Tag Archive | "Greg Roman"

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Ravens offense waits as defense receives substantial facelift

Posted on 23 March 2017 by Luke Jones

During Brandon Carr’s press conference this week, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees was recalling how he’d sent a text message to John Harbaugh after the latest defensive signing was made when the head coach interjected.

“I got a text from Marty [Mornhinweg], too, by the way,” said Harbaugh about his offensive coordinator. “He thought it was a good signing, too — just for the record. We’ve got some work to do over there, too.”

That’s an understatement as general manager Ozzie Newsome has spent lucrative dollars and most of his salary-cap space to revamp a defense that still finished in the top 10 of most significant statistical categories last season despite its well-documented problems down the stretch. Meanwhile, an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in virtually everything in 2016 has last four starters and has added only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead, who is an intriguing talent but coming off a major knee injury.

Some have attempted to skew the 2016 narrative by pointing to a 27-point scoring output and the late defensive collapse in Pittsburgh on Christmas Day as justification for focusing on the defense this offseason, but that anecdotal evidence clouds the truth. The offense played at a high level only a few times all year while the defense — flawed as it was when cornerback Jimmy Smith wasn’t on the field — was the bigger reason why the Ravens were still in contention in Week 16. That’s not to say that improvements weren’t warranted on the defensive side — which still could use another edge rusher — but the offense was summarily broken all year and has only gotten worse since the season finale in Cincinnati. You can certainly be excited about the re-signing of nose tackle Brandon Williams and the additions of safety Tony Jefferson and Carr, but it’s fair to ask if some of those resources might have been better served addressing the offense.

To be clear, we know the start of the season is more than five months away, and Newsome and the Ravens are aware that they still have much work to do on that side of the ball. But with the first and second waves of free agency now in the books, Baltimore has fewer remaining channels — with the draft being the biggest one — to not only replace departed starters but find ways to markedly improve the offense. Of course, the margin for error is smaller without a dynamic offensive playmaker on which to lean.

Harbaugh sent a loud signal that the Ravens want to get back to running the ball at a high level by hiring senior offensive assistant and ground-game guru Greg Roman, but they need the horses in the trenches to do it. Otherwise, the offense will inevitably revert to Joe Flacco throwing more than 40 times per game, and we’ve seen how that’s worked out since Super Bowl XLVII.

The biggest objective must be to address the offensive line after the departure of right tackle Rick Wagner and the trade of center Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco. Whether you believe Detroit overpaid for Wagner or not, replacing an above-average right tackle without meaningful drop-off will be very difficult unless new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has a trick up his sleeve.

Moving on from the underwhelming Zuttah wasn’t shocking, but they have to replace him with someone better or at least as good. There’s been little chatter about former New York Jet Nick Mangold to this point, and even if the Ravens eye a draft prospect such as Ethan Pocic from LSU, there are no guarantees of landing him in the second or third round. The Ravens could consider an internal candidate, but neither John Urschel nor Ryan Jensen inspire much confidence after their respective 2016 campaigns.

Finding a fullback to replace 2016 Pro Bowl selection Kyle Juszczyk shouldn’t be too difficult, but — like with Wagner — it may not be easy to do it without some drop-off.

Then, there’s wide receiver, that position we’ve discussed this time of year on an annual basis.

Baltimore lost its top two possessions receivers in Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken and elected not to sign any free-agent wideouts from a top tier that included Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor. Perhaps the next Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, or Smith will be acquired in the coming weeks, but one can only look to 2013 and 2015 as recent examples of the Ravens being underprepared at that position and it hurting them substantially. Even looking past the organization’s poor track record with drafting receivers, relying heavily on a rookie wideout is a risky proposition for any team.

You might be willing to give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt along the offensive line — after all, Wagner was mostly an unknown three years ago — but skepticism at wide receiver is justified, whether it’s March or September.

