Tag Archive | "jim caldwell"

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Examining possible offensive coordinator candidates for Ravens

Posted on 14 January 2014 by Luke Jones

With Tuesday’s news of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell accepting the head coaching position with the Detroit Lions, the Ravens must now seek a new leader for an offense already expected to undergo significant change this offseason.

Unlike the last time the Ravens were in this position following the dismissal of Cam Cameron on Dec. 10, 2012, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious in-house replacement in mind in the same way that they promoted Caldwell from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler served as the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers in 2007, but the organization is expected to at least seriously explore outside options in an effort to breathe new life into an offense that finished 29th in total yards and 25th in points scored in 2013.

In addition to finding a new running backs coach following the news earlier this month that Wilbert Montgomery would not be returning, head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens will likely need to find a new secondary coach as Teryl Austin is expected to join Caldwell in Detroit as his new defensive coordinator.

Here is a preliminary list of some candidates as the Ravens begin their search for a third offensive coordinator in the last 13 months:

Jim Hostler, Ravens wide receivers coach
Skinny: The only internal candidate with experience as an offensive coordinator, Hostler is well-respected within the organization, but he doesn’t appear to have a great chance to be promoted since the Ravens passed on him in favor of Caldwell, who had never been an offensive coordinator prior to taking over the duties late in the 2012 season. His lone year as a coordinator in San Francisco was regarded as disastrous with the 49ers finishing last in the NFL in total yards and points scored before he was fired.

Rob Chudzinkski, former Browns head coach
Skinny: Regardless of what really happened in the 45-year-old’s lone season as the Cleveland head coach, Chudzinski’s work as the offensive coordinator in Carolina and in Cleveland before that was highly respected, making it likely that he won’t remain unemployed for long. As for any reservations in hiring someone who was so recently dismissed as a head coach, both Cameron and Caldwell were hired only weeks after being fired from a previous head coaching gig.

Brad Childress, Chiefs spread game analyst
Skinny: The former Vikings head coach has ties with Harbaugh dating back to their days together in Philadelphia, which makes him someone worth keeping an eye on in the search. Childress hasn’t found much success in recent years as a head coach or as an offensive coordinator — he was fired after one season in Cleveland in 2012 –but a 40-year-old Brett Favre had one of the best seasons of his career working with Childress in 2009, cementing the coach’s strong reputation with quarterbacks.

Norv Turner, Browns offensive coordinator
Skinny: Respected as one of the great offensive minds of this generation, the 61-year-old Turner remains under contract with Cleveland but would be an excellent candidate if made available once the Browns hire a new coach. His track record as an NFL head coach is underwhelming, but he’s worked with great quarterbacks such as Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers in the past and would be viewed as a major asset for Joe Flacco in trying to revitalize the offense.

Gary Kubiak, former Texans head coach
Skinny: The 52-year-old spent eight years in Houston before being fired in December, making one wonder if he might choose to take a year off from coaching even though he interviewed for Detroit’s head coaching vacancy earlier this month. He had a sterling reputation working as Mike Shanahan’s right-hand man and offensive coordinator in Denver for a decade and is still viewed as a talented offensive mind if he’s interested in being a coordinator again.

 

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Caldwell officially hired as Lions head coach

Posted on 13 January 2014 by Luke Jones

Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell accepted the Detroit Lions’ head coaching position Tuesday, officially filling the vacancy left after the Lions fired Jim Schwartz (Mount St. Joe) at the conclusion of the 2013 regular season.

After San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt agreed to become the head coach of the Tennessee Titans earlier in the day, the Lions reportedly turned their attention to Caldwell, who interviewed for their vacancy earlier this month. He also interviewed for head coach openings with Washington and Tennessee, positions that have since been filled.

The former Indianapolis Colts head coach received much praise for the job he did with the Baltimore offense in helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII after being promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator on Dec. 10, 2012. However, his offense struggled mightily in 2013 as the Ravens finished 29th in total yards and 25th in points scored while also setting franchise lows in rushing yards and yards per carry.

Some had called for a change at offensive coordinator after the Ravens’ immense struggles on that side of the ball, but Caldwell’s track record in Indianapolis as well as his work late in the 2012 season make him a viable candidate for another head coaching opportunity. The Ravens were mum on Caldwell’s status for the 2014 season to avoid compromising his chances to obtain a head coach position.

