The success of the Ravens offense in 2019 will not only depend on the arm of second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson but the input of new passing game coordinator and receivers coach David Culley.
When talking with any of the Ravens top team officials they think they got one of the best assistant coaches in the NFL when Culley joined the Ravens during the offseason.
Culley, 63, has been an assistant head coach with Andy Reid in Kansas City and a receivers coach in Philadelphia, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
He worked with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh for 10 seasons when both were on the Eagles staff.
“For us to get him is a coup,” Harbaugh said. “For us to be able to have him as a part of our staff is a real accomplishment, and it’s something that we’ve been trying to get done here for a number of years, and we finally pulled it off. So, that’s the kind of coach he is.”
“He’s been in a lot of different, creative offenses, not just with the pass game – though he is spearheading the pass game – with the run game, as well, with the RPOs, with the option stuff, the stuff in Kansas City, the stuff in Buffalo,” Harbaugh said. “So, all that being said, the creativity part of it is really good.”
Greg Roman is the team’s offensive coordinator and specializes in building the running game. Culley has worked with athletic quarterbacks such as Jackson before and will be able to put in a lot of passing plays which fit Jackson’s skill set.
Plus, Culley will have a chance to work with new receivers such as rookies Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin.
“He’s coached with Hines Ward. He’s coached Terrell Owens. He’s coached DeSean Jackson. He’s coached so many guys, different personalities,” Ravens receiver Willie Snead IV said. “That different standpoint, just to look from a different viewpoint of how he sees offenses, how he sees routes, how he sees scheme, those types of things, you can’t take for granted. So, when he brings up points or nuggets, as I like to call them, I don’t take it with a grain of salt.”
The Ravens have a lot of work to do on offense. At Thursday’s practice there were too many times when receivers were in the same area on passing plays.
“Every word has been organized in a way, every concept has been organized in a way, that we want to build for the long haul, and we want to make it as modern and as applicable as we can, so it can be executed,” Harbaugh said. “The terminology is a lot different, and that’s for all the guys to learn, especially the quarterbacks, because they have to operate. They have to make the calls. So, to put the words with all the concepts and all the cadences … You saw a lot of cadences out there today; we’re working on that. All those things are part of the execution of the offense.”
Pro at work
It’s interesting to watch veteran running back Mark Ingram in practice. He is a pro and reminds me of former Ravens receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Anquan Boldin.
There aren’t many wasted moments. He is always stretching or working on fundamentals. The former New Orleans Saint looks in good shape and his running style is perfect for the Ravens’ downhill running game.
Ingram will be backed up by second-year running back Gus Edwards, who looks about 10 to 15 pounds lighter than a year ago when he was listed at 6-feet-1 and 238 pounds.
He appears quicker but not on the same level with rookie Justice Hill, the team’s fourth round pick out of Oklahoma State. This kid has a lot of shake and if he gets a linebacker one on one in the open field he can turn a short gain into a big play.
He’ll be the first legitimate threat out of the backfield as a pass weapon since Ray Rice who played from 2008-2014.
Rookie outside linebacker/defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, the team’s third round pick from Louisiana Tech, is quick off the ball and looks like he has good lateral movement.
But he is going to need a strong year in the weight room. He’ll have problems shedding big offensive tackles right away but team officials like his work ethic and his desire to succeed.
And while we are talking about linebackers inside players Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young seem comfortable in their possible full-time roles with Onwuasor in the middle and Young on the weak side.
Harbaugh said he has faith in this already much maligned group but that’s to be expected at this point. Training camp doesn’t start for nearly two months; so in the words of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson: Harbaugh is “keeping hope alive.”
There have always been questions about rookie quarterback Trace McSorley’s arms strength, but he has some amazingly quick feet. Inside the red zone on Thursday he was extremely accurate.
He fit several balls into tight windows and placed passes where only his receivers could catch the ball. The jury is still out on his passes deep down the field, though, and he needs to stop patting the ball so much before he throws.
That works in college, not in the NFL.
It’s hard to evaluate Jackson because it’s only an OTA practice but he looks more comfortable in his throwing motion. He is more consistent as far as accuracy but there is still too much inconsistency overall.
He’ll turn his feet to throw in one direction and then throw back across his body without moving his feet or shifting his body. The ball then sails on him.
Maybe Snead summed it up best.
“I think Lamar is just a rep guy,” Snead said. “He has to get out there and get 100 reps in every day. He has to throw the ball every single day. That throwing motion. … He’s a quarterback at the end of the day. He’s going to get it right, and at the end of the day, he can make plays. Whether it’s with his arm or with his legs, he’s a play maker. I think in time, it will come.”
Hurst runs well
Second-year player Hayden Hurst looked like the tight end we saw in training camp last year before he got hurt. He was running well and hard and looked to be in great shape sprinting across the middle in full stride deep down the field several times in practice.
Hurst said he added some weight during this offseason and if he can develop as well as fellow tight end Mark Andrews, the Ravens can do some damage in both the passing and running game by balancing defenses with the two-tight end set.
The Ravens could also use either on the outside as a receiver getting mismatches with backup cornerbacks and safeties.
“Our tight end room is loaded with Mark [Andrews], Nick [Boyle], myself and the two young guys,” Hurst said. “I know we are a huge focal point of this offense, so it’s fun being a tight end here and playing for Baltimore. It’s very exciting. It’s a young group, it’s a really fun group, and we’re pretty close. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”