It’s been interesting to see how the offseason has played out to this point, starting with Harbaugh’s decision to retain Mornhinweg as his offensive coordinator despite showing little improvement taking over for the fired Marc Trestman. The team’s brass spoke at length at the season-ending press conference about needing to do whatever it takes to help Flacco play better in 2017, but a below-average offense from a year ago is currently standing at a net loss, putting heavy pressure on the front office and scouting department to nail next month’s draft and to find an under-the-radar free agent or two while also hoping that internal options take significant steps forward.

Otherwise, the Ravens will be needing a 2000-like performance from its revamped defense to have a real shot at getting back to the playoffs in 2017.

Yes, there’s plenty of time left, but many boxes remain unchecked.

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Ravens trade veteran center Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco

Posted on 15 March 2017 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:05 p.m.)

Vowing to improve their offensive line after an 8-8 season, the Ravens have opened up another starting job a week after starting right tackle Rick Wagner departed via free agency.

After NFL Network reported earlier in the day that he would be released, center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to San Francisco after three seasons and 41 starts with Baltimore. The teams will swap their 2017 sixth-round picks, meaning the Ravens move up 12 spots from 198th to 186th overall on the final day of April’s draft instead of receiving nothing in what would have been a release. The trade came a few hours after former Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk lamented his teammate’s reported release on Twitter and suggested he would be a good fit with the 49ers.

Zuttah was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate this past year, but the Ravens are aiming to have a more physical presence for the middle of their offensive line. His trade saves $2.4 million in salary cap space, but Zuttah becomes the fourth Week 1 offensive starter to exit since the end of 2016, joining Wagner, Juszczyk, and retired wide receiver Steve Smith.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Zuttah was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 13th-best center in the NFL and was ranked 26th in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 system. Seeking an upgrade is an understandable goal, but it remains unclear how the Ravens will proceed as young linemen John Urschel and Ryan Jensen are the only internal candidates to replace Zuttah on the current roster.

Urschel started seven games in place of an injured Zuttah in 2015, but he played just 265 offensive snaps in 2016 despite plenty of unrest at the guard spots. Jensen made three starts at guard in 2016, but he appeared to fall out of favor as the season progressed. Of course, new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and new senior offensive assistant — and running game guru — Greg Roman may have higher opinions of these players than former offensive line coach Juan Castillo apparently did.

Many have speculated about the possibility of the Ravens pursuing seven-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, but there has been little chatter linking the 33-year-old to any team after an injury-riddled season. The New York Jets released Mangold late last month, ending their 11-year union.

The 2017 draft isn’t considered to be rich in center talent, either, but among the top center prospects are LSU’s Ethan Pocic and Ohio State’s Pat Elflein.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has received praise for the re-signing of nose tackle Brandon Williams and the addition of safety Tony Jefferson on lucrative deals to help the Baltimore defense, but the league’s 21st-ranked scoring offense has endured several losses while 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead has been the only addition to this point. And with the first wave of free agency over, the Ravens will likely be depending on the draft as the primary way to address most of their remaining needs on either side of the ball.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts after first wave of free agency

Posted on 14 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With the first wave of NFL free agency in the rear-view mirror, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts on the Ravens, each in 50 words or less:

1. Some may scoff at the emotion shown by Brandon Williams after signing a five-year, $52.5 million contract, but his right to maximize his earnings doesn’t mean staying in Baltimore wasn’t important to him. You could also see how happy general manager Ozzie Newsome was during Monday’s press conference.

2. Kudos to Williams for paying tribute to the late Clarence Brooks for his impact on the nose tackle’s career. The 28-year-old said the longtime defensive line coach saw everything that he could be and envisioned this happening for him one day. Brooks is definitely missed.

3. The addition of Tony Jefferson could really help in trying to replace linebacker Zach Orr. If the Ravens add a complementary third safety, defensive coordinator Dean Pees could use Jefferson as a dime in passing situations and minimize the need for a three-down linebacker, which is more difficult to find.