It remains to be seen who among the Ravens’ assistant coaches might be joining Caldwell in Detroit, but secondary coach Teryl Austin is expected to become the Lions’ new defensive coordinator. Other names rumored to potentially join Caldwell on the Lions staff are former running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery and offensive line coach Andy Moeller, whose future remains in limbo after last week’s announcement that run-game coordinator Juan Castillo would remain with the Ravens under Moeller’s title of offensive line coach.

The most logical in-house candidate to replace Caldwell as offensive coordinator would be wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, who served as San Francisco’s offensive coordinator in 2007. However, the Ravens are likely to seriously explore options outside the organization to jump-start an offense expected to receive a significant facelift this offseason.

Preliminary names that could be considered for the position include former Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski, Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and former Vikings head coach Brad Childress.

 

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I called it last week — and Harbaugh confirmed it yesterday

Posted on 09 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

A nice gesture by John Harbaugh in January of 2013 turned into a whopper of a train wreck for the Head Coach.

He took steps in an effort to fix it yesterday at the annual “State of the Ravens” press conference at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.

What did Harbaugh do?

He gave Juan Castillo the title he should have given him last January when the Ravens hired him to oversee their offensive line.

Last week as Luke and I reviewed the 2013 Ravens season, one of the topics centered on coaches and who we thought might return and who was on the bubble.

This was before Wilbert Montgomery was “moved on” for, essentially, insubordination.

As Luke and I went over the names, we eventually came to Castillo.  I contended then that Harbaugh’s biggest mistake was giving Juan Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”.  I can see why Harbaugh did it that way, but hindsight tells us the title was a mistake.

To give Castillo a “new” title (the Ravens didn’t have a “Run Game Coordinator” before Castillo showed up) implied he was coming in to do something so specifically different that no one else on staff could manage it.  The only problem, of course, is the Ravens already had someone overseeing their run game.  His name was Wilbert Montgomery.  And, since a major component of running the ball is blocking for the ball carrier, they also had one of “those guys” in charge of coaching the offensive line — Andy Moeller.

Honestly, as I said last week, Harbaugh’s mistake wasn’t in hiring Castillo.  He’s a bright guy with a terrific resume.  John’s mistake was in giving Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”.  When the running game fizzled in 2013, everyone simply pointed to the new guy who came in to coordinate the running game and said, “There’s the problem!”

Look, I understand John Harbaugh and Steve Bisciotti and everyone else at Owings Mills couldn’t care less about what the “armchair quarterbacks” (aka, the fans) think about their style, scheme and methods of coaching.  Frankly, the fans don’t know anything about football, truth be told.  They know when a player does something well and they know when Matt Elam gets beat by A.J. Green that Elam was to blame, but the fans don’t know anything, really, about the true inner workings of all eleven players on either side of the ball and how Player A’s mistake and Player B’s inability to cover up for it leaves Player C exposed.

That said, Harbaugh and Bisciotti do owe it to the fans to review the performance of their coaches and players and determine who deserves to carry on with the team and who doesn’t.

What “the fans” think about Juan Castillo shouldn’t have anything to do with whether the Ravens keep him or not, but it’s clear from yesterday’s press conference that Harbaugh IS aware of the scrutiny and criticism his “Run Game Coordinator” endured during the recently completed 8-8 season.

That’s why Castillo is now the team’s “Offensive Line Coach”.  It’s basically what he was all along, even with Moeller in the fold, but the Head Coach didn’t want to create a potential firestorm by stripping Moeller of his title.

And, for anyone who thinks Castillo was the guy who wrecked the running game, let me tell you this:  He didn’t coach the running backs.  Wilbert Montgomery did.  As someone in the organization said to me yesterday, “Wilbert’s job was to make the running backs better.  Whether or not he did that is up to you (the media) guys to decide and report on in whatever fashion you want.”

Oddly enough, the Ravens also brought in a smart football mind in 2013 to help with their defense.  His name was Steve Spagnuolo. The former Rams Head Coach joined the club as their “Senior Defensive Assistant”.  The Ravens defense, as we saw time and time again, couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down.  They had a tendency to give up the big play in the 4th quarter as the Ravens tried to steal a win or two in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cincinnati.  Even though the defense outperformed the offense in 2013, the team’s defense was certainly a liability on a somewhat regular basis.  Why, then, was Spagnuolo not the same sort of lightning rod as Castillo?  One reason:  Title.

