ERIC DECOSTA: “We knew we had to change the menu this year”

Eric DeCosta CSN

The Baltimore Ravens will officially kickoff the start of their 2013 season when training camp commences this Thursday.

Since the team last took the field, much has changed. To help us take a look back at the championship season that was, provide insight into the rationale behind the changes that were made and take a look ahead I reached out to the Ravens’ Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta.

Here’s Part I of a two-part interview:

Tony Lombardi: You are coming off the franchise’s second Super Bowl title within a span of 13 seasons. Why is it so difficult to repeat in the NFL?

Eric DeCosta: Well, first of all, you need a lot of luck. Then, the second part is that everyone is gunning for you every week. Opposing coaching staffs have been studying you all off-season and players can’t wait to compete against us. And the third part is that nothing stays static. Players come and go. Your roster changes. Motivations change. It’s hard.

TL: Steve Bisciotti is not a meddlesome owner. He strikes me as a man who is an outside-the-box thinker who empowers and challenges his staff. Can you share a story about Steve that exemplifies his understated approach?

ED: Steve does a fantastic job of getting people to speak. Whether it’s asking the right question or encouraging people to share ideas, he is a great facilitator of discussion.

Some of our best discussions are held late into the night after the second day of the draft with the scouts and Steve. I think that’s one reason, without going into specifics, that we have been able to find some nice contributors in rounds five through seven over the past five drafts.

TL: You obviously made a conscious decision to get younger and faster on defense. At what point during the 2012 season did you reach the consensus that this would be an organizational goal this offseason?

ED: It was obvious early on that we weren’t quite as fast and stout on defense as we had been in past years. Games like Dallas and Cleveland and Kansas City, while we won, were unsettling. We knew we had to try to change the menu this year.

TL: The Ravens entire organization is dynamic, continually evolving and looking to improve in all areas. Off the field, what steps have you taken to get better each year?

ED: I think we do a great job in the training room and weight room. In fact, those two areas probably have as much impact on our success as anything. Our players had a great off-season, got healthier and stronger. The average fan would be amazed by how many of our players have surgeries after the season. Getting well and getting strong and fast are huge priorities every year. Mark Smith, our trainer, and Bob Rogucki, our strength coach are the best in the business.

TL: On the field one of the biggest concerns is the position of wide receiver given the departure of Anquan Boldin. How will the team pick up the slack for the loss of Q?

ED: Losing Q is the great unknown. We know Torrey [Smith] and Dennis [Pitta] and Ray [Rice] will continue to shine in the pass game. We think Jacoby [Jones] is ready for an expanded role and we really believe that Ed Dickson is going to have a big year for us. Plus, we have some confidence in Tandon [Doss], David [Reed], and Deonte [Thompson] based on what we have seen in practice. My experience is that someone will emerge.

TL: What will the Ravens miss most about the 2012 versions of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and what can the team do to offset those losses?

ED: With Ray and Ed, you are talking about guys you can’t replace in an off-season. They bring so much ability, experience, and leadership. We tried to create competition at their positions by bringing in players like Elam, Huff, Smith, and Brown.

We also really need other players on defense to emerge to lessen the loss. We know that guys like Webby, Haloti, and Terrell are primed for big years. That will help too.

TL: Inside linebacker positions are seemingly up for grabs and the competition should be one of the more interesting subplots to the preseason. What do you expect from this battle?

ED: We added some nice pieces at backer and there will be a strong competition throughout camp. Not knowing Jameel’s status, we are excited to see Arthur Brown, who was a scout and coach favorite pre-draft, and also Daryl Smith, who two years ago was one of the best linebackers in football, in my opinion. We have some other guys, like Josh Bynes, who have played good football for us in spurts.

TL: With all of the new additions on defense it could take some time for the unit to gel. What can the team do to help accelerate the learning curve?

