Tag Archive | "steve spagnuolo"

Levine works way up Ravens’ ladder to starting defensive role

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Levine works way up Ravens’ ladder to starting defensive role

Posted on 11 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You’d be hard pressed to find too many Ravens fans who knew Anthony Levine’s name prior to Sunday’s 21-7 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Making his first career start for a revamped and injury-riddled secondary that was still licking its wounds from an embarrassing performance in Pittsburgh, the former safety seized the opportunity after previously playing just five defensive snaps in his entire NFL career. Levine finished with four tackles and two pass breakups while also earning Pro Football Focus’ highest single-game grade in pass coverage for any Ravens cornerback not named Jimmy Smith this season.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Levine said after Sunday’s win. “To call myself a starting something in the NFL — whether it was safety, corner — I was happy to say that I was a starting corner today for the Baltimore Ravens.”

Of course, Levine’s success came against a rookie quarterback and a Tennessee passing game lacking bite and it remains to be seen if he’ll survive against more potent aerial attacks, but it’s difficult not to feel good for a third-year player who spent parts of three seasons on practice squads — originally with Green Bay and then Baltimore — before even getting a chance as a special-teams contributor. The Tennessee State product played all 16 games for the Ravens last season without receiving a single defensive snap, finishing second on the team in special-teams tackles and serving as the protector on the punt team.

After watching Levine serve as a core member of his units for the last two years, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg takes pride in seeing him become the latest special-teams player to make the transition to starter. Several former Ravens have made similar jumps in recent years, including linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe as well as cornerback Corey Graham.

“We hope that our players that are just playing special teams develop into players on their sides of the ball as well,” Rosburg said. “It’s my belief — perhaps it’s a slanted belief — that if you can be a good special-teams player, you should be a good player on offense and defense because it takes a lot of skill to play on special teams. It’s not a surprise to me that he’s developed skills that he can go out there and play for the Ravens in the secondary.”

To be fair, Levine’s opportunity to start wasn’t as much about improvement as it was about the Ravens’ injuries and attrition as the coaching staff didn’t anticipate throwing him into the fire this quickly until the Smith injury made the secondary’s issues even worse. After Levine practiced at safety in his first two years with the Ravens, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo had moved him to cornerback in training camp when injuries to Lardarius Webb, Smith, and Asa Jackson left the secondary shorthanded.

It was a position at which Levine had worked some before, and he’s downplayed the change because of how comfortable he’s always felt backpedaling, a skill needed at both safety and corner. The 27-year-old really began turning heads a couple weeks ago while practicing with the scout team against the starting offense as Pees and Spagnuolo noticed how effectively he was competing against the likes of Steve Smith and Torrey Smith in coverage.

Meanwhile, cornerbacks higher on the depth chart such as Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown continued to struggle, culminating with Ben Roethlisberger’s six-touchdown performance in Pittsburgh on Nov. 2. Two days later, those two were cut and Levine received a text message from Spagnuolo saying to be ready to practice leading up to the Tennessee game.

“He just has run with it. He’s a confident guy that competes,” said Spagnuolo, who told Levine he was starting the morning of the Titans game. “He loves to practice and is passionate about the game. There’s not a guy out there he doesn’t think he can cover. That’s a good quality for a corner.”

Sharing time with newly-acquired veteran Danny Gorrer, the 5-foot-11, 203-pound Levine was strong in run support and did a fine job keeping receivers in front of him, allowing only one reception for 13 yards on three passes thrown his way in coverage. Despite the first-quarter struggles of the defense, Levine made his presence felt on the opening drive when he dropped running back Bishop Sankey on a stretch play for only a 1-yard gain.

The post-game locker room featured several teammates praising Levine as a hard worker who had done everything he could for the opportunity. While most media and fans expected Gorrer to be the one to start at cornerback in the buildup to the Tennessee game, Webb complimented Levine’s performance in practice without being prompted last week, a hint that the special-teams player just might be the next man up.

“We all know that Levine can make plays in practice against the top receivers, Steve and Torrey,” Webb said following the game. “That’s how he is in practice, he’s always going 110 percent on special teams — all phases of special teams — and playing defense. You have to look up to that. He did a great job doing everything. He’s a corner, he’s a playmaker.”

Those labels are different than what Levine’s used to hearing after years as a practice-squad member, special-teams contributor, and scout-team player who remained anonymous with most of the outside football world.