Castillo’s title suggested he was going to “fix” the running game.

Spagnuolo’s title suggested he was there to watch game film with Harbaugh and play racquetball with the coaches and front office members on Tuesday afternoons.

In theory — and based on his day to day duties — Castillo was brought on board to work with the offensive line.  We all know, of course, that was quite a mountain to climb for anyone…based on the personnel.

It would have helped the running game, for sure, if the offensive line that Castillo coached would have been better.  And, perhaps, the running game would have been better if Castillo and Andy Moeller coached their players better.

The running game might have also performed better if the running backs were in shape when training camp started — and capable of taking the punishment of an NFL season.

Here’s the one bullet point from yesterday that was reinforced to me by a staffer: The biggest loss the team incurred – player wise –  was Matt Birk.  And, as the staffer emphasized, “It wasn’t even close.  Our most significant loss was Birk.  We’re a playoff team if he’s the center.”

Moving forward, now, Juan Castillo is the team’s Offensive Line Coach.

There’s no word what that means for Andy Moeller.

And the team currently doesn’t have a “Running Backs Coach” after the departure of Montgomery.

One thing, for sure…regardless of title, the microscope remains focused on Juan Castillo.

For better or worse, he’s the new scapegoat in town moving forward.

And Baltimore, perhaps like no other city in the country, loves themselves a good old fashioned scapegoat.

Have fun, Juan.

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Local Sports Figures to Watch in 2014

Posted on 07 January 2014 by Luke Jones

In honor of the first Tuesday Top 7 of 2014, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction selected their top seven local sports figures to watch in 2014.

Some of the names are predictable while others may just be establishing themselves on the local sports scene, but each is worth following closely in 2014 for different reasons.

To listen to Jones’ full explanation for his list, click HERE. Forrester’s breakdown of his seven names can be found HERE.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 Local Sports Figures to Watch in 2014 …

7. Towson running back and NFL Draft prospect Terrance West
west
Skinny: Not only will the FCS record-breaking back be drafted, but it will be fun to watch his progress and to see how his skills translate to the next level.

6. Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs
diggs
Skinny: Questions will linger about the Terps’ ability to compete in the Big Ten, but a breakout 2014 campaign would likely have the offensive playmaker thinking carefully about the NFL.

5. Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman
gausman
Skinny: Assuming the Orioles’ offseason continues at its current pace, the 23-year-old right-hander’s development will be critical in determining whether the club remains in contention.

4. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs
suggs
Skinny: The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year may have already played his final game in Baltimore if he’s not willing to adjust his $12.4 million salary cap number for the 2014 season.

3. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado
machado
Skinny: Coming off knee surgery and entering just his second full season in the majors, the 21-year-old will be counted on to not only be healthy but to take his already-impressive game to the next level.

2. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco
flacco
Skinny: The spotlight on the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player will be brighter than ever after a disappointing 2013 season and considering his cap number balloons to $14.8 million in 2014.

1. Orioles manager Buck Showalter
buck
Skinny: After two poor offseasons in a row, does the Baltimore skipper reach his breaking point with an organization lacking the commitment to build on its recent success?

CONTINUE FOR DREW FORRESTER’S TOP 7 LOCAL SPORTS FIGURES TO WATCH IN 2014 >>>>>

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Caldwell to complete another head-coaching interview with Tennessee

Posted on 06 January 2014 by Luke Jones

Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell continues to receive interest as a potential NFL head coach and will interview with the Tennessee Titans later this week.

After completing interviews with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins in recent days, Caldwell will reportedly meet with the Titans about their open position after they fired Mike Munchak on Saturday.

Caldwell spent three years as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and led them to Super Bowl XLIV before joining the Ravens as quarterbacks coach in 2012. He received much praise for the job he did with the Baltimore offense in helping the Ravens win a Super Bowl after being promoted to offensive coordinator on Dec. 10, 2012, but his offense struggled mightily in 2013 as the Ravens finished 29th in total yards and 25th in points scored while also setting franchise lows in rushing yards and yards per carry.

Baltimore parted ways with running backs coach Wilbert Mongtomery last week, and some have wondered whether a change is warranted at offensive coordinator despite teams having interest in Caldwell for their vacant head coaching positions.

 

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Caldwell to interview with Detroit, Washington for head coach vacancies

Posted on 01 January 2014 by Luke Jones

Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has never shied away from the goal of once again being an NFL head coach, and it appears he’ll pursue that possibility in the coming days.

