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Harbaugh sees West Coast look

Posted Feb 24, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN---Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked about the Browns and Bengals during his Thursday morning press conference at the 2011 Scouting Combine.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN---While executives from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens fielded questions during their Thursday morning press conferences inside Lucas Oil Stadium at the National Football League’s annual Scouting Combine, both men were asked about the offenses of the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Browns were a run-heavy offense in 2010, due in large part to the success of running back Peyton Hillis and his 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on 270 carries. The team hired Pat Shurmur as head coach in January and quarterback Colt McCoy will be entering his second season in the NFL this year. With those two factors, the Browns could join their in-state rivals in switching to a West Coast-style offense.

“Obviously, it’s not something we’re familiar with,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the West Coast offense. “I got a chance to see it up in Philadelphia for a number of years. Everybody around the league’s doing it. It’s a great offense. It’s a ball-control offense and is a full passing attack. They’ve got what they call ‘stated handoffs.’ It’s something we want to build into our offense a little bit more as well. It’ll be a big challenge for us.”

“We just have to do what we do and concern ourselves with our team,” said Kevin Colbert, Director of Football Operations with the Steelers. “Each individual week, the coaches will prepare their game plans, but at this time of year, we never focus on what anybody else is doing in our preparation to make our team better.”

In his rookie season, McCoy started eight games for the Browns and completed 135-of-222 attempts for 1,576 yards with six touchdowns against nine interceptions. McCoy, who ran for 136 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries, led the Browns to victories over the then-reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome on October 24 and perennial AFC East power New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns Stadium November 7.

“Colt McCoy’s a good, young quarterback and Carson Palmer, I think he’s one of the best in the league,” Harbaugh said. “Both of those teams are very talented. It’s a tough division.”

“POUNCING” ON THE OPPOSITION

Though Steelers coach Mike Tomlin admits to not being a rookie-friendly coach, there was a first-year player at the center of Pittsburgh’s offensive line in 2010. Maurkice Pouncey, who’s brother Mike is eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft, started all 16 regular season games and two postseason contests before missing Super Bowl XLV in North Texas due to injury.

With Pouncey as an anchor on the offensive line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked an average of 2.67 times-per-game in the regular season. In 2009, Roethlisberger was sacked 3.33 times-per-game.

“Maurkice absolutely exceeded our expectations for his rookie year, not from a physical standpoint, but more so a mental standpoint,” Colbert said. “That’s not to take anything away from his capabilities, but the center position in the National Football League is difficult to comprehend from the calls to the protection adjustments. That’s why Coach Tomlin started Maurkice out at guard prior to moving him into center.

“He moved him into center when it became evident that he was far ahead of where we expected him to be,” he added.

EVALUATING FLACCO

Harbaugh spent the early part of his press conference talking about Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco, who will enter his fourth season in the National Football League this fall.

Flacco completed 306-of-489 passes for 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns against ten interceptions this past season. Though he led Baltimore to the Divisional round of the postseason, Flacco was sacked 40 times for 294 lost yards, the most in a single-season in his three years with the Ravens.

“He probably did a lot more last year than people think. He’s very smart, highly intelligent,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very conscientious player, very conscientious of his defense, special teams and trying to keep them in good position. He’s an aggressive player and we’ll put more and more in his hands.

“Joe’s a guy that can make plays by being creative and that’s something that we really want him to do,” he continued. “I think Joe’s capable of being a creative playmaker quarterback, moving around the pocket, shrugging off guys. He’s a big, strong guy and is only going to get stronger. The other thing we can do is help him offensively.”