Neuheisel tinkers to create explosive solution for Ravens

ON THE RAVENS

Pro football

March 31, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Soon after the draft, new Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel will begin tinkering with the offense, much like a mad scientist in his laboratory trying to develop a new formula.

"We need bigger plays, more explosive plays," Neuheisel said. "Demetrius Williams developed into a big-play weapon for us at the end of the season, and Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton are big-play receivers. That might mean getting four receivers on or up close to the line of scrimmage, but somehow we have to create bigger plays downfield."

According to Neuheisel, the offense won't change much even though it may appear that way. With the Ravens losing free-agent fullback Ovie Mughelli to the Atlanta Falcons, the Ravens will probably use more two tight-end formations and a single running back.

As of now, the options are unlimited. Neuheisel, like most of the coaching staff, has had his head buried in the draft, evaluating many college players. Once the draft is over, he'll begin drawing up some plans.

"After the draft, you come back and formulize," Neuheisel said. "You plan on what to focus on in May and June. You have to prepare for what is your offense going to be like without an Ovie Mughelli or Edwin Mulitalo. If you're going to change, then how do we make changes? Coaches are like mechanics by nature, we can't help but tinker with things.

"Using more three-receiver sets would be a natural conclusion, but ideally you want a 50-50 ratio with run versus the pass. ... I think we want more explosive plays, but also that ability to run with power that we've had for years."

New angles

Besides college players, Neuheisel has spent a lot of time watching one player in particular, and that's newly acquired running back Willis McGahee.

"We're still looking, seeing what he has done well in the past, and what we might want to change in our offense to make all of us better," Neuheisel said. "Back in 2006, there were opportunities. Some times we hit them, some times we didn't. But we'd like to get tight ends, running backs, quarterbacks, receivers and the offensive line all on the same page so we can take advantage of as many of them as we can. Right now, there is not a play we're not looking at."

Don't be surprised if the Ravens use their versatility on the offensive line to add a few more traps, sweeps, tosses and screens. They have center-guard Chris Chester and guard Jason Brown, both fast enough to make blocks at the second level.

"We have some guys who might be better pullers," Neuheisel said. "We'll have to see what the draft provides. If we get some linemen where it helps us to pull or get better angles, then we'll make the necessary adjustments."

Big deal

Since Rex Ryan didn't get the head-coaching job with the San Diego Chargers, wouldn't it be smart for the Ravens to sign him to a new, multi-year contract, making him one of the highest-paid defensive coordinators in the league? With him as defensive coordinator the past two seasons, the Ravens have ranked No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, in overall defense. After last season, the Ravens gave coach Brian Billick a new, four-year contract and made Neuheisel offensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, Ryan hasn't gotten a new deal. Knowing the Ravens, they'll low-ball him first before they do the right thing with a good offer.

Indigestion

Count me as one of the ones who didn't get excited because Billick recently broke bread with Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden in Las Vegas, where Ogden is mulling over possible retirement.

According to Billick, Ogden has been working out, but he was working out at this time last year. And he was working out several weeks ago when he was publicly critical of the organization for releasing veterans such as running back Jamal Lewis and Mulitalo.

I would love to have been in on that conversation because one of the reasons Ogden is contemplating retirement is that he has become frustrated with Billick's play-calling.

Maybe the Ravens should have sent general manager Ozzie Newsome to meet with Ogden over a round of golf.

Three years?

Recently, there was a suggestion that Ravens quarterback Steve McNair might play two or possibly three more years.

It would be amazing if McNair could milk three more years out of that body. As a matter of fact, I'd be happy just seeing him get through the 2007 season without a major injury.

No major changes

With former Pro Bowl outside linebacker Adalius Thomas now with the New England Patriots, don't expect the Ravens to shift a lot of his multiple duties to backup Jarret Johnson.

Johnson is a pretty good athlete, but not quite as versatile as Thomas. Outside linebacker Bart Scott will inherit some of Thomas' duties, especially in pass defense. But because so much of the Ravens' defense is interchangeable, Ryan should be able to divide up the rest of Thomas' responsibilities without putting too much on one player.

Regaining confidence

We'll be able to see how confident cornerback Samari Rolle is right at the beginning of training camp. Last season, he was victimized on big plays a couple of times.

But the Ravens believe he will remain the starter once the season starts. If you see Rolle going into press coverage, challenging receivers early into training camp and succeeding in the preseason, he'll ease a lot of concerns. If he is backing off the line of scrimmage, the Ravens are in trouble. Again.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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