he needs to play more aggressively. “I feel like I’ve just got to keep getting better, keep playing my game.”

Has the criticism been too harsh for Smith? There’s no disputing that he’s given up several big plays in the first half of the season from Amari Cooper’s 68-yard touchdown catch in Week 2 to a long fourth-quarter reception to Anquan Boldin in a Week 6 defeat.

Of cornerbacks playing at least 300 defensive snaps in 2015, Smith ranks 71st in Pro Football Focus’ grading system for the position. However, the 2011 first-round pick leads the Ravens with two interceptions, accounting for half of the team’s takeaways through the first eight games of the season.

Last week, defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt downplayed Smith’s struggles, saying that he’s “doing a great job” and making “dominating plays” despite the need for more consistency.

With Smith typically preferring to play more press coverage, you could argue that he hasn’t been used effectively, but no one could reasonably argue that he’s played like one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, which is what the Ravens are paying him to be. He appeared on track to reaching that lofty territory last year when he was emerging as a Pro Bowl-caliber player before the unfortunate foot injury.

“I’ve just got to keep improving, getting better, just getting back to myself, pretty much,” Smith said. “You guys write one thing; I feel totally different than how you guys feel. I’m not going to get into that, but I’ve just got to keep playing ball.”

The good news is that Smith has stayed healthy after missing a total of 17 games in his first four NFL seasons. It’s reasonable to expect improvement over the second half of 2015 as he grows more confident with his surgically-repaired foot that he hasn’t wanted to discuss since training camp, leading many to wonder if he isn’t 100 percent physically.

The Ravens need much better from Smith than what they’ve seen so far in 2015.

Whether he agrees or not.

Comments Off on Criticism not sitting well with Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith

jsmith

Tags: , , , ,

Ravens coordinator says Jimmy Smith’s play too “tentative” in 2015

Posted on 29 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — This was supposed to be Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith’s year.

Returning from last season’s Lisfranc injury and receiving a four-year, $41 million contract extension that included a $13 million signing bonus this spring, the 2011 first-round pick was to finally take his place among the best cornerbacks in the NFL. An interception returned for a touchdown against Peyton Manning in the season opener made it look like Smith was picking up right where he left off before last year’s injury.

But the season hasn’t gone that way.

Despite Pro Football Focus rating him as the ninth-best cornerback in the league at the time of his foot injury last October, Smith has found himself targeted frequently this season, beginning with a 68-yard touchdown he surrendered to rookie Amari Cooper in a Week 2 loss to Oakland and continuing on a near-weekly basis. Smith says he isn’t surprised by opponents going after a cornerback coming off a serious foot injury, but that expectation hasn’t prevented the 6-foot-2 defensive back from being beaten on crucial plays, whether it was by A.J. Green for the game-deciding touchdown in Week 3 or by Anquan Boldin for a long fourth-quarter reception two weeks ago.

“I think he has been tentative and not really letting it go,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Whether that’s the injury, whether it’s not, I don’t [know] — only he can tell you that. I just haven’t seen him quite be the [same] productive player. It’s more [having] a lot of confidence and go up there and really be aggressive. It’s basically at the line of scrimmage, because he’s a big guy. When he gets his hands on you, he does a great job. I think sometimes he has been a little tentative, and I think he’ll say that, too.”

Dating back to the summer, Smith has said several times that he doesn’t want to talk about his surgically-repaired foot, leading many to believe that it’s remained an issue for the talented cornerback. Though he missed little practice time in the spring and summer, there have been occasions when Smith has appeared to be in discomfort or at least hasn’t trusted the foot.

Among 61 NFL cornerbacks who’ve played 200 or more snaps on passing plays this season, Smith ranks 53rd in PFF’s overall grades at the position. It’s a significant reason why a pass defense that already faced questions entering the season has ranked 28th in the NFL through the first seven weeks of the season.

Smith was paid handsomely to be the most reliable member of the secondary — and arguably the Ravens’ best defensive player — but he has instead joined his teammates in the struggles. The Colorado product is taking the difficult start in stride, but the Ravens can only hope that he regains his pre-injury form sooner rather than later.

“It’s probably just like anyone else coming off of [an injury],” Smith said. “Some things are going to happen that may not go your way, but you just keep fighting. It’s not like I’m out there just getting killed, so I’m not depressed or anything like that. The balls are going to come, I expect them to come, and I’ve got to make plays.”

At a position already dependent on confidence as well as sudden changes in direction, any lingering doubt or effect from the foot surgery would undoubtedly be detrimental to performance. Of course, health has been a concern in his career as Smith missed a total of 17 games in his first four seasons in Baltimore.

With a 1-6 record and playoff hopes all but lost, the Ravens are viewing the rest of the season through a long-term scope and they need Smith to begin playing like the difference-maker he was by the end of his first full season as a starter in 2013 as well as the first eight games of 2014. Facing a shortage of playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Ravens have more long-term money invested in Smith than any other defensive player currently on the roster to provide a game-changing return.