Multiple outlets are reporting that Caldwell will interview for the open head coaching jobs with the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins. Caldwell spent three years as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts before being fired at the end of the 2011 season and joining the Ravens as their quarterbacks coach two winters ago.

Caldwell received much praise for the job he did with the Baltimore offense in helping the Ravens win a Super Bowl after being promoted to offensive coordinator on Dec. 10, 2012. However, his offense struggled mightily in 2013 as the Ravens finished 29th in total yards and 25th in points scored while also setting franchise lows in rushing yards and yards per carry.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate any changes to his coaching staff for now but acknowledged the possibility of some assistants exploring opportunities for other jobs.

“There may or may not be some more things happening as the week goes on,” Harbaugh said, “and I’m sure some of our coaches could be a part of that, as far as opportunities go to move up and move on and to pursue career opportunities. We’re proud of that. I think we’ve had a lot of success here. The fact that we’re not pushing deep into the playoffs will probably give some of our coaches some opportunities to do that.”

Some have called for a change at offensive coordinator after the Ravens’ immense struggles on that side of the ball, but Caldwell’s track record in Indianapolis as well as his work late in the 2012 season make him a viable candidate for another head coaching job at some point.

A former Penn State assistant from 1986 to 1992, Caldwell’s name has also been mentioned as a possibility for the Nittany Lions’ head coaching vacancy after Bill O’Brien was hired as the new head man for the Houston Texans on Tuesday.

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Ravens first step to improving in 2014: A new offensive coordinator

Posted on 30 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Anyone who has followed my on-air ramblings or blogging efforts over the years will attest to the fact that I’m not the knee-jerk “fire the coach” guy when something goes wrong in a season.

The Ravens went 8-8 in 2013 for a variety of reasons, many of which are connected more to player performance than anything a coach or coaches did or didn’t do.

In fact, I can think of five players right off the top of my head that deserve to be fired based on their production in 2013, but their contract status and league salary cap rules make that fundamentally unwise.

As we begin the inevitable discourse on what went wrong with the defending champions, let’s remember from the start they lost twelve key performers from the team that beat the 49’ers in last February’s Super Bowl.  Twelve.  That’s a lot of quality to lose in one fell swoop, even if several of them were getting long in the tooth and dreaming of greener pastures.

It’s a quarterback’s league and the guy behind center in Baltimore threw 22 interceptions in sixteen games.  That’s not going to cut it.  I wrote my Joe Flacco piece last week.  You can read it here.  I’m certainly not saying he was the reason why the team failed to make the playoffs in 2013.  But, I also know he was much closer to being the reason why they missed it than he was the reason why they almost made it.  His stock took a hit in ’13.

The team’s offensive line was dismal most of the season.  The running game was a dud.  One of the team’s top receiving threats broke his hip in the first padded practice of training camp.

The Ravens’ defense wasn’t terrible — and in some cases, they were really good — but they gave up a lot of yardage in big chunks and were less than reliable in the 4th quarter throughout the sixteen week regular season.

Make no mistake about it, though.  This 2013 season will go down as the one when the Ravens offense completely fizzled.

Now, settle in for my idea of how to fix it.

Ready?

The Ravens need to make a change at Offensive Coordinator.  Yes, a firing of a coach.

It’s not completely “that simple”, of course, because Joe Flacco needs to play better, Marshal Yanda needs to play better, Ray Rice needs to play better, Torrey Smith needs to play better and so on and so on.

What we just saw, though, for sixteen weeks, was about as boring, pedestrian and unimaginative as it could possibly get from a team in the best football league in the world.

The coaches and minds behind the scenes in the NFL are supposed to be the best-of-the-best.  The cream of the crop.  What the Ravens exhibited on offense in 2013 was far from “cream of the crop” stuff.  It was dreadful.

And, because you can’t fire all the players and start over next August, the guy who runs the offense has to go.  Along with a lot of others who have had their fingerprints on the offensive blueprint in Baltimore over the last couple of years.

The Bengals used that Andy-Dalton-fake-to-the-running-back-quarterback-keeper play to absolute perfection three times during Sunday’s 34-17 win over Baltimore.  The Ravens didn’t use a play like that once the entire season.

