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Ravens News 2/8: Staffing Up

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Illinois v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Zach Orr faces uphill battle to rebuild Ravens’ proud defense

Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun

Orr has charisma, which allows him to relate to not only the star players he has coached — such as former Ravens outside linebacker Terell Suggs and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen — but the classic overachievers. He was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent from North Texas in 2014 and played in 46 career games over three seasons, recording 163 tackles. He was named second team All-Pro in 2016 before being forced to retire the following year because of a congenital neck/spine condition.

But this upcoming season will be different than anything he’s ever experienced. Orr has to devise and implement a game plan and call plays for the first time. That’s another step in the progression from assistant to coordinator.

“I have to be on the field,” Orr said. “I have to look players in their eyes and see what’s going on and get a feel for how guys are feeling out there. So, people have their different ways, I have to be on the field. I’m more into it and getting the feel of emotion and how guys are really feeling out there.”

When it comes to filling out the defensive staff, Harbaugh will have the final say on hiring his assistants, though Orr might have some input. But you can bank on Harbaugh having more say during practices and games, especially with Orr being so young and this being his first coordinator position.

What’s next for the Ravens’ defense? New coordinator Zach Orr has a long to-do list.

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Rebuild the staff

That brain drain leaves Harbaugh and the Ravens with an obvious next step this month: Fill out the defensive staff. It could take a while. The Ravens didn’t finalize their assistant coaches last offseason until early March.

“We have to get ready to get some more coaches in here,” said Orr, who expects to be involved in the Ravens’ coaching search, which Harbaugh will lead. “Credit to the coaches that got opportunities at other places. They’re heck of coaches, and that’s why they got those opportunities, but now we’re just going through that process of figuring out who’s going to come in and do a heck of a job for us.”

The Ravens are already set to return two key defensive coaches in outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith, whose work with the Ravens’ revamped pass rush (NFL-high 60 sacks) was lauded by players and coaches alike, and pass game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt, who interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive coordinator vacancy after a stellar year for the Ravens’ pass defense.

Harbaugh is reportedly hiring Michigan defensive analyst Doug Mallory as a defensive backs coach, according to 247Sports. Before working under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, Mallory worked as a defensive assistant for the Atlanta Falcons for six seasons.

But with Orr’s promotion and Weaver’s departure, the Ravens still have openings at inside linebackers coach and defensive line coach.

Mailbag: Ravens’ Biggest Needs at the Start of 2024 Offseason

Ryan Mink & Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com

Generally speaking, with the Ravens’ salary cap getting tighter as Lamar Jackson’s hit keeps getting higher, I doubt Baltimore will want to spend much on a running back. Mitchell is just the latest example of the value that can be found in the draft (or even undrafted market). If the price tag is too high on a veteran, the Ravens could draft a back to help take the offense to another level during his rookie contract, like they envisioned with Dobbins when they took him in the second round in 2020. In that scenario, Hill could lead the way at the start of the season as the young backs get healthy and acclimated to the NFL.

Most early mock drafts have the Ravens leaning toward defense in the first round, targeting either an edge rusher, inside linebacker or defensive tackle.

That’s logical, considering the talent that could potentially leave Baltimore’s front seven during free agency. The Ravens still have plenty of talented players under contract in the secondary, led by safeties Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams and cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Stephens.

This early, I’d guess the Ravens could take a defensive lineman who can rush the passer in the first round, like Jer’ Zhan Newton of Illinois, if they don’t trade out of the first round. But the Ravens have a history of staying true to their draft board.

2024 NFL Free Agency: Potential landing spots for top offensive linemen

Brad Spielberger, PFF

123. G GREG VAN ROTEN, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Potential landing spot(s): Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers

Van Roten had a bounce-back 2023 season with the Las Vegas Raiders after playing for a handful of teams at a subpar level in recent seasons. Van Roten can line up at either guard spot and could be a potentially cheaper veteran replacement as Baltimore gets ready to dole out a handful of big contracts on top of a lengthy list of existing ones.

Van Roten started his career in Green Bay in 2012 as an undrafted free agent and had a fascinating developmental journey, not logging a snap again until 2017 with the Carolina Panthers.

Top free agent comparison: Chris Chester, 2015

2024 NFL Mock Draft: Commanders trade for No. 1 pick, Bears pick LSU’s Jayden Daniels and Malik Nabers

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports

Round 1 - Pick 30

Jer’Zhan Newton DL

ILLINOIS • JR • 6’2” / 295 LBS

PROJECTED TEAM Baltimore

PROSPECT RNK 16th

POSITION RNK 2nd

Another beefy but polished defensive lineman for the Ravens. Newton was awesome at Illinois and can really rush the passer.