How does that happen?

“Keep playing. You have to go out there, and you have to practice it the same way,” said Pees, who added that it’s not a question of work ethic. “You can’t be tentative in practice no matter who you’re going up against on the scout team over there. You have to do it. I really do think it’s like anything else. The only way you build confidence is you have good things happen to you in a football game. Once that happens, it’s a lot easier.”

Comments (2)

harbaugh

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Avoiding finger-pointing may become Ravens’ biggest challenge

Posted on 27 October 2015 by Luke Jones

You could find excuses anywhere you looked after the Ravens fell to 1-6 on Monday night.

Substandard officiating and malfunctioning headsets are real issues the NFL needs to address, but dwelling on such factors serves no purpose when you’re in the midst of the worst start in franchise history.

An ever-growing list of injuries has stunted the ceiling of the 2015 Ravens, no matter if expectations were too high for such a playmaker-deprived roster to begin with.

Still a few days shy from Halloween, the Ravens face a cruel reality that no one could have anticipated.

The season is over — at least in the scope that football seasons have been viewed in Baltimore over the last 15 years. Even if you’re crazy enough to believe the Ravens are capable of winning eight or nine of their final nine contests in 2015, that still might not be enough as it was only last year that they needed a hand from Kansas City in Week 17 just to sneak into the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

Six losses by one score each might make the Ravens the best 1-6 team in NFL history, but that still only fetches the first overall pick in the 2016 draft if the season were to end today.

If Super Bowl XLVII was John Harbaugh’s finest hour in Baltimore, the eighth-year head coach is now entering his most critical one. With nine games to go in the season from hell, Harbaugh must steer the Ravens clear of the finger-pointing game the rest of the way.

Harbaugh has said this isn’t the first time one of his teams has faced adversity and has maintained that it will make the Ravens better in the long run, but it’s easier to hold the ship together in the midst of a losing streak when you’re still in the heart of the playoff race. Even when the Ravens stood at 0-3 or 1-4 earlier this season, there were historical examples from which to draw inspiration that they could climb back in the hunt.

But at 1-6, the Ravens have entered the territory when everyone — players, coaches, and members of the front office — begins looking over his shoulder. Even the bulletproof Ozzie Newsome has to be feeling at least the slightest bit of anxiety these days when he sees Steve Bisciotti’s name light up on his phone. They wouldn’t be the competitors that they are if that uneasiness didn’t exist right now.

That doesn’t mean Bisciotti will or should clean house, but everyone’s seat — some more than others — should feel at least a little warm over such a poor start.

The truth is that the Ravens aren’t fixing all of their problems this year, meaning not everyone is going to be around to see these dark times through. That goes for players, coaches, and the rest of the organization as change is an annual part of the NFL even when life is good. How much change remains to be seen, but that uncertainty for everyone is what Harbaugh must weather as the face of the organization over the rest of the season.

Right or wrong, it’s human nature for coaches to want to point to the front office and to players, for players to blame coaches and each other, for the front office to point to coaches for not getting the job done with the roster assembled in the offseason, and for all parties to blame injuries, officiating, and any other variable creeping into the equation in a given week. How effectively the Ravens avoid those traps over the next two months will go a long way in determining how long everyone sticks around under Bisciotti, who once fired a Super Bowl-winning coach only a year after he’d led the Ravens to the best regular-season mark in franchise history.

It was less than two years ago that the highly-competitive owner vowed to get more involved if the Ravens repeated the mistakes of a 2013 season that ended in an 8-8 record. Two years later, those problems pale in comparison to what they face now.

“I have to be patient to let people fail, but I don’t have to be patient enough to let people repeat failure,” Bisciotti said in January 2014. “I’ll be more apt to get my way next year if their solutions don’t change the problems. That’s fair, that’s where I am as owner.”

To the credit of Harbaugh, his staff, and his players, there have been few signs of the effort coming into question despite the results not being there. It would be too difficult to continue losing games by one possession if you weren’t giving it your all — or at least close to it — on a weekly basis in the NFL. So far, the Ravens have been quick not to use injuries, bad luck, or talent deficiencies in key areas as excuses and have taken accountability for all shortcomings under their control.

But will growing emphasis on the future prompt individuals to start thinking more about themselves instead of the greater good? It’s that type of thinking that becomes dangerous to a team and an organization.

Even with factors currently out of their control, everyone needs to be better.

Harbaugh and his staff need to accentuate the Ravens’ strengths — as few as there might be — and find ways to mask their weakness — as many as there are — as much as possible.

In a unique position as the franchise quarterback and highest-paid player on the team, Joe Flacco needs to find a way to make it work — at least a little better — with Marc Trestman and an underwhelming group of talent behind Steve Smith. Flacco’s comments about the final drive on Monday night seemed to allude to more than just headset issues and wouldn’t be the first time his words could be interpreted as some disenchantment with his new offensive coordinator. Likewise, a veteran coach like Trestman needs to better organize a group that’s been prone to getting completely out of sync for large portions of games like the offense was in the second half of Monday’s loss.

