Friday’s Ravens Roundup: Haloti Ngata-tending Pro Bowl

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After Jim Caldwell was hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions earlier this week, the Ravens immediately turned their attention to working to replace their now ex-offensive coordinator. While the Ravens typically promote from within the organization in these situations, they have already reached out to candidates outside of Baltimore. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common names in the conversations:

Gary Kubiak is available after being fired last season by the Houston Texans after serving as the head coach for eight seasons. Kubiak is highly regarded for his rushing offense schemes as he has finished in the top eight in the league in rushing yards in 2011 and 2012 before finishing in the bottom half of the league in 2013 when running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate were hurt.

Kyle Shanahan is another option for offensive coordinator after being fired by the Redskins when they dismissed their entire coaching staff after last season. He helped tailor an offense to the strengths of Robert Griffin III in 2012 that finished in the top 5, but last season the Redskins struggled on offense. To be fair however, his quarterback last season may not have ever been fully healthy. Shanahan has reportedly already interviewed for the position earlier this week.

Jim Hostler has coached the wide receivers in Baltimore over the last six seasons and has had mixed results as receivers Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown have developed well, while other receivers such as Tandon Doss, Laquan Williams, and David Reed never met expectations. Hostler is considered by many the favorite for the job, and was recently publicly backed by 105.7 the Fan’s Mark Zinno. He also has some experience calling plays, having been the offensive coordinator in San Francisco in 2007.

Another popular option outside of the organization is Norv Turner, but Turner is reportedly close to becoming the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. The Ravens also did not request to interview Turner.

 

NGATA TO SKIP PRO BOWL

The Ravens had four players voted to the Pro Bowl later this month, including defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who has been named a Pro Bowler each of the last five seasons. Ngata finished the 2013 season with 52 tackles playing primarily inside and finished with only 1.5 sacks.

Ngata and his wife are expecting their third son on Tuesday of next week, and it is not uncommon for players to miss the Pro Bowl for far less important reasons as sometimes they cite minor injuries or just prefer to start their offseason early. The birth of a son is as good as any excuse to pass up the trip.

Replacing Ngata will be Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher , who arguably is more deserving anyway after finishing the year with 41 tackles and a career-high 11 sacks in Dallas. Hatcher of the NFC can replace Ngata of the AFC because for the first time, the Pro Bowl is non-conferenced.

Ravens fans can still enjoy watching the Pro Bowl as kicker Justin Tucker, right guard Marshall Yanda, and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs are still expected to attend and represent Baltimore.

 

CALDWELL RECRUITS BALTIMORE’S DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH

As mentioned earlier, Jim Caldwell has left Baltimore as offensive coordinator to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions. Caldwell is also taking Ravens defensive backs coach Teryl Austin with him, as he was hired Friday to become Detroit’s new defensive coordinator after spending the last three years with the Ravens.

Austin and Caldwell also worked together in the 1990’s at Penn State and Wake Forest, so a connection was clear. Austin also joins Bill Sheridan as the two new coaches hired by the Lions. Sheridan was the defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay the last two seasons, but was let go along with head coach Greg Schiano earlier this offseason.

This will be Austin’s first opportunity to be a defensive coordinator in the NFL, but his expertise coaching defensive backs will be critical in Detroit, where Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham were unable to develop any notable cornerbacks. Austin, by comparison, has helped Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith develop into an impressive young cornerback over the last two seasons.

Austin is also reportedly expected to keep the 4-3 defensive scheme in place, despite coaching in a 3-4 during his time with the Ravens. This is good news for Detroit, as Detroit’s strength on defense is the line, headed by young stars Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, who have played well in the scheme.

 

SCOUTING HEADING UP TO THE 2014 DRAFT AT EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME

While it does not carry the same sort of excitement and attention as does the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine game is an opportunity to scout players that the Ravens coaching staff has traditionally taken advantage of. This year is no different as general manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta have even been attending practices.

Players that the Ravens are expected to watch closely include wide receiver Seantavius Jones and safety Tre Boston. The Ravens made it clear at their end of the year press conference that two categories they looked to fill were getting a big possession receiver, who could make tough catches on third down, and a more athletic safety.

Jones may be a target for the Ravens if they decide to pass on a receiver in the early rounds of the draft. He is listed at 6’3” and at an even 200 pounds. By comparison, Torrey Smith is listed at 6’1” and 204 pounds, so Jones definitely has the size necessary to develop into a successful receiver in the league.

Boston showed impressive ability at UNC to play as a single-high safety while still proving capable when needed to play man coverage.  He is not particularly tall at 5’10” but height is less important at safety (Ed Reed was only 5’11”). It’s possible the Ravens would not want to pair 2013 first round pick Matt Elam with another young player, but down the line he could prove to be very successful even if he is theoretically a backup at first.

Both players offer the Ravens possible young and cheap alternatives to pricey free agents and with a front office as shrewd and frugal as the Ravens that is very important heading up to free agency and the draft.

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About Nick Bucher

Nick Bucher
Nick is a BTA major and an Economics minor at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Nick also writes for the sports section of the UMBC newspaper, and is a diehard Ravens and Orioles fan. The coolest thing Nick has done was throwing out the First Pitch at an Orioles...more

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