Though the Ravens will continue to face questions in their secondary week after week, Levine was able to provide an answer for at least one Sunday. And he earned another shot after the bye against a more imposing opponent in the New Orleans Saints to prove that he’s not just a special-teams player playing out of position.

“Sometimes you have to be careful of pigeonholing guys like that,” Pees said. “Give them an opportunity, [and] then it’s up to them to run with it. I just think that’s a credit to them when they get the opportunity to seize it.”

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with former Rams safety Stewart

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with former Rams safety Stewart

Posted on 21 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Concluding a quiet week after their last free-agent signing of veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, the Ravens added another piece to their 2014 plans by agreeing to a one-year deal with strong safety Darian Stewart on Friday.

The former St. Louis Rams defensive back is familiar with Baltimore secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was Stewart’s head coach in the first two years of his NFL career. Stewart started six games and played in 13 overall for the Rams last season, making 36 tackles and breaking up five passes.

Stewart is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore to take a physical before signing his contract.

It’s likely that Stewart’s signing is more of a depth move as the Ravens aren’t expected to retain starting strong safety James Ihedigbo, who is reportedly mulling over offers from a few NFC teams. With 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam expected to shift to strong safety, general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the beginning of the offseason that upgrading the free safety spot would be his top defensive priority.

“I talked about a free safety [and] maybe getting a free safety that can be a playmaker,” said Newsome when asked in early January what improvements needed to be made to the defense. “When tipped balls are in the air, guys that can come away with that.”

Stewart received the most extensive playing time of his career during the 2011 season, Spagnuolo’s last year as head coach of the Rams. The University of South Carolina product started 13 games and collected 84 tackles, three sacks, 11 pass breakups, and one interception.

For his career, the 5-foot-11, 214-pound safety has amassed 147 tackles, four sacks, and one interception.

The free safety market has few remaining options as veterans Chris Clemons and Thomas DeCoud could be viewed as reasonable choices but neither profiles as the playmaking safety Newsome covets. Former Bills free safety Jairus Byrd was the best free safety to hit the market earlier this month, but he was quickly signed to a lucrative $56 million contract with the New Orleans Saints on the first day of free agency.

The Ravens may have no choice but to look toward the draft for their answer at free safety with the likes of Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor potentially available in the first round and others such as Ed Reynolds of Stanford or Florida State’s Terrence Brooks serving as Day 2 possibilities. Should the Ravens not acquire a free safety, they would likely be forced to move Elam back to free safety and look at the possibility of Stewart at the starting strong safety spot.

An undrafted free agent in 2010, Stewart reportedly visited the Carolina Panthers earlier this week.

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Ravens appoint Spagnuolo as new secondary coach

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Ravens appoint Spagnuolo as new secondary coach

Posted on 29 January 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Baltimore Ravens have appointed Steve Spagnuolo to be their secondary coach and have hired Brian Pariani as tight ends coach, head coach John Harbaugh announced Wednesday afternoon. It was also announced by Harbaugh that Spagnuolo has been named the team’s assistant head coach.

A 16-year NFL coaching veteran, Spagnuolo was hired as the Ravens’ senior defensive assistant in 2013. Prior to his Baltimore arrival, Spagnuolo was defensive coordinator for the Saints (2012) and head coach of the St. Louis Rams (2009-11). Also spending two seasons (2007-08) as the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator, Spagnuolo was the defensive architect of their Super Bowl XLII Championship team (2007), guiding a unit that ranked in the NFL’s Top 10 in eight single-season statistical categories, including a league-high 53 sacks.

“How fortunate are we to have a former NFL head coach, former defensive coordinator and secondary coach become the Ravens’ coach for our defensive backs?” Harbaugh said. “Steve is one of the outstanding teachers in the NFL, and he already worked with our defensive staff and players last season as a senior assistant. Our players respect him, and a number of our veteran defensive backs recently said to me that they wanted Steve to coach them.”

Spagnuolo has coached for teams that have clinched eight playoff berths, won six division titles, made five conference championship game appearances, won two conference titles and won Super Bowl XLII. He also spent eight seasons (1999-2006) on the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff with Harbaugh, specifically coaching the secondary for three seasons (2001-03). In his first campaign as defensive backs coach, Philadelphia ranked second in pass defense (179.0 ypg), second in points allowed (13.0 ppg) and seventh in total defense (293.8 ypg). Under Spagnuolo’s tutelage, CB Troy Vincent (2001-03) and S Brian Dawkins (2001-02) earned multiple Pro Bowl honors.

