RAY RICE MAY NOT BE “THE GUY” IN 2014
The Ravens front office has expressed this offseason that they have complete confidence that running back Ray Rice will bounce back in 2014. General manager Ozzie Newsome has even forecasted a Pro Bowl level campaign from Rice after the running back finished 2013 with his worst yards-per-carry of his career and by far his lowest rushing total since becoming the team’s starting running back in 2009.
However, in a recent interview with WNST, head coach John Harbaugh was hesitant to anoint Rice his guy for 2014 at this point. Harbaugh showed confidence in Rice to work hard in the offseason but said all the players are going to have to prove themselves for next season.
“Ray Rice is a heck of a back in this league, but Ray has said-and I totally agree – that he can’t be playing at 216 pounds. He was 207, I think, his first year. He’s not gotten fat, he’s gotten thick through all the weightlifting.” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to find a different way to train Ray.”
Rice was notably hampered in 2013 by his hip flexor injury he suffered in Week 2, but even in limited action in Week 1 and Week 2 before the injury, Rice lacked the burst he had shown in years past. Getting leaner and more agile as opposed to stronger should benefit Rice in 2014.
HARBAUGH DENIES BEING FORCED TO HIRE KUBIAK
There were rumors over the last week that recently-hired offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was not head coach John Harbaugh’s first choice. Many believed that the favorite in Harbaugh’s eyes was former wide receivers coach Jim Hostler. The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston even hinted that Kubiak was not even originally a finalist until he was contacted after the second round of interviews between Hostler and Kyle Shanahan.
This seemed like a real possibility after Harbaugh had named four finalists at one point during the hunt for the position and Kubiak was not named. Harbaugh refuses to say he was impacted significantly to hire Kubiak by the front office.
Harbaugh simply said that he and owner Steve Biscotti talked a lot during the interview process, but all the decisions and candidates were left up to Harbaugh. Harbaugh added later that “Steve Biscotti would never do something like that, and not very many head coaches in the league would stand for something like that.”
The truth is likely somewhere between what Harbaugh is saying and what was originally speculated. Harbaugh has been known to prefer promoting from within the organization in the past, but perhaps subtle hints or advice were given from the front office about hiring Kubiak instead. Regardless, it is unfair to think that Harbaugh was “forced” to hire Kubiak.
MOELLER HEADING TO CLEVELAND
The Ravens lost another assistant coach last week when offensive line coach Andy Moeller was reported to have taken the offensive line coach position in Cleveland. Moeller joins offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, tight ends coach wade Harman, and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery as coaches who have left.
Moeller has spent the last six seasons in Baltimore, the last three as the Offensive Line Coach. From 2008-2010 he was the Assistant Offensive Line Coach before being promoted in 2011. Head coach John Harbaugh had already reported earlier this offseason that Juan Castillo would be the offensive line coach in 2014.
Castillo was the Run Game Coordinator in 2013, and is regarded as one of Harbaugh’s guys. Harbaugh even insinuated during the end of season press conference that Castillo worked as the Offensive Line Coach at times in 2013 as well.
Moeller will join former Ravens Linebackers Coach Mike Pettine in Cleveland after he was hired as the head coach last month. They worked together in 2008 in Baltimore before Pettine followed former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan to New York to be the Defensive Coordinator with the Jets.
The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos last night in the Super Bowl and won with a mantra similar to one the Ravens have used in the past – that nobody gave them a chance, and that they were castoffs who nobody else wanted or believed in. The Seahawks use this motivation to play as hard as they do.
Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka fits that bill perfectly, as he has been a great kicker over the last couple seasons after being cut by the Ravens four years ago in the middle of the season. Hauschka became the Ravens primary kicker in 2009 after the team opted to not re-sign longtime kicker Matt Stover, and struggled. He missed 4 of 13 kicks and was cut after a missed 36-yard field goal and a missed extra point.
Hauschka spent times with a few teams before joining the Seahawks in 2011. Hauschka has seen his field goal percentage increase in each of the three seasons since, going from an 83.3% kicker to 88.9% in 2012 and an impressive 94.3% during the regular season this year. He also was perfect kicking in the postseason. In the Super Bowl he made 2-of-2 field goals and said after the game, “You just hope that once in your career you can get to a game like this where it matters.”
Of course the parting of ways has not worked out poorly for the Ravens either, as Billy Cundiff replaced him and earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2011 before missing one of the most critical kicks in Ravens’ history against the New England Patriots that postseason. Since then, Justin Tucker has been very impressive in his two seasons as the kicker, and earned All-Pro Honors this season.