Let's Be Honest About Trestman's Influence On Offense
From the day Marc Trestman took over as Baltimore's offensive coordinator, the Ravens pledged continuity with the new offensive system Gary Kubiak implemented last year.
That's because it's not supposed to be Kubiak's offense. And it's not supposed to be Trestman's offense. It's supposed to be "the Ravens offense."
But ESPN's Jamison Hensley isn't completely buying that notion. Sure, there will be similarities, but Trestman won’t be a Kubiak clone.
"Let's be honest, this is Marc Trestman's offense," wrote Hensley.
"He talked about using the same zone blocking scheme (which is smart because it was so successful last season) and similar terminology to make it less of a transition for Joe Flacco and his teammates. But Trestman is the one in control and the one calling the plays."
Like Kubiak, Trestman's roots trace back to the West Coast offense. He will also abide by Head Coach John Harbaugh's philosophy of a balanced, physical running game. But Trestman has decades of experience and success of his own, earning the reputation as the "Quarterback Whisperer" along the way. He's bound to have some ideas of his own.
The Ravens offense will have a big focus on tight ends (GM Ozzie Newsome emphasized that by drafting two earlier this month), and you may see the running backs catch more balls out of the backfield.
Under Trestman last season, the Bears' Martellus Bennett lead all NFL tight ends with 90 receptions for 916 yards and six scores. Meanwhile, running back Matt Forte caught a team-high 102 passes for 808 yards and four touchdowns.
"One noticeable change will be more screen passes," wrote Hensley. "I'm sure [Trestman is] going to tailor the offense to the strengths of the players and to the comfort level of Flacco."
Although Trestman won't reveal too much this early, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) kick off tomorrow at the Under Armour Performance Center and we will start to get a feel for his influence.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec said that one of the biggest things to watch over the next few weeks is
how well Flacco picks up Trestman's system.
"The Ravens will keep the same West Coast-style offense they ran last year, though Trestman will put his own imprint on it," wrote Zrebiec. "There obviously won't be a ton of offensive wrinkles revealed during OTAs, but it's an important time for Flacco to get to know some of his new targets and to continue to develop chemistry and familiarity with new Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg and Trestman."
By the time all is said and done, "You saw that it was Gary Kubiak's offense last year and it will be Trestman's this season," concluded Hensley.
Big Pass-Rushing Competition Between Za'Darius And Upshaw
For the most part, roles will remain the same between Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw.
But there are pass-rushing snaps that the departure of Pernell McPhee has left up for grabs, and you can bet both Upshaw and fourth-round pick Za'Darius Smith want a crack at them. Both players will try to prove they are worthy.
"My money is on to fill Pernell McPhee's role," wrote Hensley.
Upshaw put up more sacks in college with 15.5 in his final two years, compared to 10.5 for Smith in his final two seasons. But Upshaw has developed into a run-stopper at the professional level, says Hensley, and it would be a good thing if the Ravens can reproduce the success they had last year by simply plugging Smith into McPhee's role.
"A team official told me that Smith is farther along coming out of college than McPhee, who had six sacks as a rookie," wrote Hensley. "Upshaw only has three sacks in three seasons, although his hit on Ben Roethlisberger ranked among the most memorable highlights of 2014. Smith, a former basketball player, has the athleticism to make an impact right away as a situational pass rusher."
PFF Names Yanda Fifth-Best Player In NFL
You have to be a pretty freaking big stud to be named one of the top 5 players in the NFL, especially as a guard.
That's what perennial Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda did in Pro Football Focus' (PFF) ranking of the top 101 NFL players.
His company in the top 5? Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (No. 4), pass rusher Justin Houston (No. 3), quarterback Aaron Rogers (No. 2) and defensive end J.J. Watt (No. 1). Not too shabby.
"Without a doubt the best offensive lineman in football in 2014 was the Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda," wrote PFF's Gordon McGuinness. "Yanda has been one of the players who has set the standard at the position throughout his career, with the former Iowa Hawkeye finishing three out of the past four seasons as one of our three highest-graded guards."
Yanda graded out as the seventh-best pass-blocking guard in the league, but really dominated in run blocking. His plus-34.2 run-blocking grade was head and shoulders above the next in line, Mike Iupati (plus-18.5).
There were five other Ravens to make PFF's top 101 players list:
No. 48: LB Terrell Suggs
No. 63: LB Elvis Dumervil
No. 68: G Kelechi Osemele
No. 73: SS Will Hill
No. 101: NT Brandon Williams
Steelers One Of Most Vulnerable Division Winners
There will be turnover among the league's division winners from 2014, and NFL Media's Gil Brandt named the teams that are most vulnerable to lose their crown.
No. 2 on the list was the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Brandt thinks the Ravens are the biggest threat in knocking them off their perch.
"Ben Roethlisberger had a phenomenal 2014, setting career bests in completion percentage (67.1) and passing yards (4,952). I'm just not sure we can count on him hitting those high-water marks again," Brandt wrote. "When you succeed like that, opponents tend to adjust, game-planning different tactics to stop you. I also worry about the looming absence of running back Le'Veon Bell, who is facing a three-game suspension to start the season.
"[T]he Steelers face a daunting challenge in the very tough AFC North, as they're just one of three teams – including the Ravens and Bengals – who could conceivably win the division. At the end of the day, I like the Ravens' chances the best."
Melvin Grieves Father's Death As He Rehabs Shoulder Injury
It wasn't long after the Ravens got knocked out of the playoffs that cornerback Rashaan Melvin lost his father. Following a long battle with prostate cancer, James Melvin died in February.
"I'm doing pretty good, my family is strong," Rashaan told The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. "We're positive. We believe in God. We just take it as it comes. We're strong-faith people."
After a rash of injuries took its toll on the Ravens cornerback corps last season, James saw his son get his first opportunity to start in the NFL after becoming a walk-on at Northern Illinois and an undrafted rookie of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Rashaan has earned everything he's gotten," James told The Sun in January, as his son was getting ready to face off against future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. "Now the Ravens have given him an opportunity, and he's proving himself again. He's a wonderful young man. He's been very disciplined. He's come a long way. We're very proud of him."
Now, with his dad in mind, Rashaan is hoping to build on last season as he also rehabs from offseason shoulder injury, per Wilson. He started three regular-season games and both playoff contests. With that experience under his belt, Rashaan will fight for playing time with Asa Jackson.
"Definitely, I go into the season with a lot of confidence knowing I can play in this league and play for a very long time," Rashaan said. "I'm taking this confidence and everything in stride."