Pariani, who enters his 24th season of NFL coaching, spent the past eight years (2006-13) as the Houston Texans’ tight ends coach while serving under Gary Kubiak. Kubiak, Houston’s head coach of eight seasons (2006-13), was hired as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator on Jan. 27. Additionally, Rick Dennison, who spent the past four years (2010-13) on Kubiak’s staff as offensive coordinator and worked closely with Pariani, joined the Ravens as quarterbacks coach on Monday.

“Brian has earned a reputation as one of the NFL’s top tight ends coaches, and we’re excited that he was available and willing to join us,” Harbaugh stated. “Another factor that immediately makes him valuable to us is his familiarity with the offense we want to run. We are making changes on offense, and Brian will be able to help teach and implement them.”

Pariani served as Syracuse’s offensive coordinator for one season (2005) following 10 years (1995-04) coaching the Denver Broncos’ tight ends. From 1991-94, he was an offensive coaching assistant in San Francisco after originally beginning his pro coaching career in 1990 as a scouting assistant with the 49ers.

Under Pariani’s guidance the past several seasons, Texans TE Owen Daniels emerged as one of the NFL’s top offensive players. Earning two Pro Bowl appearances (2008 and 2012), Daniels posted 385 catches for 4,617 yards and 29 touchdowns in eight seasons with Pariani, including career highs in receptions (70) and receiving yards (862) during the ’08 campaign.

While with the Broncos, Pariani coached TE Shannon Sharpe, a 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. Sharpe led the NFL in receptions by a tight end from 1996-98, averaging 72 catches over the three-year span. He produced 425 receptions for 5,373 yards and 38 touchdowns with Pariani.

Sharpe retired in 2004, finishing his career as the NFL’s all-time record-holder among tight ends with 815 receptions, 10,060 yards and 62 touchdowns (all marks since broken by TE Tony Gonzalez).

After earning his bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA in 1989, Pariani began his career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater under Terry Donahue. Pariani was born in San Francisco and was a three-sport athlete at Marin Catholic (Kentfield, Calif.) High School. Brian and his wife, Stephanie, have two daughters, Jessica and Gianna.

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Ravens secondary coach Austin hired as Lions defensive coordinator

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Ravens secondary coach Austin hired as Lions defensive coordinator

Posted on 16 January 2014 by Luke Jones

In a move not unexpected following the hiring of Jim Caldwell as their new head coach, the Detroit Lions have come to an agreement with Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin to become their new defensive coordinator.

The team officially announced the hiring on Friday.

Austin’s departure is a blow to the defensive coaching staff after he did an impressive job with the development of several young defensive backs including Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and former Raven Cary Williams. The 48-year-old Austin took over as the Baltimore secondary coach in 2011 when Chuck Pagano was promoted to defensive coordinator.

His roots with Caldwell extend beyond their two years with the Ravens as the pair coached together at Penn State and Wake Forest in the early 1990s.

Head coach John Harbaugh could have an in-house candidate to take Austin’s place in senior defensive assistant Steve Spagnuolo, who spent three years as the defensive backs coach in Philadelphia from 2001 through 2003. Formerly the head coach of the St. Louis Rams who also spent time as a defensive coordinator for both the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints, Spagnuolo would have to decide whether the secondary coach role would be the right fit for his career path.

The last two secondary coaches under Harbaugh eventually became defensive coordinators with Pagano even advancing a step further to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Such a track record under Harbaugh might entice Spagnuolo to take the position if offered, even if he desires to once again be a coordinator and head coach in the future.

Harbaugh credited the 54-year-old Spagnuolo as a helpful sounding board on game days as well as an asset to defensive coordinator Dean Pees during the 2013 season.

“I think Dean would tell you something along the lines that he was a big help to Dean as far as — not so much building the package — but studying the opponents and creating a few ideas and some insights that were a little bit different than what we’ve had here in the past and contributed in that way,” Harbaugh said. “I think Dean really came to appreciate Steve’s role in the defensive room there a little bit. The thing about Steve is he’s never really threatening to anybody. He respects all the other coaches. He just tried to help out where he could.”

In addition to continuing the search for their next offensive coordinator, the Ravens must now fill their secondary coach, running backs coach, and — if they choose — quarterbacks coach positions.

