Expect Personnel, Not Scheme Changes in 2014

Ozzie Newsome, Steve Bisciotti

Success is an interesting thing.

Once you get a taste of it anything less simply won’t do. And for a fanbase that has been blessed with five consecutive playoff appearances, three conference title games and one glittering trophy last season it seems almost obnoxious to call an 8-8 season a “failure”.

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However that’s exactly how Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti characterized the 2013 season during the team’s “State of the Ravens” address on Wednesday and I’d say that most fans wouldn’t disagree. In fact most fans have a whole list of ideas about what the team should do heading into next season and most of them start with firing several coaches and changing offensive and defensive philosphies. Even though it’s commonplace to hear such talk from fans of any team around the league this time of year those people might have a point. The Baltimore offense was dreadful and historically poor while the defense’s “Bend, Don’t Break” approach led to few turnovers and an inability to get off the field during crucial moments. But if you’re looking for wholesale changes in 2014 you’re going to be disappointed.

The organization’s attitude moving forward can be best summed up by Bisciotti’s comments in reguards to change to begin the morning’s festivities.

“I think you’re heart wants to react quickly. I think your head, if you are a wise businessman, you take time, and you listen to a lot of people, and you contemplate a lot of different things. But, failure is part of success. We’re all very disappointed here, as disappointed, obviously, as our fans are – more so. I’m comfortable with where we are; I’m comfortable where we’re headed.”

These should be reassuring words from a franchise that chooses honesty and transparency with it’s loyal customers. (Mr. Angelos take note) You may not agree with and it’s your right not to but you can’t say that these men don’t have a plan in place and aren’t committed to having another parade down Pratt Street.

Juan Castillo isn’t going anywhere fans, in fact he just got promoted. Time will tell whether it’s the correct decision but for right or wrong when the choice was made last season to utilize a new blocking scheme they should at least see it through longer than just sixteen games. It’s not that it can’t work. Other teams have and continue use this system to great effectiveness around the league. Instead expect some new faces on the Ravens front line. “We’ve got to get bigger in the interior of our offensive line. That’s one of the areas that I think we need to improve on.” said Ozzie Newsome.  So we should expect the team to attempt to re-sign starting Left Tackle Eugene Monroe and get some help either in the draft or free agency to help solidify that unit.

Jim Caldwell’s status remains unclear at this stage due to head coaching interest from several fronts. If he fails to land a job though I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see him back in Charm City. If he does stay they’ll need to make some adjustments but the overall philosophy will stay the same.

When viewing the struggles of this past season’s offense it’s safe to say that poor lineplay, coupled with running backs that weren’t healthy, compounded with the inability to replace Anquan Boldin’s presence plus the injury to Dennis Pitta added up to some miserable offensive production. You could also add in play-calling and preparation as well but it appears as if Baltimore will want to upgrade personnel over the off-season.

“We need to be able to get a receiver – whether it’s a tight end or a wide receiver
– that can make a third-and-7, third-and-8 catch and run after the catch….I
think – and I already know this and I won’t share it with you – I think we’ve
identified the type of receiver that we want.”

So not only does Ozzie Newsome know what he wants to upgrade the offense but perhaps who he wants in purple in 2014.

The retooled defense was better than that of the previous model but faded when it needed big plays in critical moments. Newsome has that covered as well.

“You have to start with the guys you’ve got. We’ve got to get those guys better and
put those guys in better position to make plays….I talked about a free safety [and] maybe getting a free safety that can be a playmaker…I think we’ve got to build a confidence amongst our defensive players that, inthose situations, they can make a play and win the game. They don’t have to go out there and play tentative or scared.”

So again the team will look to add playmakers on the defensive side while improving the confidence and technique of those players already on the roster. Might Dean Pees need to be a bit more aggressive, perhaps but maybe he adopted this style due to personnel? Perhaps a change in roster composition changes the aggressiveness of the defense?

Regardless of how you feel about this news it’s at the very least refreshing to hear such candid talk from an organization that attempts to play their cards close to vest most times. They’ve got a plan just like they do every year, whether it turns out to be the correct course of action won’t be determined until a much later date.

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About the author

Matt Jergensen   

Matt is a lifelong Maryland resident and graduate of both Calvert Hall and Towson University. Before joining BSL, Matt worked as the Senior Site Editor for Baltimore Gridiron Report, providing commentary and analysis. He’s also written articles for Russell Street Report, and has appeared as a guest on 1370AM. Matt Co-Hosts Ravens Rap weekly with Mike Randall. Matt currently lives in Bel Air, just minutes away from his job teaching high school history and economics for Harford County Public Schools.

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