4. Major investments have been made in the defense, but you hope Newsome has more than couch change to address a Ravens offense that was summarily broken in 2016 and has lost key pieces. The hiring of Greg Roman will help the running game, but that only goes so far.

5. I’ll give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt at right tackle, but color me skeptical about wide receiver with free-agent options dwindling and prices having not been all that outrageous. Being underprepared at the position doomed Baltimore in 2013 and 2015, and you hope that odd-year trend doesn’t continue.

6. The Anthony Levine re-signing didn’t receive much attention, but losing the likes of Orr and fullback Kyle Juszczyk hurt the special teams and Levine has been a core contributor to Jerry Rosburg’s units.

7. I’m intrigued by the addition of the diminutive Danny Woodhead, who can do some of the things Juszczyk provided despite the obvious difference in size. The Ravens view Woodhead as a potential playmaker, but he’s also 32 and coming off major knee surgery, leaving some substantial unknown.

8. The fascination with free-agent cornerback Morris Claiborne is baffling with the former Dallas Cowboy missing 41 percent of games over his five-year career and having underperformed until 2016. Barring a cheap price tag — multiple teams are interested — this feels like a fool’s gold signing.

9. The Ravens loudly reconfirmed their longtime philosophy of being strong up the middle defensively with the financial commitments made to Williams and Jefferson, but I still wonder if that thinking needs to be adjusted in today’s NFL. Fortunately, this year’s draft is rich with edge rushers and cornerbacks.

10. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, but teams are sleeping on Kamar Aiken compared to some other receivers who’ve already signed. He wasn’t keen on returning to Baltimore at the end of 2016 after being underutilized, but the Ravens could do worse than bringing back their leading receiver from 2015.

11. The Ravens have had some players recruit free agents in the past, but you have to be impressed with the efforts of Eric Weddle after just one year with the organization. He’s one of those rare veterans whom you wish could have been a Raven for his entire career.

12. Lardarius Webb is a prime example of some of the tough luck the Ravens have experienced in recent years. He was Baltimore’s best defensive player in 2012 before suffering the second ACL injury of his career six months after signing a six-year, $50 million contract. He was never the same.

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Buffalo hires two assistants away from Ravens

Posted on 13 January 2017 by Luke Jones

On the same day senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach Greg Roman was hired to help revamp the running game, the Ravens said goodbye to two assistants from their coaching staff.

Offensive line coach Juan Castillo is leaving Baltimore after four seasons to become the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, who hired Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to be their new head coach earlier this week. McDermott is also hiring Ravens secondary coach Leslie Frazier to be his defensive coordinator.

Both Castillo and Frazier worked with McDermott in Philadelphia as part of Andy Reid’s staff. Ironically, it was Castillo who replaced McDermott as the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2011.

Despite a public endorsement from head coach John Harbaugh last week, Castillo’s influence moving forward appeared uncertain with the hiring of Roman, who specializes in the running game and uses man, gap, and zone concepts. Castillo is known for coaching more zone blocking and had struggled to establish a productive running game in three of his four seasons in charge of the Baltimore offensive line.

The Ravens finished 26th or worse in rushing yards in 2013, 2015, and 2016 and only saw dramatic improvement in the ground game when Gary Kubiak served as the offensive coordinator in 2014.

Frazier joined Harbaugh’s staff in 2016 and revamped a secondary that had dealt with chronic communication issues in past seasons. The Ravens finished ninth in the NFL in pass defense, and that included their dramatic struggles without top cornerback Jimmy Smith over the final four games of the season.

It remains unclear how the Ravens will proceed as they must now fill their quarterbacks coach, offensive line coach, and secondary coach positions. It was announced on Thursday that former tight ends coach Richard Angulo would become the assistant offensive line coach, but Harbaugh will likely need to make an outside hire to fill Castillo’s job.

Defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt was previously in charge of the secondary before Frazier was hired after the 2015 season, making it possible that he could assume more responsibility for 2017.