Before you tell me Flacco is Flacco and no one can come in and teach him anything, let me remind you what just transpired in Pittsburgh this season.  Todd Haley showed up in 2012 as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, took a year to figure out what changes he thought they needed, then spent nearly four months this past off-season convincing Ben Roethlisberger he needed to shave a second or two off his snap-to-throw time in order to get the ball out more quickly and avoid taking the kind of punishment he’s known to take while running around with the ball in his hand.

Roethlisberger gave in, took to the new philosophy, and had one of his best seasons ever in 2013.

The Ravens need that sort of interjection in their offense.

They need someone to come in and say, “This needs an overhaul and I’m just the mechanic to do it.”

The quarterback might get offended at hearing that.  The running back might not like hearing it, either.  Hell, the head coach might not even be all that thrilled to hear it.

That said, it’s the truth.

The Ravens need a completely new offensive structure.  They need better players, for starters, particularly on the offensive line.  There’s no question about that.  None at all.  They can either add better players and improve or do what the Orioles do every off-season and add scrubs and/or no one and lose.

But, once they add those players, they need a new voice running the offense.

Jim Caldwell had sixteen games to convince everyone he’s the man for the job, long-term.  Unless I’m really off-base here, I don’t think he did anything to prove he should be the team’s offensive coordinator next season.

The quarterback might not like that, but, like Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Joe Flacco will need to come to grips with the fact that he still has room to improve his game despite owning a Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy.

Privately this past season, some Ravens officials were concerned with Flacco’s attitude, particularly as it related to his public comments about the wildcat offense and the insertion of Tyrod Taylor for a handful of plays against the Jets in November.

While he’s not a malcontent by any means, Flacco can also be set in his ways to the point that he becomes unwilling to consider other options that could benefit the team.

With a new offensive coordinator in town – especially one who shows up and says, “I’m here to make Flacco better” – the stage would be set for a showdown of sorts between the quarterback who signed a $120 million contract last spring and the new voice who says, “Yeah, and then you went 8-8 after that…let’s get back to work and make you really good again.”

Rob Chudzinski was a name the Ravens talked about back in 2008 when they started evaluating head coach candidates and they thought of him mainly because of his offensive acumen.  He’s expected to be fired as the Browns’ head coach after just one season as their head honcho.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens renew their interest in him if, in fact, a change is made with Jim Caldwell.

If Jim Schwartz gets fired in Detroit, Lions’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan might be looking for a new gig.  He’s had the luxury of coaching one of the game’s most dynamic weapons in Calvin Johnson, but Linehan is a respected offensive mind throughout the NFL.

I’m not campaigning for either of those men and I haven’t seen someone at Owings Mills creating a “reserved parking spot” sign for either of them.  But, let’s just say I didn’t pick those two names out of a hat, either.

There are lots of other names to consider, of course, and the Ravens are known as one of the best “hiring organizations” in the NFL.

And, for all I know, they’re going to keep Jim Caldwell on board.

After what I saw for sixteen weeks this season, I don’t know how they can possibly do that, but I also know coaches around the league are hesitant to make huge changes in their coaching staff unless something really goes terribly wrong.

Well…2013 came and went for the Ravens and, offensively, it went “terribly wrong”.

Time for a change.

Let’s get back to work.

 

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Ravens hoping tough mystique resurfaces in Cincinnati

Posted on 26 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens say they’ve turned the page from their embarrassing loss to New England last Sunday, but the truth is staring them right in the face.

In addition to their playoff hopes taking a hit, their pride was significantly wounded by the Patriots, who beat them up for 60 minutes at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens simply aren’t used to losing games of that significance in that manner under head coach John Harbaugh, making you wonder how they’ll respond in traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a must-win game on Sunday.

This year marks the fourth consecutive time Baltimore will conclude the regular season against the Bengals, who clinched the AFC North title and their third consecutive playoff berth with a win over Minnesota in Week 16. The Ravens will finish their 16-game schedule at Paul Brown Stadium for the third straight year, but the stakes have never been quite like this.

After beating Cincinnati in a 20-17 overtime final in Baltimore earlier this season, the Ravens hope their familiarity and winning mystique will be major assets in trying to top the Bengals while hoping that either Miami or San Diego will fall to give them the No. 6 seed and a sixth consecutive trip to the postseason. However, the Bengals still have eyes on a first-round bye if they can dispose of the Ravens and receive some help from Buffalo against the Patriots.

“We’re used to these guys. They’re a good defense,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “They have been for a few years now. It’s always a good test to play a division opponent, especially in their place. They have a lot to play for; we have a lot to play for. It’s going to be a good game, a good test.”

