Veteran safety Eric Weddle, who is the Ravens marquee offseason acquisition, hopes to be the defender who lines up his teammates on the field. BaltimoreRavens.com staff writer Garrett Downing noted that Weddle expressed an interest in this role during a recent conference call with season ticket holders:
Weddle is definitely open to being the defensive play caller who wears the helmet with a headset input from the sidelines. "It’s awesome for me because I don’t have to wait on anyone to get the call," Weddle said. "I give the call out and communicate from there." Weddle wore the headset his last few seasons in San Diego, but he hasn’t talked with Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees about that possibility in Baltimore. The Ravens traditionally have a linebacker perform that role, and C.J. Mosley has done it the last two years.
‘The General’ himself, Ray Lewis, served as the defensive play caller and captain for the vast majority of his career. Lewis was a dedicated film student and had elite instincts, enabling him to be an exceptional caller of defensive plays. Lewis and Peyton Manning had some epic pre-snap battles over the years; the chess match was evident to all who watched. Manning would hurry to the line, only to audible. Lewis would match the audible. Manning would then change the play again and Lewis would realign his defense accordingly. Back and forth they went.
In some ways, it would make sense for Weddle to assume the role of defensive play caller. As Downing points out, he did receive the play calls in San Diego. By all accounts, Weddle has made a positive impression and quickly became a prominent leader on defense this offseason. With the uptick in passing, sending the calls to a defensive back first may help improve communication issues in the secondary. Mosley also regressed last season, taking this responsibility away could allow him to focus more on his assignment and make more plays.
On the other hand, most teams use a linebacker to relay the plays for good reason. Linebackers line up in the center of the formation, facilitating communication with the defensive lineman in front of them and defensive backs behind them. Many are hoping the Ravens utilize more pre-snap movement and new coach Joe Cullen brings some of his creative stunts on the defensive line. It could prove difficult to communicate late audibles to the lineman from a safety who is lined up ten to fifteen yards behind them.
Mosley earned the role of play caller, also known as wearing the ‘green dot’, about halfway through his rookie season. Mosley replaced veteran linebacker Daryl Smith as the defender with the headset in his helmet. It appeared that he was being groomed as the centerpiece of the defense. It could hurt his confidence to take the honor away from him as he enters his third season to give it to a player who is new to the team.
Weddle signed a four year contract, but the base salary structure increases substantially after the 2017 season. Considering his age, Weddle may be released after playing out the first two years on his contract. Mosley’s contract expires after the 2017 season, but the Ravens will have an option to tack an additional year to his rookie deal next offseason since he was a first round pick. Mosley is eight years younger than Weddle, it is logical to assume he will be playing in Baltimore longer than Weddle.
The decision on who relays the defensive play calls in 2016 may ultimately be decided by weighing the advantage of Weddle wearing the ‘green dot’ against the benefit of preparing Mosley to serve as the Ravens on-field general in future seasons.