xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

After rough first season, Marc Trestman tries to jumpstart Ravens offense

Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman looks on during minicamp at the Ravens' training facility.
Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman looks on during minicamp at the Ravens' training facility. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Ravens will enter training camp late next month with the kind of offensive talent and depth most teams covet, coming off a year in which they struggled to finish games offensively and several of their key offensive players couldn't finish the season because of injuries.

While questions remain regarding the health of quarterback Joe Flacco and two of his favorite targets, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and tight end Crockett Gillmore, Ravens coach John Harbaugh appears hopeful the offense will improve.

Advertisement

One reason Harbaugh cites is that this will be Marc Trestman's second year as offensive coordinator.

"We're going to be in much better shape in terms of building the system from that standpoint than we were the first year," Harbaugh said last month during the team's three-day minicamp in Owings Mills.

Advertisement
Advertisement

From a statistical standpoint, Trestman's debut in Baltimore was not a disaster: The Ravens ranked 14th in yards per game despite losing several starters, most notably Flacco and Smith, as well as running back Justin Forsett, center Jeremy Zuttah and left tackle Eugene Monroe. But they averaged 20.5 points per game, which ranked 25th in the league.

On the top of that was the transition from the fiery Gary Kubiak to the professorial Trestman, who became the team's fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons after Kubiak left to become head coach of the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

Trestman, now 60, came to Baltimore after two seasons as the head coach of the Chicago Bears, who fired him. He concedes the transition here wasn't easy as he inherited Kubiak's zone-blocking offense.

"It's a little unnatural when you [first] come in, and there is a pre-existing offense in place," Trestman said. "It was a very good offense, as we all know. But I spent three months on it, trying to make sure I simulated the things that were necessary for me to do my job.

Advertisement

"Certainly this season, coming into it a day after the season is over, you feel you are in a lot better position, because you aren't using 90 days out of 120 [before offseason training activities] to learn another offense."

Harbaugh acknowledged that the transition to Trestman was "challenging," as it would be for any new coordinator, or even a new position coach, particularly when the team hasn't repeated the success it enjoyed under his predecessor.

"Now the system is more his than it was last year," Harbaugh said. "I think it's more ours than it was last year. Collectively, we've spent a lot of time building the offensive system."

Like the new players he is coaching this year — including veteran receivers Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson, as well as rookie offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley, the No. 6 overall selection in this year's draft — Trestman had to bury himself in the playbook for three months.

Despite his reputation for a pass-first mentality, Trestman — who has been an offensive coordinator or assistant head coach for five other NFL teams — said the Ravens' offensive principles remain the same.

"We're always looking at ourselves as a team that should be able to run the ball first," Trestman said. "That's just the way we want to play it, and everything starts with the physicality of our run game, and the physicality of our runner. That's how we coach offense here, and everything starts there."

After improving from 30th in rushing in 2013 under Jim Caldwell to eighth in 2014 in Kubiak's only season, the Ravens dropped back to 26th with a little more than 92 yards per game. Only Forsett, who rushed for a team-high 641 yards in 10 games before breaking his arm, was among the league's top 50 rushers.

The most glaring statistic was turnovers. The Ravens finished with 28, including 21 interceptions. Flacco's total quarterback rating (QBR) was the lowest (40.9) of his nine-year career, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio (14-12) before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 12 was the same as it was when he was a rookie.

"I think the No. 1 thing is we have to take care of the football better," Trestman said. "That starts with everything we do as coaches. We've got to be better — the pure fundamentals and techniques."

That Flacco missed the team's OTAs and minicamp shouldn't hurt the offense's preparation going into training camp, Trestman said.

Flacco seems excited by the prospect of having two new veteran targets in Watson and Wallace. Watson's 74 receptions, 825 yards and six touchdowns in New Orleans last season were highs in a 12-year career. Wallace, on the other hand, had 39 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota — all career lows in seven years in the NFL.

"Those guys have been great," said Flacco, who might also have an old favorite target, Dennis Pitta, if the 30-year-old tight end can return after missing most of the past three seasons, including the entire 2015 season, with a recurring hip injury. "I think they are great additions to the team. I think from what you see out there, they are going to be great players for us. It's big-time to have them. I can't wait to get out there with them."

Given Flacco's own history, there's no guarantee the Ravens will improve offensively in Trestman's second year.

Oakland ranked first in the league in Trestman's first season as offensive coordinator in 2002, and 37-year-old quarterback Rich Gannon was named the NFL's MVP. The Raiders then dropped to 25th in 2003 as Gannon's age started catching up with him.

Other offensive units have also dipped in Trestman's second year.

The Arizona Cardinals were 13th offensively in Trestman's first season there in 1998 — when Jake Plummer threw for 3,777 yards and the team won its first playoff game in more than 50 years — but they dropped to 29th the next year.

As head coach of the Bears, Trestman saw his offense drop from eighth in 2013 to 21st in 2014. Trestman was criticized for relying more on Jay Cutler's arm (and head) than on running back Matt Forte's legs.

Harbaugh, who sometimes appeared uncomfortable with some of Trestman's late-game play calling last season, seems to think improvements have been made. Along with the influx of offensive talent — perhaps the most the Ravens have had in their history — is a growing level of comfort with Trestman.

"We have a lot of confidence in what we're doing," Harbaugh said. "We're excited about what we built into it, and Marc Trestman is the main architect of that because he's the offensive coordinator, and he's really very well-equipped to do that. I'm excited about where we're going offensively. I think we're going to be really well-coached. We just have to build execution out here. We just have to come out here, get good, take care of our business and get good at what we're doing. That's really what this is all about right now."

twitter.com/sportsprof56

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement