Harbaugh: Ravens won't need overhaul to contend in 2015
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Heading into the offseason sooner than anticipated, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh took consolation in knowing he got the most out of his team and that it won't take much tinkering to correct its most obvious flaws.
Despite a myriad of injuries, the hoopla surrounding the release of running back Ray Rice and the suspension of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the Ravens earned a spot in the postseason for the sixth time in seven years and beat Pittsburgh in the wild-card round before falling to top-seed New England 35-31 on Saturday night.
''They were the best team that they could be, though all the adversity, the challenges and even through the last game,'' Harbaugh said Tuesday. ''I'm proud of those guys for that. That's the best thing you can say about a group of guys, the coaches and the players.''
Harbaugh won't forget this bunch, but he's already turned his attention toward next season. Upcoming decisions for the franchise include whether to re-sign unrestricted free agents Torrey Smith and Justin Forsett, which direction to go in the draft and how deep to delve into the free agent market.
The secondary was the team's most glaring flaw, but because six defensive backs ended the season on injured reserve, Harbaugh believes even that unit can improve without much help from the outside.
''It's really not an overhaul in the sense that everybody's going to be cleaned out and we're going to bring a bunch of new guys in,'' he said. ''We have a lot of good players sitting there because of the fact that we'll be healthy and the fact that we brought some good players in because of what happened this year.''
The Ravens got solid contributions from rookies on both sides of the line, including Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley; defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan; offensive tackles James Hurst and John Urschel; and tight end Crockett Gillmore.
That's one reason why Harbaugh was upbeat about the future.
''It's pretty clear-cut some areas that we have to improve on,'' he said. ''But we have a solid foundation of a football team right now, young guys who have turned out to be good players. We have a number of good players going forward that are going to be here and we can build on that. That's very exciting.''
''I think the future is really great for our offensive line,'' Harbaugh said. ''When we first came in here in 2008 we said we'd start in the trenches, and we were pretty strong in the trenches this year. That's the foundation of our team. We want to keep improving that and keep building on that. We've got some really young players on both sides of the ball up front.''
Decisions on Smith (49 catches, 767 yards, 11 TDs) and Forsett (1,266 yards rushing) will be made during an organizational meeting in Florida later this month. But Harbaugh made it clear that he wants both of them back.
''I love Torrey. He's been a huge part of what we've done since he got here, great for the community and all those things, made a ton of plays for us,'' Harbaugh said.
Forsett made the loss of Rice less of an issue on the field by having the best season of his career.
''We'll just have to see how that plays out,'' Harbaugh said. ''But I know one thing: If we can get him back, that would make our team stronger going into next year.''
Forsett is all for it.
''I would love to be a part of it,'' he said. ''This is an organization that first gave me my shot, my first real opportunity, and I would love to stay.''
The coaching staff should be intact in 2015, although Harbaugh acknowledged that secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo would be interviewing with the New York Giants about their defensive coordinator opening.
Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak told the team he intends to return, and Harbaugh had no reason to believe that the head coaching vacancy in Denver would change Kubiak's mind.
''He's very happy here. His family is happy here,'' Harbaugh said. ''I think all the coaches feel good about where they're at right now. As far as I know, nothing has changed.''
Harbaugh can only hope his players improve their behavior this offseason. Five were arrested before training camp started last year, and Harbaugh does not want a repeat performance.
''Everybody's going to be under a different type of scrutiny from here on out, and that's a good thing,'' he said. ''It's real, it's serious, and they need to be aware of that.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL