Sun, 20 Jun 2021

Eisenberg: Ravens' Latest Outside-the-Box Idea Looks Promising

Baltimore Ravens
09 Jun 2021, 05:25 GMT+10

John Eisenberg

The Ravens' digital media crew pulled an excellent April Fool's Day prank a few years ago, reporting that the Ravens would cross the Atlantic Ocean on a boat to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

Supported by a video in which Head Coach John Harbaugh praised the idea, it fooled quite a few folks.

Reality quickly set in, but looking back, the prank worked in part because the Ravens have never been shy about embracing outside-the-box ideas. Who knows what they'll do?

Traveling by boat to a game sounded wacky, but at one point, so did the idea of using math to help you win games. The Ravens have done that with their full-on embrace of analytics.

They've also embraced sports science, high-tech physiology, to minimize injuries. Remember when they put the findings of a sleep study to use when they played a bunch of games in different time zones?

The fact that they use a run-oriented offense in a pass-happy league might be the best example of all.

But another example has arisen this year with the potential for significant impact. Harbaugh has put not one but two new assistants in charge of the team's wide receivers.

Tee Martin is the actual position coach. Keith Williams, a route-running guru also working with the tight ends and running backs, has the title pass of Pass Game Specialist.

"I don't think people have ever seen anything like this before," Martin said last week. "I thought Coach Harbaugh was really outside the box and really ahead of the game when he came up with this idea."

Martin helped the University of Tennessee win a national title as a quarterback and has become a respected coach of receivers and passing games in general after stops at Kentucky, Southern Cal and Tennessee.

Williams coached receivers at Nebraska before becoming a private coach for Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and the Ravens' Sammy Watkins, among others.

From the moment I heard about it, I liked the idea of them working together.

With two first-round picks, two third-round picks and two Day 3 picks since 2019, the Ravens have made it clear they want to build a formidable set of young receivers. Giving the job to Martin and Williams seems like a fresh idea with a great chance to succeed.

"I think it's one of the best situations that any young wide receiver or any receiver can be in," Watkins said last week. "You have (in Williams) a route guru, then you have (in Martin) a great coach who knows just about any concept (and) how to coach those concepts."

Coming in, they knew each other a bit. Their college teams played and they also met on the recruiting trail.

Watching them during open OTA practices, Williams is a high-energy presence, Martin more even-keeled. But both are constantly in the receivers' ears.

"We complement each other," Martin said. "Keith is very, very passionate on the field. He coaches with a lot of passion, a lot of detail. He's really into the techniques, drill work, things of that nature. I come in as the guy who's coaching the wide receivers, doing the installations, and also technique and all those things as well.

"I'm learning from him. He's learning from me. It's a great working relationship."

The goal is to help the young receivers blossom by stressing fundamentals and commitment to the craft; and for the Ravens to get what they need from the position without having to add a veteran.

"It's still early to pass judgment," Martin said. "What I can speak to is we've improved on details, fundamentals and techniques of route running all the way down to stance and starts, how we get off the line of scrimmage in terms of releases, top of the routes, being more efficient at the top of the routes, creating more separation, and ultimately, catching the ball and making plays."

Watkins, who has played for four teams in eight years in the NFL, already sees the benefit.

"We haven't really gotten too deeply involved with a lot of stuff yet," he said, "but (it is) a great situation when you're doing fundamentals with (Williams) and you're getting great coaching from both guys, correlating, piggybacking off each other. And just to have two guys on hand, and two great guys, is definitely what you need to try to be great in this league. We have that here."

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