A poor defense that performed better against Arizona — relative to recent performances at least — has to find a way to build on that showing, starting with a Week 8 challenge against San Diego’s top-ranked passing game. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees lacks the horses to fairly compare this unit to the many great Baltimore defenses of the past, but he’s coaching for his job at this point with the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense.

Every player on the 53-man roster down to the last member on the practice squad needs to dig deep as many will be playing for their futures — in Baltimore or somewhere else — the rest of the way in 2015.

It will be Harbaugh’s responsibility to hold so many moving parts together without the familiar carrot of postseason play ahead and with everyone now looking over his shoulder and facing the temptation to point the finger elsewhere.

And even though much of their work won’t come until the offseason, Newsome and the front office need to do much better than the roster assembled for the 2015 season. An infusion of play-making, impact talent on both sides of the ball needs to occur as quickly as possible, which won’t be easy.

Excuses are all over the place if you’re willing to give in, and playing out the string won’t be pleasant.

But each member of the organization needs to remember that every time you point a finger somewhere else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

It’s an easy lesson to remember when times are good as they have been for a long time in Baltimore, but the Ravens have never found themselves in a position quite like this before.

In the NFL’s basement and with all hope lost for the 2015 season — at least in the way they envisioned it not too long ago.

Comments Off on Avoiding finger-pointing may become Ravens’ biggest challenge

cards

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Arizona possesses what Ravens lack in 2015

Posted on 22 October 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will look across the field on Monday night and see exactly what they’re lacking in 2015.

Playmakers on both sides of the ball have led the Arizona Cardinals to a 4-2 record atop the NFC West as well as the best point differential (plus-88) in the NFL. Baltimore’s shortage of playmakers has contributed to the worst start in franchise history and five defeats all decided by six points or fewer.

Offensively, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has a trio of talented receivers — future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, second-year speedster John Brown, and former first-round pick Michael Floyd — on which to rely. That combination of experience, speed, and height has helped Arizona produce the league’s seventh-ranked passing game and 33.8 points per game.

In contrast, Joe Flacco has a 36-year-old Steve Smith playing at a high level and a group of unheralded receivers behind him who have struggled to make a meaningful impact. Making matters worse, the Ravens offense will be facing the league’s ninth-ranked pass defense than includes Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and hybrid safety Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary.

The Cardinals often-explosive offense has lacked consistency — evident by a Week 4 home loss to St. Louis and last week’s 25-13 defeat in Pittsburgh — but it’s not easy envisioning Baltimore’s 27th-ranked pass defense being able to keep up with Arizona’s speed. Even pedestrian offenses have picked apart the Ravens secondary this season, so what will a top 10 unit be able to do?

And given how slowly the Ravens offense has started most games this season, Monday night could get ugly if we see a similar opening act.

Return game progress

One of the few bright spots from the Week 6 loss to San Francisco was another good performance by returner Jeremy Ross, who broke a 41-yard kick return late in the first quarter.

A second look at the return, however, indicated that Ross could have made it even better had he cut behind a block from rookie Nick Boyle toward the right sideline instead of shifting inside where three tacklers were waiting. His special teams coordinator agreed with that sentiment on Thursday.

“We honestly should’ve gotten more out of it than we did,” Jerry Rosburg said. “We didn’t finish it very well, but at least we got it set up. So, we’re making progress. I like what he has done. He has been working really hard on the reads and ball security. He has gotten a lot better.”

In addition to averaging 29.5 yards per kick return and 10.0 yards per punt return, Ross has caught five passes for 58 yards in limited action as a receiver in two games. Given the lack of big-play ability the Ravens have shown on either side of the ball, would Rosburg encourage the speedy Ross to be more aggressive taking kicks out of the end zone like Jacoby Jones was in his three years in Baltimore?

“It depends on what kind of deep kick it is,” Rosburg said. “There are different kinds of deep kicks — high-hanging deep kicks. Even Jacoby didn’t have a green light. Sometimes, he ran the red light.”

Wright bouncing back?

Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t mince words in criticizing the newly-acquired Shareece Wright after he was burned for two touchdowns in the 25-20 loss to the 49ers, but the Ravens will likely be counting on him again this week.

Starter Lardarius Webb is expected to return from a hamstring injury, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees prefers using Webb inside in the nickel package. This leaves the Ravens with Wright or Kyle Arrington to play on the outside opposite Jimmy Smith, and Arrington has also struggled when asked to play on the outside this season

“I really liked the way he responded this week,” said Pees of Wright. “It was going to be interesting to come out here and go through the film with him and come back out here and watch and see how he responded this week. So far, he has responded great. Now, I’ll tell you again Monday night after we get done [playing].

“Sometimes it takes [failure]. We all learn by mistakes, and hopefully that will be his case.”

Comments Off on Arizona possesses what Ravens lack in 2015