‘Air Marty’ knows how to run, as well

Morn­hin­weg pro­duced po­tent Ea­gles of­fenses with RBs West­brook and McCoy

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS - By Ed­ward Lee ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twitter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

The fir­ing of of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marc Trest­man and pro­mo­tion of quar­ter­backs coach Marty Morn­hin­weg might be loudly ap­plauded by Ravens fans, but just how dif­fer­ent will the of­fense be un­der Morn­hin­weg?

Coach John Har­baugh has watched the of­fense bum­ble its way to a No. 23 rank­ing in av­er­age points and yards, and has an idea of what the unit needs to change. “We need to ramp things up,” he said Mon­day. “We need to do some things dif­fer­ently. We need to look at de­fenses dif­fer­ently. What­ever those things are, we need to be dif­fer­ent than what we’ve done.”

Trest­man, who was re­garded as a pass- happy play caller, now gives way to Morn­hin­weg, who fa­vors the West Coast of­fense and learned un­der for­mer San Fran­cisco 49ers coach Steve Mar­i­ucci and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, for­merly with the Philadel­phia Ea­gles.

Just two years ago, in his fi­nal sea­son as the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the New York Jets, Morn­hin­weg ap­peared to butt heads with then-coach Rex Ryan about phi­los­o­phy. With se­cond-year quar­ter­back Geno Smith un­der cen­ter, Ryan ex­pressed a de­sire to run the ball more of­ten.

Morn­hin­weg made his pref­er­ence quite clear. “In this league, you need to pass the ball very ef­fi­ciently to score points, typ­i­cally,” Morn­hin­weg said in an NJ.com ar­ti­cle pub­lished De­cem­ber 2014. “Now, ev­ery game’s just a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. But cer­tainly the pass­ing game, you’ve got to get that go­ing to win on a con­sis­tent ba­sis.”

That phi­los­o­phy — which earned him the nick­name “Air Marty” — might not in­gra­ti­ate Morn­hin­weg with a Ravens fan base an­gered by Trest­man’s re­liance on the pass­ing at­tack while ig­nor­ing the run­ning game. That was clear when the of­fense was booed fre­quently in the se­cond half of Sun­day’s 16-10 loss to the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins. In that half, run­ning backs Ter­rance West and Buck Allen car­ried the ball just five times for 38 yards af­ter run­ning 10 times for 75 yards in the open­ing half.

But Morn­hin­weg did in­volve the ground game when he ran the of­fense for the Ea­gles from 2006 through 2012. Brian West­brook Marty Morn­hin­weg Ravens players look on as the of­fense stalls against the Red­skins in the fourth quar­ter. The en­tire of­fense was booed fre­quently in the se­cond half of Sun­day’s 16-10 loss. was the cen­ter­piece of the of­fense, gain­ing 3,486 rush­ing yards from 2006 to 2008 and earn­ing his first All-Pro and se­cond Pro Bowl honor in 2007.

In­juries even­tu­ally forced West­brook to give way to LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 3,866 yards be­tween 2009 and 12 and a ca­reer-high 17 touch­downs in 2011 en route to claim­ing his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro ac­co­lades.

No one is say­ing that West or Allen or even rookie Ken­neth Dixon can repli­cate what West­brook and McCoy did un­der Morn­hin­weg, but the fact that the co­or­di­na­tor showed a com­mit­ment to run­ning the ball when he had Dono­van McNabb and Michael Vick at quar­ter­back and DeSean Jack­son and Jeremy Ma­clin at wide re­ceiver sug­gests he will at least give the cur­rent run­ning backs a chance.

Another in­di­ca­tor in fa­vor of the rush­ing at­tack is Morn­hin­weg’s pref­er­ence for zone block­ing schemes that re­quire his backs to make one cut and then burst through a lane. That’s the same block­ing phi­los­o­phy that of­fen­sive line coach Juan Castillo in­structs. Castillo was long the of­fen­sive line coach for the Ea­gles, over­lap­ping with Morn­hin­weg’s time there as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor from 2006 through 2010.

While the Ravens’ run­ning game might im­prove just by sheer vol­ume of car­ries, Morn­hin­weg has made his name by us­ing the West Coast style pop­u­lar­ized un­der the late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh.

In Morn­hin­weg’s of­fense, ev­ery pass­ing route is metic­u­lously linked to the quar­ter­back’s drop-backs. Tim­ing and com­ple­tion per­cent­age are highly val­ued, with check­down, high-per­cent­age op­tions avail­able on ev­ery pass play.

Morn­hin­weg has tra­di­tion­ally em­pha­sized go­ing deep. In 2010 and 2011, the Ea­gles were in the Top10 in pass plays of 20 yards or more. In 2010, they were No. 1.

That should be a re­lief for wide re­ceivers Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace and Bre­shad Per­ri­man, whose speed was un­der­used by Trest­man, who seemed fear­ful of stretch­ing a de­fense at the risk of a pass breakup or a turnover.

“If you ask me, that’s what I like to do,” Wallace said last week of test­ing an op­po­nent’s sec­ondary down­field. “So I’m al­ways go­ing to say ‘Yeah, we should take more deep shots.’ But at the end of the day, just be­cause you’re tak­ing deep shots doesn’t mean you’re con­nect­ing on them, and you’ve got to be smart. You’re just giv­ing your quar­ter­back more shots to get hit when you have to take those. So you’ve got to take ev­ery­thing into ac­count. But we’ll get it done.”

Al­though Morn­hin­weg’s sys­tem floun­dered with the Jets un­der the young, in­ex­pe­ri­enced Geno Smith, Morn­hin­weg en­joyed more suc­cess with vet­eran quar­ter­backs in San Fran­cisco and Philadel­phia.

Har­baugh said he does not ex­pect Morn­hin­weg to over­haul the en­tire of­fen­sive sys­tem.

“We’re in a good po­si­tion to have a guy with that kind of ex­pe­ri­ence here, and it’s ex­pe­ri­ence in this sys­tem — ba­si­cally the West Coast ter­mi­nol­ogy,” Har­baugh said. “He fits right in. I know there will be some things that he’ll tweak, but the ba­sic sys­tem is not go­ing to change. The way we ad­just some routes, maybe, or the way we or­ga­nize our pro­tec­tions or some of our play-ac­tion passes, that’s all the stuff that Marty’s got to do the way he be­lieves they should be done. But the ba­sic sys­tem, ter­mi­nol­ogy, the way we op­er­ate is the same.” End zone: Har­baugh did not pro­vide an up­date on the fol­low­ing in­jured players Mon­day: Smith (an­kle), rookie left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley (foot), right tackle Rick Wag­ner (thigh), in­side line­backer C.J. Mosley (ham­string) and cor­ner­back Shel­don Price (ham­string). Asked if there is a long-term con­cern over any of the in­juries, he replied, “We just have to see. There’s MRIs be­ing run and stuff like that. I don’t think so, but you never know.” … Cor­ner­back Sha­reece Wright was a sud­den de­ac­ti­va­tion just 90 min­utes be­fore Sun­day’s loss. Wright, who had not been listed on the team’s in­jury re­port, woke up Sun­day morn­ing with back spasms, Har­baugh said. “He woke up, his back was locked up,” Har­baugh said. “They tried to get him out there, they couldn’t loosen it up. He couldn’t go. Pretty pos­i­tive out­look, I would hope, this week.”


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