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I called it last week — and Harbaugh confirmed it yesterday

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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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After years together in Philadelphia, Spagnuolo happy to be reunited with Harbaugh

Posted on 13 June 2013 by Tim Horsey

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You seem like you are the least-stressed coach in the NFL.

That was one of the many things noticed about Steve Spagnuolo during his first chance to address the media after the final day of mini-camp for the Ravens. After three dreadful seasons at the helm of the St. Louis Rams and another year coordinating a Saints defense that gave up the most yards in a single season in NFL history, Spagnuolo seems at ease in his new role with the Super Bowl champs.

“It’s been a tough two years, but I’m focusing forward, and I’m excited. To me, the way I look at this is this is a privilege to be a part of a great organization.”

Spagnuolo said that he is not happy with the way things worked out at his last two stops, but that he has learned from them.

“I’ll tell you what, people say this all the time, and it’s true: You learn more from the setbacks than you do really from the successes.”

Spagnuolo’s official role with the Ravens is senior defensive assistant, a role that he says will essentially be “an extra set of eyes.”

“You can never have enough eyes with some kind of experience to kind of give some feedback or an idea or something that we might have done, or I saw somebody else do that I worked for. I worked for some great people: [New York Giants head coach] Tom Coughlin, [Kansas City Chiefs head coach] Andy Reid.“

Harbaugh and Juan Castillo, the Ravens run game coordinator, were also part of Reid’s staff in Philadelphia. Spagnuolo mentioned how excited he was to rejoin some old friends on a new coaching staff.

“You leave each other, and you hope someday that you are back together. God-willing in this business, you can do that. It’s great. It’s great every day…I remember we used to test each other. I’d watch him coach, and he’d want the feedback. And, I’d ask him to watch me coach and give feedback. We’ve been doing that for years. It’s great to be with him.”

Before becoming the head coach of the Rams in 2009, Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. In New York, Spagnuolo rolled through a bevy of talented defensive lineman, including future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and Pro Bowlers Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He would often put his four best pass rushers, usually four defensive ends, all on the line at the same time to create mismatches in what came to be known as the NASCAR formation.

Behind these high-pressure schemes and talented pass rushers, the Giants defeated the then unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, launching Spagnuolo into the limelight as one of the premier defensive coaches in the NFL.

And although that group Spagnuolo had in Big Blue was extremely talented, he says that this current group in Baltimore has all of the pieces to be even better.

“I had little visions of the Giants’ front that I happened to be privileged to be working with. They are good all the way around… This is as good as looking football team that I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about physically and stout.“

He specifically pointed to Chris Canty and Terrell Suggs as two pieces who are going to be key to the pass rush.

“You can’t coach that height. He puts his hands up, man. There’s not a coach in the world that can take a six-foot guy and do that. He’s been very impressive to me,” when referring to the 6’7” Canty.

And when he talked about Suggs, he mentioned his fun-loving, joker style that Ravens fans have come to know and love (for the most part), but he also praised the former Defensive Player of the Year.

“He put his uniform [on] and came out there. I looked at [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] and I’m laughing, saying ‘Wow. That’s what they’re supposed to look like.’ He is one of those blue-chips prospects in this league. He’s an elite player.”

Along with Canty, a slimmed down Suggs, and talented players like Elvis Dumervil and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens pass rush should be one of the most feared units in the entire league, which would be a significant improvement from last year’s squad, who finished tied for 15th in the NFL with 37 sacks.

With success in Baltimore, Spagnuolo could see his name be brought back up in conversation as a future head coach in the league, something that he is still striving for. When asked if he was looking to get back into head coaching, he had a very direct answer, one different from the lengthy answers he gave when asked other questions.

“Oh yes, yes, deeply. “

You could sense right away that this is a man who, even if he seems relaxed, is dying for another chance to get back at the helm of a football team and redeem his reputation. But he realizes that to get to that point, he needs to do his best in his current job in Baltimore.

“I listened to [Dick Vermeil] speak one time, and his advice to young coaches, any coach was, ‘Be the best at whatever job you have right now.’ So, I’m trying to be the best that this particular position and let the rest take care of itself.”

And if he can do that, it will not only be a positive for his personal future, but also for the future of a transitioning defense in Baltimore.

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Harbaugh looking forward to seeing McKinnie go to work

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Harbaugh looking forward to seeing McKinnie go to work

Posted on 05 May 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the day when the Ravens were wrapping up their mandatory rookie minicamp, coach John Harbaugh answered questions about the return of his starting left tackle and oldest player on the roster.