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Ravens hire Roman as senior offensive assistant, tight ends coach

Posted on 12 January 2017 by Luke Jones

After vowing to make creative additions to his staff, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh officially hired former Buffalo Bills and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman on Thursday.

Roman will hold the official title of “senior offensive assistant” while also becoming the tight ends coach. After working with the tight ends the last two seasons, Richard Angulo will now become the assistant offensive line coach.

Baltimore believes Roman will help revamp a running game that ranked 28th in rushing yards and 21st in yards per carry.

“I do not think that we are going to be successful putting the ball in the air 600-and-some times,” owner Steve Bisciotti said. “It is just not our identity, and I do not know how we got that far away from it. We did have some injuries on the [offensive] line in the middle of the year, and that may have skewed us the other way. But I want to run. I want to run the ball. I want to control the clock.”

The Ravens ran a franchise single-season low 367 times in 2016 after setting their previous low of 383 attempts under former offensive coordinator Marc Trestman in 2015. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw a career-high 672 times while eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, but he ranked just 27th in the league at just 6.42 yards per attempt.

Despite being fired as Buffalo’s offensive coordinator in September, Roman orchestrated rushing attacks that ranked fourth or better in the NFL from 2012-2015. The 44-year-old spent six years coaching under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford (2009-2010) and in San Francisco (2011-2014), a reason why he had been rumored to join John Harbaugh’s staff since the end of the regular season.

“Getting a veteran coach like Greg Roman to join our staff is a coup for the Ravens,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “He is a very sound coach and a good team player who will help us build our offense.”

Roman previously spent time with the Ravens as an offensive line assistant in Brian Billick’s final two seasons as head coach in 2006 and 2007.

NOTES: The Bills announced Thursday that guard Richie Incognito will replace Ravens guard Marshal Yanda in this year’s Pro Bowl. Yanda was named to his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl last month, but he will not play because of the left shoulder injury that forced him to move from right guard to left guard in November. … With the Chargers announcing their move to Los Angeles, Ravens safety Eric Weddle used his official Twitter account to offer his support to San Diego, the place where he played for the first nine seasons of his career. It’s no secret that the three-time Pro Bowl selection’s departure from the Chargers was a bitter one last winter. … The Ravens are now set to travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers in 2018 and the Rams in 2019.

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Niners OC Roman says time in Baltimore critical to development

Posted on 29 January 2013 by WNST Staff

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG ROMAN

 

(on how many concepts he’s brought into the team’s system in the last two years) “That’s hard to quantify. I don’t know. I think we try to be creative, try to keep people off balance, try to have fun. I think what we do stimulates our players. When they come in every week, there’s always something new and they get really excited about what’s next. So, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great process. A lot of credit goes to the rest of the offensive staff. We’ve got a great staff. Mike Solari – who’s been doing it forever – Tom Rathman, Geep Chryst, Johnnie Morton, Reggie Davis, Tim Drevno. A lot of guys who have seen a lot of things and we’re definitely open to try something, anything, that will help us win.”

 

(on why some blocking patterns fell out of the NFL) “Everything became so zone blocking-oriented. I think with the incredible success that Denver had there for a while, everybody started doing that. When everybody practices against one thing all the time, they don’t quite know how to play that other stuff. So, we kind of took the opposite approach and said, ‘Let’s be counter-cultured and let’s do things that people don’t work on.’ Anything we can do to get our players an advantage.”

 

(on if it is more of a man-blocking scheme) “A lot of it is just schemed up. A lot of man blocking, but we’re always looking to give our players an advantage, so it might be anything. And it might be stuff that we just kind of dream up. We’ve got a great group of players and they’re very flexible with what they can do, and they get it. Frank Gore, for example, if he just sees something, he gets it. So, it makes our job that much more fun.”

