Ravens Respond To Trestman's Crash Course With Minimal Mistakes
Ravens offensive players are drinking from the fire hose.
That's because new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman is testing them. And from what outsiders observe, players are passing with flying colors.
The offensive system that Trestman uses may be similar to that of last year's coordinator, Gary Kubiak, but their implementation processes apparently contrast.
"Trestman is giving his players a crash course this spring," said ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "Kubiak gradually installed the Ravens offense. This year, Trestman is throwing everything he can at his new players. This is Trestman's way of seeing how much his new players can absorb."
Kubiak kept things simple.
By comparison, in just the first full week of OTAs, Trestman already ran plays from the red zone, two-point conversions and even fourth downs.
It was everything except the kitchen sink.
"I think Marc is trying to throw a lot at us right now and see how well we react to it all," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He wants to run a lot of the stuff right now that we're going to be running during the year, so rather than going through and base-install, base-install, base-install and gradually building up, we're kind of getting a lot of stuff. … He's trying to throw a lot at us and just see how we react."
So how are they reacting?
He's had limited access to watch practice, but from where Hensley stands, players are responding well.
"So far, it's been minimal mistakes by the Ravens," Hensley said.
"Flacco believes this is a confident offensive unit that welcomes any challenge. And change is nothing new for Flacco and these Ravens. This is their fourth offensive coordinator in the last 30 months."
Let's dig in, and see which players specifically stood out in this week's session of Trestman's summer course. Here are three, per CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka:
WR Kamar Aiken Could Be Major Factor
"Aiken ran with the first unit during many team drills and caught just about everything thrown his way. That included a tough, diving grab on a low ball from Joe Flacco, a long pass when he got behind cornerback Asa Jackson and a jump ball in the end zone. With play like that, Aiken could be a major factor in this offense."
TE Nick Boyle Can Get Open
"There isn't any hitting or true run blocking yet, which are both key roles for tight ends, but Boyle showed he can get open and catch the ball. Boyle, a rookie fifth-round pick, still projects as a No. 3 tight end/special teamer behind Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams – and that's assuming Dennis Pitta is not ready – but injuries happen, and Boyle looks like he could contribute if called upon. And you have to think Flacco loves throwing to a fellow Delaware Blue Hen."
G Kelechi Osemele Makes BIG Difference
"Last week, the Ravens defensive front frequently blew through [the] middle of the offensive line. Yesterday, they found the sledding a lot tougher, and the reason was Osemele. He looks to be in good shape and is a big step up from backups such as rookie Robert Myers. Osemele will also be highly motivated this year, as he is set to hit free agency next offseason."
>Harbaugh Thinks Forsett Has A Future In Coaching
Head Coach John Harbaugh has a history of hiring former players for his coaching vacancies.
There are four on his staff right now that have a combined 31 years of playing experience: Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram, Defensive Backs Coach Chris Hewitt, Tight Ends Coach Richard Angulo and Assistant Offensive Line Coach Todd Washington.
Harbaugh certainly knows what it takes to make the transition from playing to coaching, and he sees those attributes in some of his players, current and former. He named three specific players to ESPN's Ashley Fox.
Former center and Harvard smarty pants Matt Birk could do it, Harbaugh said, but he seems to be heading in a different direction working in the league office. He also said guard Marshal Yanda could do it. And then there's veteran running back Justin Forsett.
"He'd be a great coach," Harbaugh said. "He's smart. He's got great character. He relates well to people. He's a hard worker. I think he'll probably go into the ministry and be a pastor of some huge mega church, but I wouldn't bet against him getting into coaching. He'd be great with the players."
Harbaugh isn't just being nice. He's so convinced that Forsett would make a great coach that he'd give him a job on his own staff.
"Would I hire him? Absolutely," said Harbaugh.
So what do you think, Justin? You up for it?
"You have to be away from the family a lot, and you get sick and tired of looking at film all the time, so I'm not cut out for it," Forsett said.
Forsett's Attitude Is Refreshing
While we're talking about Forsett, I have to share this Twitter exchange between him and a fan last night.
It's so refreshing to see Forsett's humility, which can be seen in something as simple as picking out commercial airplane flights. Forsett tweeted about getting deals on Southwest flights, which struck one fan as odd. He thought an NFL player should be able to afford a little better.
Clearly last season's Pro Bowl honor and recent reported $9 million deal haven't gone to Forsett's head.
Key Player To Franchise's Future: Courtney Upshaw
We've seen plenty of analysts talk about how important this year is for Courtney Upshaw as he enters the final season of his rookie contract. If he can find a way to get more sacks, he could garner a bigger deal next offseason.
But this is the first time I've seen a pundit say the Ravens' future is predicated upon Upshaw.
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora named one individual for each of the 32 NFL teams "whose decisions and/or performance on the field or off it could go a long way toward dictating the short-term future of their franchises."
For the Ravens, La Canfora chose Upshaw during this critical time period in Ravens history, transitioning away from an era of defensive greats.
"Upshaw needs to become a factor for this team and help usher in a young wave of players able to attack the opposing quarterback," wrote La Canfora.
"Factor in the loss of Haloti Ngata and Art Jones from the interior of this defense in the past 15 months, and you realize how much the youngsters must make an impact. CJ Mosley did as a rookie last year and Upshaw needs to play to his full pedigree in 2015."
Can't Afford Both Osemele And Yanda, There's a Clear Priority …
Enjoy having one of the best guard tandems in football, because it may not last long.
With Yanda and Osemele both heading into the final year of their contracts, the Ravens will try to retain both next offseason, but it's unlikely to happen. Yanda is expected to be paid at least among the top 5 at his position, and The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson reported that Osemele is "unlikely to give the Ravens a hometown discount."
That means the Ravens will have to choose which one they want to keep, and give a deal that will motivate them to stay. Wilson expects Yanda to stay, and Osemele to go.
"[Osemele] could also be on his way out of Baltimore," Wilson wrote. "No deals are imminent for Yanda or Osemele, but it's likely the Ravens will re-sign Yanda and Osemele will cash in with another team as one of the top free agents next year."
Schaub Improves In Second Week
Ravens backup quarterback Matt Schaub didn't get off to a good start in the first OTA session open to the media last week, throwing a few errant passes and an interception that may have been returned for a touchdown in a game.
But he redeemed himself this week.
"This week, Schaub was far more accurate, decisive and productive," wrote Wilson.