After agreeing to a two-year deal worth a maximum of $7 million to remain in Baltimore on Thursday, Bryant McKinnie, 33, is expected to come to town this week to finalize the contract and begin offseason workouts. His return means the Ravens have now retained four of five starters from their Super Bowl XLVII offensive line, with only 15-year veteran Matt Birk departing due to retirement.

The Ravens had publicly entertained thoughts of moving second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele to left tackle, but a new contract for McKinnie means Baltimore can keep Osemele at left guard, solidifying another position that would have been a question mark had the 2012 second-round pick made the position change.

“Having Bryant back is a big plus for us. We were hoping that would be the case,” Harbaugh said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him next week and getting him in here and going to work. We want our line to be as strong as it can possibly be and that makes us stronger.”

Harbaugh, run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, and other members of the organization kept in touch with McKinnie throughout the offseason, even when it appeared they had little interest in bringing back the 2002 first-round pick. The Ravens’ involvement in negotiating with McKinnie spiked after they were unable to come away with a left tackle of the future in last weekend’s draft and saw San Diego and Miami make contract offers to his agent Michael George.

Asked if he’s been pleased with what McKinnie has told him in terms of his activity and conditioning level this offseason, Harbaugh spoke in generic terms since he hasn’t seen the left tackle since the end of last season. Specific details of McKinnie’s deal hadn’t been reported as of Sunday afternoon, but it’s believed there will be some incentives related to workouts and playing time.

There was plenty of speculation that McKinnie found his way into Harbaugh’s doghouse last season as he didn’t start a game until the playoffs, but the Baltimore coach reached out to the 354-pound lineman earlier this offseason to make it known that he wanted McKinnie to stay with the Ravens in 2013.

“I’m always pleased with conversations with Bryant McKinnie,” Harbaugh said. “I enjoy talking to Bryant. He’s one of my favorite guys. He’s a sterling conversationalist. We talk a lot about stuff, a lot of different things — a broad range of topics. I always enjoy that. I think he does as well.”

Spagnuolo’s role a work in progress

Sunday marked the first time Harbaugh commented publicly on the hiring of former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo as a senior defensive assistant, and it appears his role will remain fluid as the offseason moves into training camp and the start of the regular season.

The pair spent seven seasons working together as assistants for the Philadelphia Eagles before Spagnuolo moved on to become the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants and ultimately the head coach in St. Louis from 2009 through 2011. Spagnuolo spent last season as the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints but was fired after his unit finished last in yards allowed and 31st in points surrendered.

“His accomplishments speak for themselves. I think it adds to an already very strong staff and just makes us that much better,” Harbaugh said. “The more great coaches and great players that we can build into what we’re doing, the better we’re going to be. He’ll build into the defensive side, he’ll assist where needed, and I think we’ll build that in as we go. He can really work with any position, so it’s a big plus for us.”

Given the 53-year-old Spagnuolo’s impressive resume aside from working with an overmatched New Orleans defense a year ago, it will be interesting to see how closely he works with defensive coordinator Dean Pees and whether his longstanding relationship with Harbaugh may put him in line to be the eventual replacement for the 63-year-old.

Elam impresses early

Sunday offered the media’s first glimpse at first-round safety Matt Elam in a Ravens uniform and the University of Florida product didn’t disappoint, showing good speed and nearly picking off a pass during 11-on-11 drills.

Harbaugh even pointed to some of the leadership traits Elam exuded with the Gators that already were carrying over to the practice field in Owings Mills this weekend.

“Matt really picked things up quickly. He really did a nice job of communicating in the back end, which is not usual for a rookie,” Harbaugh said. “Most rookie defensive backs — even all defensive players — have a tough time with the communication part of it because they’re not confident enough to make the calls. He’s smart. He picked it up quickly, he jumped right back there and made the calls with force and played fast. He looked good.”

Odds & ends

Sunday featured an impressive moment for the Towson Tigers football program as quarterback Grant Enders — invited to try out this weekend — connected with wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard on the final play of Sunday’s practice. However, Enders was also the quarterback nearly picked off by Elam in 11-on-11 drills. “Enders and Sheppard looked really good in this camp,” Harbaugh said. “They are NFL-quality guys.” … Former Maryland tight end Matt Furstenburg caught a touchdown from University of Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri, who also tried out this weekend. … Second-round linebacker Arthur Brown of Kansas State showed impressive quickness dropping into coverage and blanketed running backs and tight ends running routes on a handful of plays. … Harbaugh said the Ravens are interested in bringing in another kicker who can handle punting and placekicking duties to share reps with kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch during training camp.

