The final preseason game is upon us, you can already begin to smell the crisp Denver air and hear Mile High as Joe Flacco takes his position under Center. Before we can actually see that, the Ravens have to head into St. Louis to take on the Rams and Sam Bradford.
The fourth preseason game is probably the most useful or boring game depending on your perspective. The first team’s starters only play for the first quarter, while the backups play the rest of the game in order to prove why they deserve a roster spot. The most overlooked thing during preseason, in my opinion, is the coaching staff, and heading into the regular season a lot of eyes are on the Ravens’ coaches.
Promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, after the mid-season firing of the much despised Cam Cameron, Caldwell took control of the offense and it never scored less than 24 points with the starters playing the whole game. Pretty good for a guy who’s never been an offensive coordinator in his career, isn’t it?
The strangest fact is that Caldwell didn’t change the Ravens playbook. He merely called more plays that emphasized the offense’s strengths, running the ball, deep passes, and play action passes. More no huddle was called, which Flacco excelled in running, and it paid dividends.
Now the big question everyone is asking is, “Can he do it for a whole season?” and I respond with “I believe so”. Caldwell has made it a point to play to Flacco’s strengths and Flacco has even said Caldwell is a lot easier to communicate with than Cameron. How Caldwell handles the offense is the big thing to watch heading into the regular season. If Caldwell can’t replicate the chemistry the offense created during the Super Bowl run, it could be Cam Cameron all over again.
For the first half of the season, the Ravens’ defense was, for lack of a better word, terrible. They were ranked in the bottom half of the league and were losing players left and right, Lardarius Webb (ACL), Ray Lewis (triceps), the list went on. Then, somehow in some strange fashion, the Ravens rose and became one of the second half’s better defenses.
Then, in the miraculous playoff run, Pees’ defense held Indianapolis to nine points, picked off Peyton Manning twice, held New England to 13 points, and only allowed two field goals in the first half of the Super Bowl. Now, all eyes are on him to see if he can repeat that defensive greatness with the additions of Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Daryl Smith, and Michael Huff.
In my opinion, Pees is a great defensive coordinator, but could only do so much with the players he had last year. If Pees can’t corral the defense like last year, the defense will finish in the middle of the pack, at best.
Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo
This is the man who interests me the most; he was the Eagles offensive line coach from 1998 to 2010, then was promoted to defensive coordinator for a year and a half, then fired. I believe this was a key pickup for the Ravens, for a few reasons. The Ravens have young starters at left guard (Kelechi Osemele) and center (Gino Gradkowski), and an experienced coach will be key for their development. Bryant McKinnie is known for having issues with his weight and keeping up with the other offensive linemen, an area where Castillo can help, if he hasn’t already, considering McKinnie came to camp overweight and almost immediately dropped it.
During his time with the Eagles, he was able to get starting caliber seasons out of the likes of Winston Justice, Mike McGlynn, Nick Cole, and Jermane Mayberry. Castillo is a low risk/high reward signing, if he’s able to help further the offensive line and the run game, it’s a positive. If he can’t, it doesn’t necessarily hurt the offense, who were doing fine without him.
Cody Colston is a contributor to BaltimoreSportsReport.com. Follow him on Twitter @The_OtherCody.