The Baltimore Ravens have dominated the vast majority of the NFL news cycle with their controversial decision to apply the nonexclusive franchise tag tender on their MVP-winning quarterback, Lamar Jackson ahead of the March 7, 2023 deadline this past Tuesday.
As a result, a pair of additions they made to head coach John Harbaugh’s offensive and defensive coaching staffs that were announced on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, is somewhat flying under the radar but should not go unnoticed.
The first was the hiring of a renowned pass rush coach Chuck Smith as their new outside linebackers coach which came a day after they hired a well-respected secondary coach and pass game specialist, Dennard Wilson, to be their new defensive backs coach.
“Chuck is a proven and highly-respected pass rush coach who many pro and collegiate players have sought guidance from,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “He brings unique insight, experience, and passion to the Ravens, and we’re confident that he’ll have a great impact on our outside linebackers group.”
Smith is filling the vacancy that Rob Leonard opened up when he left to become the defensive line coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
After a nine-year career in the league as a defensive end from 1992-2000 where he played for two different teams but compiled 58.5 career sacks with the Atlanta Falcons per Pro Football Reference, including three double-digit seasons, Smith has spent the last two-plus decades as a pass rush coach and consultant.
The training program that he developed is utilized by collegiate and professional coaches and players alike and he has personally helped some of the most elite interior and edge rushers of the past 20 years.
He’s worked with likes of former NFL greats like Robert Mathis and Osi Umenyiora and more recently with future Hall of Famers like Von Miller, Aaron Donald, and Cam Heyward. Smith also spent some time working with Ravens veteran defensive end Calais Campbell and 2022 sack leader Justin Houston as Miller’s annual pass rush summit last year.
Due to his expertise when it comes to teaching current and draft-eligible defensive players how to best apply pressure and take down opposing quarterbacks, Smith earned the nickname ‘Dr. Rush’.
He has been brought in as a training camp consultant for several NFL teams over the years, including the Ravens in 2008. This will mark his first time as a full-time coach at the NFL level with only other full-time coaching experience coming as the defensive line coach at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee in 2010.
In Baltimore, he will have the opportunity to potentially work with Campbell again if he is retained and Houston if he is re-signed at some point this offseason. More importantly, he will be working closely and mentoring the Ravens’ young edge defenders which consist of veteran Tyus Bowser, 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh, and 2022 second-rounder David Ojabo.
All three have shown flashes of dominance and game-wrecking potential in their respective careers with Ojabo playing the least amount having just appeared in three games as a rookie this past season. The front office will likely add another edge rusher or two between free agency and the draft in the coming months so he’ll have even more talent to work with and cultivate.
This isn’t the first outside-of-the-box hire that the Ravens have made in recent years to shake things up on their coaching staff, two years ago they hired renowned wide receiver guru, Keith Williams, as their pass game specialist on offense. His work with all the team’s pass catchers including both receivers and tight ends led to career years for Mark Andrews and Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown in 2021.
Hopefully, Smith can have the same or a similar immediate impact on some of the aforementioned edge defenders in the Ravens’ current roster, especially Oweh who will be entering a pivotal third season in 2023. He showed a lot of promise as a rookie when he recorded 5.5 sacks and made several impactful plays and came on strong last season after a rocky start to his second season that he entered with high expectations.
Ravens Hire Former Offensive Assistant of AFC Rival
Harbaugh filled the final vacancy on his staff with his fourth straight hire of a diverse coach from outside of the organization by hiring Greg Lewis as the team’s new wide receivers coach. He joins Smith, Wilson, and running backs coach Willie Taggart as the new additions to the Ravens coaching ranks that they’re really excited about.
“Greg has contributed to championship-level offenses and is a proven and creative game-planner,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “His vast experience as a coach and a player will be a significant asset to our wide receivers room. A leader and effective instructor of the craft, Greg has a proven track record of developing talent and maximizing his units’ production.”
He will be filling the vacancy that was opened when Tee Martin was promoted to quarterbacks coach. Lewis comes with nine years of coaching experience at the professional level and most recently served on the staff of Harbaugh’s friend and mentor Andy Reid with the Kansas City Chiefs for the past six years.
During his time with one of the Ravens’ top rivals in the AFC, he served as the wide receivers coach from 2017-2020 before transitioning to running backs coach for the past two years. He coached star wideout Tyreek Hill to four straight Pro Bowls and a pair of All-Pro seasons and helped develop seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco to a standout first season.
Like Smith, he also is a former player turned coach after having played eight years in the league as a wide receiver from 2003-2010. Lewis spent the bulk of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles where he first got acquainted with Reid before playing his last two years with the Minnesota Vikings. He recorded 152 receptions in his career for 1,992 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns according to Pro Football Reference.
RGIII Provides Insight on Lamar Jackson Contract Situation: Report
Former Ravens backup quarterback turned analyst, Robert Griffin III shed light on the strategic use of the nonexclusive franchise tag by general manager Eric DeCosta and the team on the MVP from a source within the organization.
Hours after the deadline expired, Griffin was told reliably by a team source that using the nonexclusive tag on Jackson will hopefully “speed up their own stalled negotiations with him” by allowing him the opportunity to talk to other teams and provide both of them “an unbiased look at the market for him”.
While allowing a franchise quarterback and former unanimous league MVP to essentially hit the open market with an avenue to match any offer he gets is being perceived as a risky move, it’s a calculated risk that the DeCosta and Co. wouldn’t have taken had they not been prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Jackson in Baltimore for the long-haul.
There’s also the popular belief and possibility that the Ravens already know what the market for Jackson is coming out of the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine and they believe that he needs to see and hear it for himself from other teams in order for them to move forward.