As the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to play the New England Patriots for the NFL championship, they’ll lean partly on the experience of several former Ravens who had key roles in the team’s run to the Super XLVII victory after the 2012 regular season.
The 2012 Ravens probably wouldn’t have gotten to the Super Bowl had wide receiver Torrey Smith, who caught five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ blowout of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC title game Sunday, not torched cornerback Champ Bailey and the Denver Broncos for three catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-35 double-overtime victory in the AFC divisional playoff round.
The Ravens might also not have won that game without defensive back Corey Graham, who had one of the Eagles’ two interceptions against Case Keenum, twice picking off the Broncos’ Peyton Manning. Graham returned one of the interceptions against Denver for a 39-yard touchdown, and the other set up Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal.
And moving on to the Super Bowl, the Ravens’ late defensive stand was sparked by inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who started down the stretch for the Eagles but missed the game against the Vikings with a hamstring injury. Ellerbe had a team-high nine tackles in the Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. He combined for three tackles on the 49ers’ final drive, and his pressure up the middle on San Francisco’s final offensive play led to quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s overthrowing wideout Michael Crabtree in the end zone on fourth down.
Beyond the player links between the Ravens and Eagles, which also include Philadelphia defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and reserve defensive end-linebacker Steven Means, the Eagles scouting department certainly has a Ravens flavor.
I’ve said and written several times that the most under-discussed factor in the Ravens’ falling into the throes of mediocrity — they are 40-40 in the regular season since their Super Bowl victory — is how many quality talent evaluators they’ve lost in recent years. The trend started before the Super Bowl as teams would come every offseason and look to pluck from one of the more well-respected front offices in the NFL.
However, the departures have seemingly taken a toll and could go a long way in explaining why the Ravens haven’t drafted as well lately under general manager Ozzie Newsome.
While Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman deservedly gets most of the credit for building one of the league’s deepest rosters, his staff includes former Ravens scouts Joe Douglas, the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel; Andy Weidl, the assistant director of player personnel; Ian Cunningham, the director of college scouting; and T.J. McCreight, a player personnel executive.
Douglas worked with the Ravens from 2000 through 2015, first as a player personnel assistant and then moving on to an area scout and then a national scout. He had a key role in the evaluation of a plethora of “home run” Ravens draft picks, including quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, defensive end Pernell McPhee and defensive back Lardarius Webb. Douglas left the Ravens after the 2015 season and was named the director of college scouting for the Chicago Bears. Roseman hired him the following season, and he’s spent the past two-plus years with the Eagles.
Weidl, who had been a scout with the Ravens for 11 years, joined Douglas in Philadelphia in May 2016. He started with the Ravens as an area scout, and his responsibilities ultimately expanded to the entire Eastern section of the United States. Among the players he scouted were fullback Kyle Juszczyk, defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Arthur Jones, and current Eagles Smith and Jernigan.
Douglas then dipped into the Ravens’ pipeline in June with the hiring of Cunningham and McCreight. Cunningham spent nine seasons with the Ravens, starting as a player personnel assistant before becoming a Southeast area scout. Toward the end of his tenure, he was primarily responsible for scouting the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference. McCreight spent eight years with the Ravens after joining the organization as an area scout in 1997.
The Eagles’ ascent this season provides a reminder of how many good scouts the Ravens have lost.
The Ravens certainly have other strong evaluators, but it’s never easy to lose so many scouts who are familiar with the attributes that the front office and coaching staff are looking for in players.
Phil Savage, who is running the Senior Bowl this week, and Daniel Jeremiah, now an analyst for NFL Network, are two more former well-respected Ravens scouts who come to mind.