RAVENS LOOK FOR OFFENSIVE SPARK THROUGH GARY KUBIAK
Following their Super Bowl XLVII victory, the Baltimore Ravens turned in a disappointing 8-8 record in 2013 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
In 2013, the Ravens’ offense ranked No.29 in 2012 season when they ranked No. 16 juggernaut, head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ front office acknowledged the regression and addressed their needs this offseason with the addition of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is the solution to last season’s offensive woes.
Kubiak, who was the head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006 to 2013, when he was fired before the end of the season after a 2-11 record through 13 games, will look to improve the production of former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco.
While with the Texans, Kubiak groomed Matt Schaub into a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback and the passing yardage leader for the 2009 season and led the Texans to the playoffs in 2011 and 2012.
Kubiak has traditionally tailored his offensive strategy to best utilize the talent on his roster. In Houston he allowed running back Arian Foster more freedom and space to make cuts by using a zone-blocking scheme and kept the defense on its heels by taking deep shots to wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Kubiak will likely bring a similar philosophy to the Ravens offense this year. Flacco has already proven himself as a winner, with 62 regular season victories to his name through his first six seasons, an NFL record, and Kubiak will look to build off Flacco’s success by developing a system designed to play to his quarterback’s strengths.
One of the biggest stories this far is the suspension of All Pro running back Ray Rice who will serve a two game suspension to start the season, but expect Rice to thrive under
Kubiak’s new system upon his return. Last year Rice averaged a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry but he will look to take advantage of the new blocking scheme and the addition of two new starting offensive linemen in center Jeremy Zuttah and right tackle Ricky
Wagner. Third year running back Bernard Pierce will have an opportunity to prove himself as a starting running back in Rice’s absence. In the past Pierce has shown flashes of his potential, but his touches have been limited playing behind Rice.
The Ravens’ ground attack will be complimented by a talented wide receiving corp anchored by Torrey Smith.
The return of tight end Dennis Pitta and the offseason addition of All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith will serve as focal points in Kubiak’s offensive scheme. Smith, who spent the last 13 years with the Carolina Panthers and is their franchise all-time leader in several receiving categories, will make an immediate impact for the Ravens. His deep play ability will stretch defense and alleviate much of the pressure teams were able to put on the running game last season.
Perhaps the biggest addition to the Ravens’ offense will be the return of Pitta, who dislocated his right hip in training camp last season, forcing him to sit out for the first 12 games. Although he was able to return at the end of last season, it was apparent that he was not playing at 100 percent. Pitta, who was a key member of the Ravens’ offense during their Super Bowl run, will look to bolster their attack this year and serve as a security blanket for Flacco.
It will be interesting to see how Marlow Brown develops in Kubiak’s system. The wide receiver out of Georgia but up solid numbers in his rookie season and will figure to play a larger role in the offense this year as he continues to develop chemistry with Flacco.
The Ravens offense will benefit from the hiring of Kubiak as well as the addition of new offensive personnel, but how much the unit will improve remains to be seen.