A good test, indeed, as the Bengals are 7-0 at home on the season and have scored more than 40 points in each of their last four home games. In contrast, Baltimore has scored more than 20 points on the road just twice this season on the way to posting a 2-5 away record.

The Ravens must fight the urge to watch the scoreboard while facing the daunting task of slowing the league’s 10th-ranked offense and moving the ball against the NFL’s fifth-best defense in yards allowed. Given the Bengals’ long history of losing and the Ravens’ great success against them — winning five of the last six meetings — there are reasons to be optimistic that the Ravens will find a way as they often have with their backs against the wall, but it’s still difficult to eliminate the bad taste from last Sunday.

The hard-nosed and winning pedigree that had so many labeling the Ravens as the team no one would want to face in the AFC playoffs just a week ago now appears to be in grave doubt. Losing their grip on a direct path to the postseason, the Ravens can only focus on beating the Bengals on the road like they did two years ago to clinch a division title and first-round bye.

Nothing else really matters if they can’t handle their own business.

“The guys know the scenarios. They’re not living in a vacuum,” Harbaugh said. “They understand what else has to happen. But our job and our task as one single-minded purpose is to win the next game.”

As much as the Ravens will point to their track record in big games, that history came with more-talented teams than this year’s version. Major offensive deficiencies coupled with a good — but not elite — defense won’t breed confidence in being able to defeat one of the AFC’s best teams who has been unbeatable at home this season.

Faced with the prospects of needing a win in the final week of the season for the first time since 2009 to make the playoffs — though that team didn’t need other help that season — the Ravens hope their long-term history repeats itself and their swagger against the Bengals in a critical game will resurface. But the sting of last Sunday is difficult to shake, no matter what the Ravens tell you.

“We take pride in being battle-tested,” running back Ray Rice said. “Last week was last week. If I know this group that’s going to show up Sunday, the group is going to fight until the last whistle until it’s all over. Hopefully, it’s good enough to take care of business.”

Rice out to prove himself next year

The Ravens have rushed for 90 or more yards in three straight games for the first time all season, but their running game won’t avoid a few dubious franchise records for ineptitude.

In addition to their current 3.1 yards per carry average being on pace to shatter the franchise-worst 3.4 mark set in 2006, the Ravens would need to run for 308 yards against the Bengals just to equal the franchise-low 1,589 rushing yards gained in 1997. Running behind an ineffective offensive line all season, three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice has gained 645 yards on the ground, his lowest total since his rookie year when he was part of a three-headed attack that included Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee.

A Week 2 hip injury has also hobbled Rice for much of the season, robbing him of his once-dangerous elusiveness. However, the sixth-year back has taken consolation in only missing one game this season despite his poor production.

“From a personal standpoint, [it’s] understanding that I played through a lot this year,” Rice said. “I’m just going to get back out there and battle and not worry about what I’ve got to do statistically week-in and week-out. Statistically, I put all of that stuff aside, but personally, I’m glad I was able to overcome some things.”

Rice has heard the doubts and questions about whether he’s reached the downside of his career as he’s averaging 3.1 yards per carry and only 5.6 yards per reception — both career lows — but he’s already vowed to return in 2014 to erase those thoughts.

Averaging just under 4.1 yards per carry over the last three weeks, Rice is now battling a mild quadriceps injury he says is unrelated to the hip flexor strain suffered in Week 2.

“Everything has been great, even for some of the people who say that you lost a step,” said Rice, who reiterated he’s still focused on the remainder of this season. “It’s different when you have an injury that controls things that you’re normally good at doing. I had to battle that this year. I’ll make sure I come back in the best shape, bigger, faster, stronger — whatever you want to call it — to prove myself again that I can still be a premier running back in the NFL.”

The Bengals are allowing 99.8 yards per game on the ground and rank sixth in the NFL in rush defense.

Pees complimentary of Bengals personnel

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the New England Patriots 41-7 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Lardarius Webb

4. Jimmy Smith

3. Michael Oher

2. John Harbaugh

1. Joe Flacco (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens preparing for Lions’ monstrous defensive tackles

Posted on 13 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As if preparing for arguably the NFL’s most explosive offensive player in Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson wasn’t enough, the Ravens must also deal with a pair of monsters in the middle of the Lions defensive line on Monday night.