 

(on how much the success of rookie quarterbacks could change the game) “I think it’s a unique year for quarterbacks. I’ll throw Colin (Kaepernick) into that group, too. Between Andrew (Luck), (Russell) Wilson, RGIII, the first thing that these guys are is that they’re high character guys, they’re diligent, they’re smart, they’re really good competitors. I think when you have guys like that it opens up a lot of doors for you. How much they can prepare for in a week. These guys are very accountable, dependable, reliable guys that take a lot of pride in what they do along with being great athletes.”

 

(on if the success of mobile quarterbacks can continue) “I think it’s important if you’re going to run the quarterback, you have to be smart about how often you run him and how you do it. If you try to do too much of it, I think it’ll be a short-lived phenomenon.”

 

(on how Colin Kaepernick’s 78-yard touchdown run in the preseason altered his plans about what he could do with him) “I think it was just a great example of the explosiveness that Colin has. It’s something that I always kind of felt we had in our back pocket, but sometimes you’ve got to be careful not to do something like that until you have to do it or until you need to do it. You just do it at the right time before people can make huge, wholesale adjustments for it. So, it’s just a credit to his athleticism.”

 

(on if the preseason touchdown run was the first time he had seen that from Kaepernick) “No, we saw it in practice one day. There was a day in practice where we couldn’t gain a yard against our defense, so we called it up and he ran 80 yards for a touchdown. So, we saw it in practice during a competitive scrimmage situation.”

 

(on how he sets his game plans for future games) “We’re always trying to win the game we’re playing, but we always try to have an eye for what the next team is going to be looking at, how they’re going to perceive it, how they’re going to interpret it and then any advantage we can get moving forward. It’s definitely something that our players give us an opportunity to do because they enjoy week-to-week a new wrinkle or something different. We try to explain why to them and that’s when they really get invested in it. You explain why we’re doing something, it makes sense, and then they buy in. Eventually, they take ownership of it. Week-to-week, you’ve got to give credit to all the defensive coordinators and the defenses. Great defenses, when they see something, if they get hit with something, they can probably stop it, so we try to mix it up a little bit.”

 

-more-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Super Bowl XLVII – Tuesday, January 29, 2013

 

 

QUOTES FROM SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS MEDIA DAY

 

MORE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG ROMAN

 

(on how he tried to install his system) “We install a core, and then others branch off of that core. Once you install the principals, now you can build off them. Once you get that core down, then it allows you to branch off.”

 

(on if his system was different from previous systems) “From what they’ve done in the past, yeah, very different. It’s pretty compartmentalized and easy. It’s pretty likeable and learnable, but at the same time, it requires them to put a lot of study in and our guys have been great. They are totally devoted to trying to be the best and they understand that while we’re a little bit different, that kind of excites them.”

 

(on previously coaching for the Ravens) “I had a great experience with the Ravens’ organization. I think there were a lot of really good coaches on that staff and I thought Steve Boshitti was a great guy to work for. As far as growth, I think every year as a coach you’re trying to get better, you’re trying to learn, you’re trying to improve, and I’m always going to try to do the best that I can at the job I have. It’s just progression of a coach, I guess. My time there was outstanding and very, very important, as I look at it, in my development.”

 

(on how fun it is to coach Colin Kaepernick) “It’s a lot of fun. Colin’s very intelligent, so he just opens up a lot of different doors for what we can do week-in and week-out. He’s doing a great job. It’s about as fun as it can get as a coach.”

 

(on how pre-snap calls have changed from Alex Smith to a less-experienced Colin Kaepernick) “It hasn’t really changed much at all. We went into the Chicago game with the same exact game plan with Colin that we did with Alex and he executed it flawlessly. Like I said, Colin’s very smart. He doesn’t bring a lot of limitations that you would expect a second-year player to bring. He’s that intelligent and that football-savvy. So, it’s pretty similar.”

