New Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's system brings a lot of changes to Baltimore.
We had a reader write us, asking what that means for each position, and we aim to please.
So, without going into too much detail (for competitive balance reasons), here's a general rundown:
The quarterback must be more mobile and goes through reads differently, and the footwork is tremendously important to both. Joe Flacco will "read with his feet," meaning that each step will come with a different read. He'll use his feet to direct his eyes more, and will likely have shorter drops with some quicker throws. At the same time, the frequent use of the run game will help set up more play-action drops. In order to sell the fake and allow receivers to make double moves, the quarterback needs more time in the pocket. That's often accomplished by using bootlegs and rollouts. Thus, the quarterback must be mobile enough to get out of the pocket, and have a big enough arm to set and launch long passes.* *
Running backs must be able to read blocks well and find the gaps, then have the explosion to get up field quickly. In Kubiak's zone scheme, the blockers will often be moving more laterally than straight ahead. The hope is to stretch the defense and create running lanes. The back must be able to quickly change direction to go vertical instead of simply running to the sideline. It requires good eyes. The running backs should put up big numbers in 2014 considering Kubiak's chief priority is to run the ball effectively. The run sets up the pass. The running backs also need to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield.* *
Kubiak's fullbacks should be able to do some lead blocking, but have also evolved into more dynamic pass catchers. Vonta Leach was a Pro Bowl fullback for Kubiak in 2010, but after he left Houston for Baltimore, Kubiak used more hybrids in the mold of current Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Kubiak likes to move players around before the snap, so expect to see the fullback line up just about everywhere.* *
Tight ends are targeted frequently in Kubiak's system. No team in the NFL threw to its tight end more than the Houston Texans over the past three seasons. Two-tight end sets are common, and three tight ends could even see the field at the same time. They often run crossing routes and quick outs to set up different tiers for the quarterback to throw to. Kubiak's passing offense is based around setting mismatches, and few positions allow that more than tight end.* *
Kubiak requires that his wide receivers can block since the running game is such an important part of his offense. As pass catchers, he again wants to create mismatches. Kubiak has mostly targeted bigger receivers such as Andre Johnson (6-foot-3), DeAndre Hopkins (6-1) and Kevin Walter (6-3). With more passes going to the tight ends, sometimes the receivers' number of receptions can fall. However, they have many chances for big plays and more yards.
The Ravens used some zone run blocking last year, but Kubiak's system takes it to another level. Linemen have to be mobile. Since they aren't just mauling by going straight ahead, the linemen must be able to move laterally while holding off defenders. Kubiak's system puts a lot of focus on run blocking (something most linemen say they prefer) since the ground game is the engine.