And while Detroit’s defense ranks an ordinary 17th in yards allowed and 18th in points surrendered this season, tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley can wreak havoc on an offense in a variety of ways. Effective in shutting down the run as well as providing pressure up the middle, the tackles also bring an intimidation factor that walks a fine line between intimidating and dirty at times.

“Their reputation, they definitely live up to it,” running back Ray Rice said. “I don’t know if you want to call it physical or dirty. Whatever the refs see, that’s what they see. But needless to say, I’m not going to spark any fire. No. 1 is those two guys there in the middle, Ndamukong Suh and Fairley. They are great football players. We know we have our hands full with those guys.”

The Lions rank sixth against the run, which doesn’t bode well for a Baltimore running game that’s last in the league in yards per carry, but Suh’s biggest asset is his ability to put pressure on the quarterback. His 5 1/2 sacks rank second on the Lions behind defensive end Ziggy Ansah while Fairley has added 3 1/2 sacks on the season.

Guards Marshal Yanda and A.Q. Shipley along with center Gino Gradkowski will be entrusted to keep quarterback Joe Flacco upright and to give him room to step up to throw against a vulnerable Detroit secondary. Yanda’s task will be especially challenging as Suh has graded out as the second-best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

“One of the things that you notice about them is the fact that they can push the pocket,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “They can keep you from stepping up in it, and therefore you aren’t able to get the ball down the field with the kind of precision that you like. They do that quite often to quarterbacks. They get free.”

One man on ‘Megatron?’

Plenty of discussion this week has centered around how the Ravens will try to cover Johnson with third-year cornerback Jimmy Smith being named as the most popular candidate.

As you’d expect, the Ravens aren’t giving away how they plan to defend the 6-foot-5 receiver, but Smith is their most effective defender in press coverage should they try to play a physical brand of football against him like they did earlier this season against standout receivers such as Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall.

“How many corners are 6-foot-2 [with] long arms, a physical guy, a strong guy and the guy can run?” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Those are all the things you look for in a corner. Besides that, I think his confidence is growing. That’s the other side of it and the more it grows, the better you become.”

Pees would only say that fans and media would find out Monday night if the Ravens have decided to match Smith against Johnson exclusively, but the strategy isn’t as simple for a defense that plays extensive zone coverage.

In fact, the defensive coordinator provided a pretty convincing explanation for why the Ravens shouldn’t move away from their typical strategy of keeping Smith at right corner and Lardarius Webb on the left side in the base defense. Matching Smith up with the star receiver would require adjustments everywhere else and defenders to have new responsibilities if the Ravens are to show anything other than man coverage.

“You can’t go into a game, and every time I walk over with [No.81], they know you’re in man coverage, so a red flag is going to go up,” Pees said. “You’ve got to be able to play all of your coverages if you are going to play it that way. There’s a lot more involved in playing that, and all of a sudden the guy is in the slot, and he’s not an outside receiver, and you’re in sub defense, and Jimmy is in a nickel, or your guy is not a nickel. There’s a lot more involved when you try to play matchup coverage. It’s easy when you play man; go get your guy. But I wouldn’t want to be a coordinator in this league that tells the offensive coordinator every time I’m in man coverage.”

Indoor football

After dealing with a tornado-prompted delay in Chicago, a snowstorm in Baltimore, and high winds during a number of games over the last six weeks, the Ravens are embracing the opportunity to play indoors for the first time since Super Bowl XLVII.

It doesn’t result in any distinct advantage against an opponent that plays all home games inside, but the fast track and controlled climate of Ford Field just might be the elixir for a passing game that now possesses tight end Dennis Pitta and is looking for more consistency.

“I never make a big deal about playing outside,” Flacco said, “but every time you go into a dome and you start warming up, you realize how awesome it is to be able to throw the ball inside. It won’t have too much of an effect on the outcome of the game. As a quarterback, you always want great conditions and a dome obviously presents that.”

In addition to an easier time in the passing game, the Ravens will receive a respite in the kicking game after excellent work from kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch in some very difficult conditions.

The Ravens have even needed to adjust to the idea of not needing to prepare for harsh weather conditions.

“It’s been interesting,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “I gave the players the weather report this morning in the meeting, and I said it’s going to be 72 and calm. And there was a long pause. They weren’t sure they understood. ‘Oh, yeah. That’s right!!’ So, yes, we don’t have to deal with that. I think the people that are most happy about that are the specialists.”

 

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