 

(on which coaches he credits for his belief in his concepts) “I would say Jim McNally jumps out. He was one of the first guys. Our defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, definitely. And then you go down the list: George Seifert, Tony Wise, Brian Billick, Jim Harbaugh. It’s an eclectic swirl of very good football coaches. I’m always going to put that through my own filter. But, there are a lot of different guys, a lot of different positions, and some defensive coaches. Rex Ryan was a big influence on me. His approach to the game, in certain ways.”

 

(on his offensive scheme of normally using more tight ends and fullbacks in place of  three wide receiver sets) “I think that’s more of a function of our players and the talent. Delanie Walker, Vernon Davis, those are guys you want on the field. We also have a Pro Bowl fullback on the field. I think that offers a lot of different flexibility for what we can do. It’s certainly something that the defenses don’t see as much of. That’s, again, trying to put a little bit of pressure on them to do something that they’re not used to doing.”

 

(on if he has started to anticipate what teams will do in the offseason to slow down their offense) “There’s no question. I definitely think when you have success, coaches in this league are just that good. They’re going to find answers. It’s just inevitable. So, adapt or die, as they say.”

 

(on learning how to use Colin Kaepernick) “I think it started at Stanford. Colin’s got a lot of similarities to Andrew Luck when we had Andrew at Stanford. Andrew was the kind of guy that we could do some read-option stuff with to keep the defense honest, to give them something new to prepare for, as well as all the traditional stuff. With Colin, we’ve kind of been down that road. We saw Colin as a guy that we could transition smoothly into with that.”

 

(on what he has to do when defenses adjust to his offense) “We have to make some assumptions because there’s a great chance that they’re going to do something outside the box to try to stop it. So, it’s not like there’s a lot of evidence. We’ve got to kind of put our heads together as a staff and figure out, ‘Well, they might do this,’ or, ‘Here’s what we would do.’ So, we need to prepare for all those contingencies.”

-more-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Super Bowl XLVII – Tuesday, January 29, 2013

 

 

QUOTES FROM SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS MEDIA DAY

 

MORE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG ROMAN

 

(on their offensive line) “We’re all personnel-driven. Everything starts with our players. We have a big, physical offensive line. All five of them are – in some form or fashion – in the Pro Bowl. We’ve got tight ends that can block, that can run 4.3, 4.2. So, I think there are a lot of different things we can do in terms of, ‘Hey, if they want to stop the run, we can take some vertical shots.’ We’ve got the personnel to do that. If they’re going to play a light box, or play it pretty straight, or mix it, we’ve got the people with Frank Gore, our offensive line, our tight ends. We can hammer away at it, hopefully consistently. That’s not taking anything away from the Ravens’ defense. They are a stout group, led by Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis and that whole crew. This isn’t their first rodeo, we understand that. They’re a great defense and I think our guys recognize that the more they watch them.”

 

(on how the players react to his offense being different than many others) “Frank Gore will tell you . He was like, ‘I can’t believe this stuff.’ So, that’s exciting as a coach when you have that kind of freshness and you can bring that to the group. There’s definitely some things that we try to do that you hope nobody sees or nobody has seen before. It just keeps them off your trail a little bit.”

 

(on how he balances taking risks in his offensive scheme) “I would call it risk management. I know the upside, the downside. I understand things. I understand that something might go wrong and I’ve kind of calculated that. I’m willing to live with certain things. It’s all big picture, it’s all about winning. I understand every play is not going to work, this is the National Football League. But, there is a trickle-down from everything you do that sets up stuff in the future.”

 

(on if the NFL could evolve to the triple-option in the future) “I definitely think you’ll see some triple-option out there. We do a little bit of that if it’s appropriate.”

 

(on running a higher percentage of pistol formation plays in recent games) “We tried to make everybody forget about it and think that we had scrapped it leading into the playoffs. We felt like we could win our division and whatnot the traditional way. We kept practicing it and just felt like it was something we could spring on whoever we played in the playoffs.”

 

-SB XLVII-

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