 

 

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Ravens hire Spagnuolo as senior defensive assistant

Posted on 03 May 2013 by WNST Staff

Steve Spagnuolo, former head coach of the St. Louis Rams (2009-11), has joined the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff, it was announced today by head coach John Harbaugh. Spagnuolo’s full-time position with the team is senior defensive assistant.

 

“Steve had a number of opportunities in the league right now, and we’re excited he picked the Ravens,” Harbaugh said. “He comes to a staff that we believe is very strong, and he makes us even better. His wealth of NFL coaching experience speaks for itself, and he’ll help us across the board. We think he can help with every position on the defense, and we’ll take full advantage of his knowledge and excellent teaching abilities. The Ravens got better today with the addition of an outstanding coach and person like Steve.”

 

Below are highlights of Coach Spagnuolo’s coaching career:

 

·         Fourteen-year NFL coaching veteran, including last season (2012) as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, three seasons (2009-11) as head coach of the St. Louis Rams and two (2007-08) as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.

 

·         Coached as part of teams that have clinched eight playoff berths, won six division titles, made five conference championship game appearances and won Super Bowl XLII (NYG – 2007).

 

·         Spagnuolo was the defensive architect of the Super Bowl XLII Champion New York Giants (2007), a unit that ranked in the NFL’s Top 10 in eight single-season statistical categories, including a league-high 53 sacks.

 

·         Spent seven seasons (1999-2006) on the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Ravens strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki also served as an assistant with the Eagles in 2006.

 

·         From 2001-04, Harbaugh and Spagnuolo were on an Eagles’ staff that won four-straight NFC East titles, reached four-consecutive conference championship games and earned one Super Bowl berth.

 

·         From 1999-2005, Philadelphia ranked first in the NFL in third-down defense (33%), second in points allowed per game (17.0), second in quarterback sacks (265) and third in red zone defense (43%). During the 2001 campaign, the Eagles did not allow more than 21 points in 16-regular season games, just the fourth time that feat has been accomplished in NFL history.

 

·         Led St. Louis to a six-game turnaround between 2009 and 2010, marking the second-best turnaround in the NFL during that span. The Rams also made significant defensive improvements in Spagnuolo’s second-season at the helm:

 

-             Advanced 10 spots in total defense from 2009 to 2010

-             Ranked second in the NFL in third-down defense in 2010

-             Finished third in negative-play yardage (sacks and tackles for loss)

-             Ranked seventh in sacks in 2010

-             Improved from 31st to ninth in opponent passer rating from 2009-10

 

·         Helped develop young defensive talent, including Rams MLB James Laurinaitis, who led the team in tackles all three seasons under Spagnuolo. DE Chris Long also emerged as a young pass rushing threat, culminating in a career-high 13 sacks in 2011.

 

·         A native of Whitinsville, Mass., Spagnuolo was the Male Scholar Athlete of the Year at Springfield College in 1982, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He also earned a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts.

 

 

SPAGNUOLO’S Coaching Background

years                 COLLEGE/PRO TEAM                          Position

1982-83               Massachusetts                                    Graduate Assistant

1983                    Washington Redskins                         Player Personnel Intern

1984-86               Lafayette (Pa.)                                    Defensive Line/Special Teams

1987-89               Connecticut                                         Defensive Backs

1990-91               Connecticut                                         Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs

1992                    Barcelona Dragons (WLAF)                Defensive Line/Special Teams

1993                    San Diego Chargers                            Scout

1993                    Maine                                                  Defensive Backs

1994                    Maine                                                  Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

1994-95               Rutgers                                               Defensive Backs

1996-97               Bowling Green                                    Defensive Backs

1998                    Frankfurt Galaxy                                 Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

1999-2000           Philadelphia Eagles                            Defensive Assistant

2001-03               Philadelphia Eagles                            Defensive Backs

2004-06               Philadelphia Eagles                            Linebackers

2007-08               New York Giants                                 Defensive Coordinator

2009-11               St. Louis Rams                                    Head Coach

2012                    New Orleans Saints                            Defensive Coordinator

2013                    Baltimore Ravens                               Senior Defensive Assistant

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