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John Harbaugh End Of Season Press Conference Highlights

What was said and what was noteworthy?

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh spoke with the media for 45 minutes today as he concluded his end of season press conference. Many things were addressed, ranging from the offense and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman to the departure of Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and his replacement, Mike Macdonald.

Greg Roman Will Return

Whether Ravens fans want it or not, Harbaugh believes Roman is a part of their construction.

Harbaugh was asked about the spacing issue that is brought up about the wideouts and receivers where they appear clumped together. He noted that there is freedom in the routes for his receivers to make their own decisions at times and they’re asked to make reads on the fly. He also said that it is something that Lamar Jackson and the receivers like Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Mark Andrews and others like the utilization of the ability to make their own reads on certain plays.

My thoughts: Roman was playing with half a hand at a professional poker table by no fault of his own. Two premiere running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were out before the season began, but also right before the season’s beginning, leaving the team to search through the veteran bargain bin. He also didn’t have Ronnie Stanley, arguably the team’s best player at left tackle. He had to scheme up a design that featured poor tackles with a lack of playmakers at running back. I’m speculating Harbaugh is confident this team couldn’t perform on the lack of talent at tackle and running back, not due to the playcalling. They couldn’t get the blocks against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL being in their own division (T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, Trey Hendrickson). This greatly impacted their ability to throw. This also caused great difficulty in running the ball. Therefore, they’re giving Roman a chance to run it back in 2022 and see if he can create a successful offense with a (hopefully) fully healthy offense.

Steve Saunders Will Return

The Ravens sustained overwhelming injuries in 2021. In response, Harbaugh stated he spent four hours with the performance staff going over different practice models, workouts and load management to improve the team. He said something to the effect of leaving no stone unturned as they hope to prevent another season of this caliber.

My thoughts: Harbaugh seemed adamant in getting this team healthy and preventing injury in 2022. He was visibly frustrated when discussing the topic, but also appeared hopeful they can get it figured out. A four-hour meeting on injury prevention with the performance staff sounds no joke. As an aside, I don’t think I’d ever want to be on the receiving end of a four-hour meeting with Harbaugh in my field that saw such struggles. I’m sure he grilled them and also was searching for answers as to how they can avoid this in the future.

I’m a bit surprised Saunders will be returning. I figured with injuries and injury prevention being so heavily discussed all season long and even now, the lead Strength & Conditioning Coach might get the boot. It was even the lead in my article for baltimoreravens.com on Monday morning: Late for Work 1/31: Top Offseason Priority? Improving Injury Prevention

My Question For Harbaugh: Offensive Construction, Running in a Passing League and How Harbaugh Expects the Offense to Evolve

Kyle Barber: “The way that you have constructed the roster in your time over the last few years has focused on a strong rushing attack. You’ve even set records. [But] How concerned are you that might be going against the grain a bit when the league as a whole seems to be pass-centric and you see these two high-flying offenses like the Rams and Bengals in the Super Bowl, and how have you made adjustments to focus more on the pass as you progress through the last couple of years?”

“Yeah, I mean, we’ve worked hard at that. Our pass offense statistically was a lot better this year than it was the year before. But you’ve got to build your offense around the players that you have— and these teams are running the ball really well, too. Just to say that they’re passing teams is really not true. All through the playoffs, all those teams ran the ball well. A lot of it is the quarterback runs which is a big dynamic for us. A lot of our run offense this year was quarterback runs and was the last two years. But the schemed-up run game, that’s probably something that we have been the top team at. That’s something that we made a big point of the last couple years and it’s something that really fell off this year so it’s an important element for us. How big of a piece is it going forward? That’s what we got to decide. It’s going to be a big piece. But is it going to be as big of a piece as it was in ‘19 as Lamar is progressing as a quarterback? No, I don’t think it will be. [The run game] will be a piece and people will have to contend with it and deal with it, but it won’t be as big as it was that year. Hopefully, it’s an evolution that we’ll make as our players grow.”

My thoughts: I think Harbaugh undersold the current Super Bowl offenses being pass-centric.

The Rams were the No. 5 team in passing offense in the regular season; the Bengals: No. 7. Both teams were below-average rushing teams in the regular season, with the Rams ranking No. 25 and the Bengals not far ahead of them, at No. 23. Both teams also have a top five wide receiver in terms of yards, with Rams wide receiver Kupp leading the NFL with 1,947 yards and rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (somewhat) close behind at No. 4, with 1,455 yards. In short, they’re passing offenses with star power at quarterback and receiver. That’s good news, too, because the No. 6 receiver this season was Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, who caught 107 balls for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns, and did so with three different quarterbacks this season.

The Ravens have the playmakers to be among the upper echelon of passing teams. This was a press conference not harping on the lack of receiving talent. The Ravens boast Andrews, Hollywood and will have a fully healthy Rashod Bateman entering his sophomore season. Harbaugh says the rushing attack won’t be “as big of a piece” as it was in prior years, which offers hope for a team that wants to become more dynamic. But, they won’t abandon the success they found on the ground with Jackson and the rushing attack, which will hopefully feature a healthy tandem of running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, who were chalked up to be the best rushing duo of 2021, with Jackson in tow. Reading into Harbaugh’s response and speculating, I think he’s well aware that the league is about airing it out, but it’s not lost on him that the ground game, clock control and the ability to have a multi-headed front is a strength the Ravens can use as a positive.

Marcus Peters Returning?

Harbaugh, when talking about injury, discussed his excitement for the team to get two first-round pick corners back.

Peters is currently on the final year of his contract which brings a hefty $15.5 million cap hit. The cap savings from cutting Peters would give $10 million in breathing room, but that would also mean no ballhawk cornerback who is among the best in takeaway generation since entering the NFL.

My thoughts: It would appear the Ravens and Harbaugh want Peters back. No surprise there, even with his eight-digit cap hit. He’s a coach, teammate and fan favorite due to his playmaking and character. He’s a Raven through-and-through.

Tee Martin Interviewing with Bills for Offensive Coordinator

A year after landing Tee Martin, the Ravens might see him go elsewhere. Harbaugh broke the news that Martin has been requested by the Buffalo Bills to interview for their offensive coordinator position.

My thoughts: Losing Martin is far from ideal. He’s helped to improve the Ravens’ passing attack, along with Keith Williams. It would be disappointing to see him go, and I’d be concerned Williams would consider following Martin to Buffalo. The Bills are a great organization who have “figured it out” over the past few years and have the eye for talent. Them pursuing Martin shows the Ravens landed a good one and he might already be on the way out for bigger things.