What Mink Thinks: Ravens Assistant Coaches Hold the Keys

Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale

The Ravens clearly have one of the NFL's best head coaches in John Harbaugh. But the strength of a coaching staff goes beyond the guy at the top.

One of Harbaugh's assets is his ability to assemble an all-star staff around him. As training camp nears and coaches shift into overdrive, it's clear that Harbaugh's assistants will play an especially large role in the outcome of this year's team.

Let's start with Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale. Already established as one of the top at his profession, Martindale is tasked with overcoming the losses of Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward.

Martindale has dealt with worse before. After ranking atop the league in total defense in 2018, the Ravens lost C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency and released Eric Weddle. The following year, Baltimore dropped in the rankings – all the way to No. 4. They allowed nine more yards per game.

There's been a lot of hand wringing about the Ravens' pass rush after Judon and Ngakoue walked for bigger paydays. Baltimore drafted Odafe Oweh in the first round and could still end up signing a veteran lingering on the market.

But the more time passes, the more it seems Baltimore may just rely on Martindale's blitzing wizardry to offset the losses and apply enough pressure to help what should be one of the league's best secondaries. It's not a bad bet.

Speaking of Oweh, the man primarily in charge of grooming the athletically otherworldly Penn State product is Drew Wilkins, who is in his 12th season with the Ravens and second year as outside linebackers coach.

"He's the young star that no one knows about," Martindale said in May. "He studies tape like I've never seen another coach in my career study tape."

Wilkins is holding the keys to unlock Oweh's potential, as well as get more out of Jaylon Ferguson and help Tyus Bowser take the next step to stardom. The outside linebacker group may be the team's biggest question mark, but Baltimore seems more confident than everyone else.

Other new defensive coaches Rob Ryan (inside linebackers) and Anthony Weaver (defensive line) are charged with helping two of the unit's most promising young stars, Patrick Queen and Justin Madubuike, break out in their second seasons.

Flipping to the offensive side of the ball, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is aiming to "expand the profile" of the Ravens' aerial attack now with upgraded weapons.

Known for his run game ingenuity, Roman has surely heard the criticisms of his passing game this offseason and over the years and is eager to show his next iteration. Don't forget, Roman was named the NFL's Assistant Coach of the Year after the 2019 season. Any Ravens fan who wants to complain about the offense should remember how far it has come under Roman's guidance.

Harbaugh thought outside the box in hiring two coaches to mold the wide receivers with Tee Martin and Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams. It's clear they are key pieces of the wide receiver upgrades this offseason and early reviews are glowing. Considering the youth and amount of draft investment in the room, the wide receivers' development is huge.

And let's not forget the player at the center of the entire offense (and team), Lamar Jackson. Jackson's progression as a passer remains one of the Ravens' most important priorities for both the short- and long-term future. In his fourth year as Baltimore's quarterbacks coach, James Urban remains the man with his hands on the most important player.

With nine departures this offseason, Harbaugh had the most turnover in his coaching staff during his 14-year tenure in Baltimore. That's what happens when you hire good coaches. They eventually get promotions elsewhere.

But winning in the NFL is all about adapting and still improving. The Ravens loved the coaches who left, but the new (and remaining) guys will be expected to help get this young team over the finish line. They seem up to the task.

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