The offensive coaching staff: Breaking down what to expect
By John Langley
The Baltimore Ravens revamped their offensive staff in the off-season in part to the fact that former offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell, took the head coaching vacancy with the Detroit Lions. The Ravens were meticulous in their approach to find a new mind to lead the offense to new levels, and after a lengthy process, head coach John Harbaugh decided to hand over the reigns to Gary Kubiak, a noted offensive mind and former Houston Texans head coach.
With Kubiak came a plethora of new coaches, whether that be a good thing or a bad thing. The Ravens hired Rick Dennison to be the quarterbacks coach the same day as they hired Kubiak, signaling a “package deal” with the two. The funny thing about this is Dennison was actually the one who was interviews initially by Harbaugh and recommended that he call Kubiak, and from there, the rest is history.
With Kubiak came a new wide receivers coach in Bobby Engram, a former NFL player, Brian Pariani to be the tight ends coach, Thomas Hammock to be the runningbacks coach, and Juan Castillo remaining as the offensive line coach.
Gary Kubiak: Offensive Coordinator
Kubiak brings a wealth of experience to the table from his days as the offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos and as the play-caller with the Houston Texans when he was the head coach. Kubiak loves to use two tight end sets, which explains the signing of Owen Daniels and the use of a third round pick on Crockett Gilmore. Expect the base offensive set to be a single runningback with two tight ends and two wide receivers.
Kubiak likes to get the quarterback out of the pocket, something many believe is a bad thing for quarterback Joe Flacco. If Flacco has shown one thing in his time, it is that he is deceptively athletic. This by no means means that Flacco is burning linebackers for 40-yard gains, but he can move the pocket, which is beneficial in a zone-scheme like Kubiak’s. Expect some roll-outs, play-action passes and some shots down the field, which will be predicated on being set up by an effective running game. Kubiak had this in Houston with Arian Foster, so whoever is playing runningback for the Ravens will need to be effective.
Thomas Hammock: Runningbacks Coach
Hammock comes from the University of Wisconsin where he helped coach runningbacks like Montee Ball and James White. Wisconsin is known for being a running team, so Hammock has been a big help in their success with coaching the runningbacks. Hammock is making the leap to the NFL to help revive a stagnant running game that plagued the Ravens offense last season, and he has some big shoes to fill. Wilbert Montgomery was made to be the scapegoat in the lackluster running game last season, but it would be ignorant to believe he was the problem in the grand scheme of things. Ray Rice put on too much weight, and the offensive line couldn’t maintain their blocks for the entire season. For the Ravens’ sake, one must hope Hammock helps breath new life into the running game because if he doesn’t, the Ravens offense could struggle once again.
Bobby Engram: Wide Receivers Coach
The Engram hire was a great one for Harbaugh, and it is one that could pay big dividends. Engram knows the ins and outs of being an NFL wide receiver, and if there was one major criticism of former coach Jim Hostler, it is that he couldn’t develop young receivers. Engram will be tasked with developing receivers such as Marlon Brown, Aaron Mellette, and Michael Campanaro. The hire at first glance is a great one, but the results won’t show for another 3-4 years from now, if he is still around.
Brian Pariani: Tight Ends Coach
Pariani is known as a tough tight ends coach, but he has always gotten results, He worked hand-in-hand with Kubiak in Houston, helping bring along solid tight end play from Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham. Wade Harmon was the former coach of this position group, and his firing came as a bit of a surprise, but Pariani will need to provide the same results as he always has, or skepticism will rise from the fans.
Rick Dennison: Quarterbacks Coach
Dennison is known as an offensive line coach, so it is expected that this title is just to get him on the staff. Dennison will work with Flacco along the way, but he will also help Juan Castillo with the offensive line. Dennison is an all-around coach that knows the game of football, so if he can build a good rapport with Flacco, he should help provide big results for the offense.
Juan Castillo: Offensive Line Coach
The Ravens want to run a zone-scheme on offense, and it didn’t work last season. However, the offense didn’t have the necessary tools along the line to run it effectively, and that could have contributed to the poor results. With all of that being said, if the scheme doesn’t work early on, the fans will be calling for Castillo to be fired once again, to the surprise of no one. Castillo finally has the play-caller to benefit his scheme, and the results should show.
Players that could benefit most from the changes:
This coaching staff is the best the Ravens have had on this side of the ball in their franchise history, so the expectations will be high. The early portion of the season shouldn’t have as high of expectations with a learning curve to be expected, but the team should hit its stride at some portion of the season, most likely after the first quarter of the schedule.