Kubiak will need time to teach Flacco, mold Ravens offense

January 30, 2014|Mike Preston

The Ravens hired one of the best offensive minds in the NFL as Gary Kubiak was named the team's offensive coordinator , but don't expect miracles in the 2014 season.

Kubiak has put together some prolific offenses during his 21-year coaching career, but the Ravens don't have all the pieces in place for the type of highly efficient offense he wants to run.

It's not just finding star players, but putting together a scheme, terminology and working out other nuances for an offense which has West Coast principles.

Of course, it starts with the quarterback. Kubiak once coached Hall of Famer Steve Young with the San Francisco 49ers, and earned his reputation while working with John Elway when both were with the Denver Broncos where Kubiak was always a hot coaching prospect for most of 10 seasons.

In Baltimore, Kubiak will have Joe Flacco, who has already earned a Super Bowl ring in six seasons, but Flacco is far from being polished. At times last season, he seemed to regress but he also took a physical beating and lacked weapons.

Flacco may not have worked with a coach as demanding as Kubiak, certainly not one as proficient in calling plays.

Former Ravens quarterback coach Hue Jackson was a converted receivers coach turned quarterbacks coach. Cam Cameron was tough on Flacco, but eased up when Flacco didn't respond well to criticism. Jim Zorn was more involved in learning the offense than trying to call plays and Jim Caldwell never got in the face of any players.

Kubiak, who was hired by the Ravens this week, needs to be tough on Flacco and running back Ray Rice, but first there has to be a transition period.

"I think that's what I need to get in there and start working on," said Kubiak of Flacco. "Joe and I need to sit down together and I need to talk to him about how he feels with what he's done up to this point, how he feels about the future and what he thinks he needs to do better.

"I need to take my vision of that and study Joe over the course of the next few weeks, and together we come up with that plan, how we make him better, how we progress as a player. ," Ultimately, it's about the team and it's about the offense and him doing his job for the football team."

Kubiak's offense will be different than what Flacco has run in the previous six years. Flacco is athletic and can throw on the run, not as much as the Texans did in Houston. Flacco will need to play fake more and roll out both to his left and right.

Flacco has made throws to his left, but not consistently. In game planning against the Ravens, teams often tried to flush him more to his left than right. Also, those play action fakes are key to slowing pressure from the backside defensive ends or outside linebackers.

Flacco is just as agile as Matt Schaub, Kubiak's quarterback in Houston, but not as mobile as either Young or Elway.

"It's our job to find the things that Joe is comfortable with and to make him as successful as we possibly can," Kubiak said. "And we'll do that."

Trying to fix the running game won't be easy, either. Kubiak believes in a downhill, zone-blocking scheme and he has had outstanding runners like Terrell Davis and Arian Foster. To be productive, a runner has to be able to trust his eyes, read keys and be able to get inside (mid zone) or outside (outside zone).

It's basically one cut, accelerate and go.

The Ravens don't have that type of runner. Rice likes to stutter step or cut back, which shows he might be too impatient for this offense. Backup Bernard Pierce can get outside but he doesn't like the pounding of running inside. He often bounces outside on designated inside runs.

"It's our job now to go teach our system and get them comfortable with it," Kubiak said. "But, it always gets back to doing what your players do best. We've assured [head coach John Harbaugh] that's what we've got to do, that's what we've got to go find out."

The Ravens need to find a good blocking tight end, one who can at least hold his ground at the line of scrimmage. The Ravens didn't have one of those on the roster last year in Dennis Pitta or Ed Dickson.

But they do have some other players in place. They have speed on the outside in receiver Torrey Smith, and Pitta is a big target inside the red zone. Kubiak will use fullback Vonta Leach more compared to a year ago when the former Pro Bowl player disappeared from game plans.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has vowed to get a possession receiver or tight end and he is aware of rebuilding an offensive line. One possible move is to shift left guard Kelechi Osemele back to a tackle position which requires less thinking and more athleticism.

It sounds like a lot, and some things have to play out. But that's why the expectations shouldn't be high for Kubiak right away. The Ravens are off to a good start, they've got a good play caller in place. The rest will take time.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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