DECOSTA SEES SILVER LINING IN 8-8 SEASON
The Ravens have a lot of issues to address in the upcoming draft in May, primarily on the offensive side of the ball as the team looks to upgrade the offensive line and add a strong receiver while also adding depth at running back and tight end. On the defensive side, adding depth at linebacker, safety and defensive end are all considered priorities. All these potential needs can be overwhelming to general managers, but Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta offered a unique perspective on the situation earlier this week.
“What we saw after this season is we have a lot of needs at a lot of positions,” DeCosta said, speaking to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun while scouting the Senior Bowl earlier this week. “It’s bad to be in that position, I think, as an organization, but I think in terms of building your team it’s good because we have the flexibility to draft players at a wide variety of positions.”
The Ravens will be picking either 16th or 17th depending on the outcome of a coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys this spring, and are thought to be interested in players at the Senior Bowl such as Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews and Baylor offensive guard Cyril Richardson. The Senior Bowl offers a rare opportunity to watch collegiate players adapt to coaching staffs from the NFL in a short amount of time, as the two teams this year will be led by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons staffs.
The best quote from the interview with DeCosta came when he was asked about his team’s motivation to rebound from a disappointing 8-8 season. He explained, “I think sometimes you have to get sand kicked in your face a little bit to respond appropriately.”
In a lot of ways DeCosta is right – the Ravens have traditionally played well with chips on their shoulders, like they did after missing the Super Bowl due to a dropped pass and shanked kick in the 2011 season. After winning the title last year, it may have been hard for the team to find the same motivation.
RAVENS NEED SOMEONE TO COACH JOE UP
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley feels strongly that it would benefit the Ravens to hire a quarterbacks coach to work exclusively with quarterback Joe Flacco for the 2014 season. The Ravens did not have a quarterbacks coach in 2013 after former quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell was promoted to offensive coordinator.
Hensley believes Kyle Shanahan, who is currently interviewing for the offensive coordinator position, would be a great fit for QB coach if he is not hired as the offensive coordinator. Shanahan has had a reputation in his coaching career as being one of the more innovative minds, recently sculpting offenses in Washington DC around Robert Griffin III and the option attack he ran in college.
Flacco’s stats in the four seasons he had a quarterbacks coach have been far better than his two seasons without one. He averages 20.5 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions a season in his years with a quarterbacks coach. In the seasons without a quarterbacks coach he averages 19.5 touchdowns a season, but an unacceptable 17 interceptions a season including last year when he threw a career-high 22 picks.
Hensley also mentions the success Flacco had when the quarterbacks coach was Jim Zorn in what was arguably Flacco’s best statistical season. Zorn was surprisingly let go after only one year when it was discovered he had not meshed well with then-offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. At the time, Flacco was openly unhappy with the decision to let Zorn go.
PETTINE LANDS HEAD COACHING JOB
A good way to become a head coach in the NFL is to coach in the Ravens’ organization, or at least that’s the way it has looked recently. Right now, over one-fifth of the head coaches in the league were coaches in Baltimore before landing their current gigs. The list includes Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Mike Smith, Chuck Pagano, Jim Caldwell, Ken Whisenhunt, and the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Mike Pettine.
Pettine was the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills in 2013, and coached the Bills to a top 10 defense in total yards allowed, and an impressive 4th -ranked passing defense. Pettine was with the Ravens from 2002-2008 working as a coaching assistant, defensive line coach, and as a linebackers coach.
Ex-Ravens head coach Brian Billick gave Pettine his first job in 2002 as a video assistant and liked the mind of Pettine. Pettine’s entire coaching career in Baltimore was while Billick led the team and Billick has offered support for Pettine, saying, “Mike Pettine is a good football coach and is as good a defensive mind as I’ve been around. He will do a good job.”
Pettine has also received support from current Browns players including center Alex Mack, who is currently in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl. Mack said earlier this week, “It was a decision that was left to ownership to make and I think they “made” a good choice. They put a lot of effort into it – they did a long search and the goal is to have a good hire.”
TUCKER LOOKING PAD BANK ACCOUNT IN HAWAII
There are many differences between Ravens kicker Justin Tucker and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, but one of the most glaring is their paychecks. Brees makes millions each year as a top 5 quarterback, while Tucker made “only” $480,000 in 2013 as a top 5 kicker on his rookie contract. Salaries are always going to be dramatically higher for quarterbacks than other positions, and that leads Tucker to take the Pro Bowl more seriously than some other players who treat it primarily as a vacation.
“It’s double the pay if you win; so I’m kind of all about that. I’m not ashamed to say it. There’s a good number of guys going out there where the numbers to them are inconsequential.” Tucker said. “I can tell you going into a third year of [an undrafted] rookie contract with no signing bonus, I’m pretty pumped up and I’m going to try to do my part to win that game.”
Tucker also admits it is a whirlwind for him to have won a Super Bowl and have been named to a Pro Bowl in his first two seasons. He added, “I’m excited to hang out on the beach in January, glad to be going out there with a couple teammates, and it’s certainly an accomplishment. But you definitely want to get as many of them as possible in the time that you’re allotted to play. Hopefully this is the first of many.”
If you still don’t believe the second-year kicker is taking this game seriously, hopefully this clip from before the Pro Bowl draft earlier this week changes your mind. What a personality!