Roman should help Ravens run game, and clearing out Castillo makes sense

In an attempt to balance the offense, the Ravens have hired former Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers coordinator Greg Roman to power up the running game.

It's a good move, and the Ravens also got a break Thursday because offensive line coach Juan Castillo is expected to move on and possibly become an assistant with the Buffalo Bills.


If Castillo stuck around, the behind the scenes chemistry among the coaches would be more entertaining than the offense itself.

It would have been confusion as spicy as a reality TV show, but the Ravens have apparently settled on Roman as the senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach.


Mornhinweg is headstrong and would rather pass than run. With Roman aboard, Castillo's role would have been reduced as far as his input on the blocking scheme, and Castillo had a history of interfering with others. As for Roman and the running game, there is only one way, and that's his.

Head coach John Harbaugh could have made it easier by getting rid of Castillo as soon as the season ended, but he showed strong loyalty to Castillo, who was on staff with him when they were in Philadelphia. Even Roman has a Harbaugh connection, having served under Jim Harbaugh first at Stanford and later with the 49ers.

But this isn't about favoritism. It's about getting better. Last year the Ravens had one of the worst running games in the NFL, averaging only 91.1 yards per game. General manager Ozzie Newsome, owner Steve Bisciotti and Harbaugh determined something needed to change, that the Ravens needed to run more and have quarterback Joe Flacco throw less.

Roman has the credentials to at least make some adjustments. He likes to balance up defenses and go with a power running game using two tight ends. He has both the inside and outside zone blocking schemes, which is what Gary Kubiak used here as the Ravens coordinator in 2014. But in San Francisco, he had running back Frank Gore and in Buffalo he had LeSean McCoy (each is a five-time Pro Bowl selection). Both of those teams also had running quarterbacks — Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo.

Flacco isn't going to be orchestrating any freeze or stop options.

There are other concerns. The Ravens want a power running game but they don't have a physical offense line. They aren't the Dallas Cowboys. They could lose right offensive tackle Rick Wagner in free agency and center Jeremy Zuttah is small and has trouble with big nose guards. Even if Zuttah is replaced by John Urschel, he'll struggle as well against big tackles.

The Ravens have six tight ends on the roster, but who are the ones that are going to do the blocking? Certainly not Dennis Pitta or Maxx Williams. Nick Boyle would be one and Ben Watson could be another, but at age 36 Watson needs to prove he has recovered from a torn Achilles. A good downhill running back is needed in Roman's offense, and the Ravens have one with potential in second-year player Kenneth Dixon. He can shake a defensive player and has quick change of direction, but has yet to prove he is the workhorse who can carry 20-25 times a game.

Terrance West has shown flashes of being a one-cut, downhill runner, but isn't consistent because he likes to jump in and out of the running lanes before he gets to the hole.

The Ravens can work on those situations, but it is hard to get coaches to change when they've had the same style for decades. The Ravens had a strong running game in 2012, when they won the Super Bowl, but they struggled the following season as Castillo made changes. Those changes eventually led to the dismissal of offensive assistants like Wilbert Montgomery, Andy Moeller and Wade Harman.

When Kubiak was the offensive coordinator, he brought in his own assistants and Castillo's role was reduced. The Ravens rushed for 2,019 yards and turned no-name runner Justin Forsett into a 1,200-yard back. Since Kubiak left to become head coach of the Denver Broncos after that season, the Ravens have struggled running the ball, and both Castillo and Mornhinweg were not in total agreement with coordinator Marc Trestman, who was fired after Week 5 this past season.

Most teams have one coordinator on each side of the ball and they only take orders from the head coach. Harbaugh has hired former head coaches as assistants before; some have worked out and some haven't.

Castillo could have stayed but he probably didn't want to see his role diminish again. It was time for him to move on, and at least he did it on his own terms. This group of offensive assistants could be good if they all work together.


Last season there was enough anxiety with some of the receivers being unsatisfied with Flacco and his distribution of the ball.

The Ravens didn't need any disharmony in the coaches' room.



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