Standing in the middle of the Ravens' practice field Tuesday, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak directed traffic by pointing his fingers and huddling frequently with quarterback Joe Flacco.
The hiring of Kubiak in late January was a dramatic change after the Ravens failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season and finished the season ranked 29th in total offense.
Kubiak is installing his offensive playbook, which is based heavily on play-action passes, bootlegs and a zone-blocking scheme that emphasizes a mobile offensive line and a devotion to the running game.
"I'm throwing the kitchen sink at them, and I have to kind of watch and see what sticks and what they do best," said Kubiak, who was fired as the Houston Texans' head coach in December after going 63-66 in eight seasons. "When we come back for [training] camp, I'll probably have to cut some things down, but they've been very receptive.
"The key thing is their work habits. That's been very positive, and Joe [Flacco] is ahead of everybody on the curve from that standpoint, which he needs to be. I like what's happening right now. I think we're building something."
A former backup to Denver Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, Kubiak has derived many of his offensive beliefs from his roots in the West Coast offense dating back to his first NFL coaching job in 1994 as quarterback coach of the San Francisco 49ers, where he coached Steve Young.
Kubiak is trying to increase the amount of deception in the Ravens offense by running a variety of plays to become less predictable.
"I like this offense way better than last year's," said fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who's slated for a versatile, pass-catching role. "I think it's going to really pay off. I think we're going to be very explosive. I like how it's concept-based. We don't run a ton of different concepts, but we run a lot of different formations and a lot of different looks. You can get a lot done with a small amount of install."
Last season, Flacco threw a career-high and franchise-record 22 interceptions. He was often under pressure and was sacked a career-high 48 times. Running back Ray Rice struggled with hip and quadriceps injuries and gained just 660 yards for the NFL's 30th-ranked rushing offense.
At 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, Flacco has faced questions about how suited he is to Kubiak's offense, which requires a lot of movement from his quarterbacks. Flacco has appeared comfortable so far.
"I'm very impressed with Joe," Kubiak said. "A big guy, I knew he had a big arm, but I had no idea how good of an athlete he is, a very good athlete. The things we like to do [moving] around, the zone-pass schemes we like to run, I think fit to a lot of his strengths. His progress and where he's at right now, I couldn't be happier. "
Under NFL rules, Flacco first got the Ravens' playbook in March and wasn't able to discuss the details with the coaching staff until the start of the offseason training program in April.
"I think he worked his tail off when he was away from me," Kubiak said of Flacco. "It was obvious when he came in how hard he had worked at what he was doing. He's way ahead of the other guys from that standpoint. The important thing is that [Flacco] be ahead of everybody, and he's done that."
With the Texans, Kubiak's offenses ranked in the top 10 in four of the past six years.
The Texans had an element of power football with running back Arian Foster and a fairly sophisticated passing game with star wide receiver Andre Johnson and several athletic tight ends.
"It's got a lot of dag-gone weapons, and [Kubiak] knows how to use them," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "He's given us a lot of headaches and a lot of things for us to talk about as a defensive staff, which is good."
With the Ravens, Kubiak is reunited with former Texans Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels. And the Ravens retained tight end Dennis Pitta with a five-year, $32 million contract in March.
"When you have [Daniels] and Dennis, you get balance," Kubiak said. "That's one of the greatest things going on right now. We have a chance to be very balanced offensively, outside, inside, with those two guys."
The Ravens also signed five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith in March to work in tandem with starting wide receiver Torrey Smith.
"He brings an edge to practice all the time," Kubiak said of Steve Smith. "Every good offense that I've been around, I've had a few of those guys saying, 'Get me the ball, coach.' That's what you want."
Although the Ravens have yet to face a true litmus test of their new-look offense, the initial reactions about Kubiak's system have been positive from the players.
"I love it," Torrey Smith (Maryland) said. "Football is football and there are a lot of concepts we've had before that we understand, but it's kind of his way of going about it. .. We tried to run a zone-run scheme last year. Just the way Kubiak has installed it, it does look different than last year. I don't know if that's because everyone understands it more, but it does look a lot better than it did last year."
Kubiak is the Ravens' third offensive coordinator in the past three years, following Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell.
"To be around [Kubiak], he's southern laid-back with that Texas accent," Torrey Smith said. "He's done it before. He knows what it's supposed to look like. He's tough on you, but he respects you."
Making sure the players are knowledgeable and comfortable with the new offense is the top priority.
"That's my challenge right now, finding out what we do best and making sure I don't overload them," Kubiak said. "I said, 'Guys, I'm going to throw a lot at you. We need to go make some mistakes, but let's go make them hard. We'll figure it out and make sure on opening day we're doing what we do best.'"
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