The Ravens have overhauled their coaching staff after a disappointing 2013 NFL season during which they failed to make the playoffs.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh hired five new assistant coaches, and three holdover coaches have new job titles, marking the most changes to his staff since his arrival six years ago.
The most high-profile addition is offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, the former Houston Texans head coach. Kubiak brought quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani with him from the Texans. And Harbaugh reached into the college ranks to hire former NFL wideout Bobby Engram from the University of Pittsburgh as the wide receivers coach and running backs coach Thomas Hammock from Wisconsin.
"There's a lot of new ideas with the new coaches, and a lot of energy," Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "I like that they have new blood. They're great guys and great coaches, so it's been really fun to work with them."
Among the new coaches, Dennison has a particularly important role working in tandem with Kubiak.
A former offensive line coach with the Texans, Dennison operates as Kubiak's right-hand man installing and implementing a run-centric version of the West Coast offense.
"I love working with these guys," said Dennison, a former Denver Broncos starting linebacker. "Being around this building has been great for me. The guys that I've worked with before are here. I like that. The new guys, everybody has been great to us."
Known for his fiery coaching style, Pariani is familiar with Kubiak's system having coached tight ends for the past eight seasons with the Texans, for whom he coached tight end Owen Daniels, a two-time Pro Bowl selection now with the Ravens. He coached the Broncos' tight ends for a decade, including Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe.
"Brian is very knowledgeable," Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta said. "He knows the ins and outs of this offense. He's been in it a long time, and he's a great resource for us in being able to pick it up quickly."
Engram, 41, caught 650 career passes for 7,751 yards and 35 touchdowns in 14 seasons while playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs.
Engram retired and started his coaching career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 as an offensive assistant working for Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh's brother.
"You hear great things about young coaches sometimes, and I heard great things about Bobby from my brother, from Paul Chryst at Pitt, really anybody that's been around him," John Harbaugh said. "He has a lot of energy, he's very smart, he works really hard at it, and he's a good person, so I'm just really happy with Bobby."
Engram said he began thinking later in his playing career about coaching.
"I think it evolved the longer I played," he said. "It was something I actually thought about while I was playing. You start listening to coaches. You actually listen to protections as a receiver; you watch the run-game stuff. I kind of knew I was getting the bug then. This is a lot of guys' dream, and I'm blessed to be in this position and have this opportunity."
At Wisconsin as running backs coach, assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, Hammock contributed to one of the top rushing offenses in the nation. During his time with the Badgers, he coached Broncos running back Montee Ball as he rushed for 1,923 yards and 39 touchdowns and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.
In 2013, Wisconsin set a single-season school record with 3,689 rushing yards and ranked eighth in the country with 283.8 rushing yards per game. This is Hammock's first year coaching in the NFL.
"It's actually been a smooth transition," Hammock said. "The thing about all players that want to be great is they want you to help them be the best possible player they can be. I see guys that are hungry to improve."
Like the players, Hammock is absorbing the nuances of Kubiak's zone-blocking system. Some of the philosophies are akin to Wisconsin's playbook.
"He's an excellent teacher of football, especially for a young coach like myself," Hammock said of Kubiak. "He's made it easy to understand, and he's allowing the players to play fast. Definitely parallels, we were a zone team at Wisconsin, very similar. For the running game perspective, it's pretty much the same."
Many of the changes were brought about by former Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell becoming the Detroit Lions' head coach. When that happened, Caldwell hired Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin as his defensive coordinator. The Ravens also removed Juan Castillo's run-game coordinator title after the team finished 30th in rushing offense last season. He's now simply the offensive line coach.
The Ravens shifted former St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, the architect of the New York Giants' Super Bowl XLII championship team that led the NFL with 53 sacks, from senior defensive assistant to secondary coach. Chris Hewitt was moved from assistant special teams coach to assistant secondary coach.
Spagnuolo is a veteran defensive coach who helps augment what defensive coordinator Dean Pees does from a strategy standpoint. He wants the Ravens to become more opportunistic this season.
"You always evaluate what you did the previous year, and the one thing everybody's disappointed in is the big plays," Spagnuolo said. "The one thing about having the responsibility of being in the secondary, whether you're coaching or playing in it, is ultimately on a pass play that is deep, it falls on those guys. We take it personal, the pride of not giving up deep pass completions. We don't want to do that."
Ravens staff changes
The coaching staff has undergone several changes since last season, including the following hires and title changes:
Coach;Ravens position;2013 coaching position
Gary Kubiak:offensive coordinator;Houston Texans head coach
Rick Dennison;quarterbacks coach;Houston Texans offensive line coach
Brian Pariani;tight ends coach;Houston Texans tight ends coach
Bobby Engram;wide receivers coach;University of Pittsburgh wide receivers coach
Thomas Hammock;running backs coach;Wisconsin running backs coach
Juan Castillo;offensive line coach;Ravens run-game coordinator
Steve Spagnuolo;secondary coach/assistant head coach;Ravens senior defensive assistant