ED: We have a great defensive coaching staff and a lot of work has already been done to make sure we hit the ground running on defense. A lot of the heavy lifting takes place in May and June, not August when camp starts. Our guys already know the scheme and their individual roles. We have great teachers in guys like Dean [Pees], Clarence [Brooks], Wink [Don Martindale], Ted [Monachino], and T.A. [Teryl Austin]. Spags [Steve Spagnuolo] will bring a new perspective too.

TL: Many from your rookie class were captains in college. I’ve heard people within the organization speak to their impressive level of leadership, character and love for the game. What about this class at this early stage impresses you the most?

ED: The guys seem self-motivated, smart, and proud. We drafted a bunch of tough guys who care about the game. So far, so good.

Here’s Part II of the interview 

14 Raves on “ERIC DECOSTA: “We knew we had to change the menu this year”

  1. Tommy.O on said:

    I would like Arthur Brown and D.Smith to be our inside backers. That gives us speed and experince. I never fully trusted McClain, he seemed to lack the explosive plays since being our Inside Backer. I also think with a healthy webb our secondary could be unbelivable. Webby, Smith and Graham with elam and Huff. And our front looks to have similar speed/youth with experince. Ngata, Jones, Canty, spears, and Williams will be a dangerous rotation. and our pass rush with Suggs, Dumerville, Upshaw and simon. I also like to see simon in preseason work inside. I think his best position will be inside.

    • Sharon on said:

      Yes! Jameel McClain, though he has experience in our system, is really an average player. I agree with your other points too.

  2. john schultheis on said:

    Tony, By far your best interview ever! You unlike many media, locally and nationally, ask the questions the fans want honest answers to and Eric is on one of the most truthful in the business. You, like I ,are getting better and more mellow in our aging years ( you have 30 some before you get to my age!). We were at the Raven Nest scholarship dinner a few years back when I got to spend some quality time talking to Eric, a down to earth quality person who has also improved in his draft selections since taking over for Phil Savage. Keep up your quality writings, it is a”MUST” in this town with so few (Only Arron Wilson is as good !).

  3. JerryB on said:

    Great insight into a great organization! If the Ravens fail to repeat, it won’t be due to lack of talent because Ozzie and company always manage to provide it in abundance! Injuries, of course, are the great unknown, but on paper, at least, this squad looks every bit as talented as last year’s and a whole lot younger and faster, particularly on defense. So, as they say………ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL???

  4. john schultheis on said:

    Folks get real on McClain. he is the starter if healthy period! He calls defensive signals has the most experience at inside linebacker for this team in this system and is a possible team leader this year. Smith,Jags guy is new and aging and was out all last year. Brown is a rookie. Did you see Upshaw’s struggles early on with injuries and later rookie mistakes. Brown missed time in OTA’s with injury. I love this unknowledgeable Raven fans Tony! Is McClain the best choice? He better be with his contract!

  5. RichieG on said:

    TL,
    Good Q’s…tomorrow, how about:
    1. Who was the 1 guy in the draft that got away?
    2. Did Flacco blossom post-camTHEman primarily because of coachJimC or primarily because of the re-configuration of the O-line?
    3. What was the straw that broke the Castle’s back and forced them to fire camTHEman?
    4. Who are the 1 or 2 free agents WRs who are on the radar if no one steps up in camp?
    Cheers,
    RichieG, in Dallas

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Richie,

      The questions have already been asked and recorded. Even if I did ask those questions and as candid as Eric is, questions 1, 3 and 4 would not even be answered in a meaningful way.

  6. RichieG on said:

    TL,
    I guess that, deep down, I knew that…always hope though, that one day, the curtain will fall just a little bit.
    Cheers.

  7. Phil on said:

    DeCosta just grates me, that’s all. He doesn’t really say anything of import. It’s all fluff and Tony lets him get a pass.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      It’s ok Phil. No worries. You grate me but we’ll let you continue to add nothing to the conversation. So we’re even.

      You are now free to troll about this website.

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