Heat rising on Castillo, Caldwell

Heat rising on Castillo, Caldwell
October 1, 2013, 11:00 am
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Harbaugh on Ravens' pass/run balance


With the Ravens run game ground to a halt and seemingly going nowhere, the heat is turning up on offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell as well as Juan Castillo, who joined the coaching staff in January with the title "run game coordinator."

But the problem is, four games into the 2013 season, the Ravens run game doesn't look very coordinated. At all.

The offensive line isn't opening any holes.  And on the rare occasion that a hole is there, the running backs aren't hitting them. The result has been a running game that has been shockingly inept given the personnel -- a Pro Bowl running back, a strong backup running back, and four offensive line starters returning from the Super Bowl run, including a Pro Bowl guard.

The Ravens (2-2) rank 28th in rushing offense, with 64 rushing yards a game. Their average carry of 2.6 yards is tied for 30th. In their disheartening 23-20 loss on Sunday to Buffalo, which ranked among the worst run defenses in the league, the Ravens ran only nine times -- a franchise low -- for 24 yards.

In the past, Cam Cameron would have been in the crosshairs after that kind of performance. But fans don't have Cameron to kick around anymore, and now it's Caldwell and Castillo earning the wrath.

In his Monday afternoon post-mortem, coach John Harbaugh didn't pretend the problems aren't there, but he came to the defense of his assistant coaches.

“The issue is what it always is: We’ve just got to get better," Harbaugh said. "We’ve got to go to work and improve the things we can improve, make good decisions on what we choose to do and how we choose to scheme it. Yes, we can game-plan better; we can set formations up better to put our guys in a position. Our running backs can do a better job of running to the right spot and trusting the offensive line.

"It has nothing to do with style or technique or anything like that," Harbaugh added. "It’s finding what our guys do well with this group and doing it well. I’m very confident in every one of our coaches – we have a great staff. Everybody works together, and we’ll find a way to work it out."

The hip injury to Ray Rice can be seen as a factor, but the Ravens hadn't been running well before he got hurt, and Bernard Pierce hasn't been running well, either.

Castillo, who worked with Harbaugh in Philadelphia and spent 18 seasons with the Eagles, is a vocal, dynamic presence on the practice field and well respected by the players. The de facto offensive line coach, Castillo installed some new run and pass blocking schemes, but it wasn't an overhaul of the offense by any means.

“It’s the same offense. We still run the same plays," Harbaugh said on Monday. "We still have the same philosophy; there are always a few wrinkles."

Guard Marshal Yanda last week described some of the changes under Castillo as "maybe a wrinkle here and a wrinkle there," but added that fundamentally, the blocking is "generally the same."

At this point, things clearly haven't jelled. Will that come with time? The Ravens better hope so.