OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When you play a Gary Kubiak offense, you know you'll have to prepare for bootlegs, play-action passes and a zone-blocking running scheme.
What you don't know is what formation you'll line up against.
In his first season as the Ravens' offensive coordinator, Kubiak brings much-needed unpredictability to an offense that was the NFL's most predictable last season. He'll go three-wide on one play, use two tight ends on the next and then change it up again with two running backs lining up in I-formation.
Asked how different the Ravens offense looks this year from his vantage point, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said, "A lot. A lot. It’s a very multiple. ... He’s given us a lot of headaches and a lot of things for us to talk about as a defensive staff, which is good."
You didn't have to be Bill Belichick to know how the Ravens were going to line up last season. The Ravens went with three wide receivers, one tight end and one running back on 806 snaps, which was the most of any NFL team last season.
Some of it had to do with the Ravens' personnel last season, and part of the reason was the team's ineffectiveness in its usual two-back alignment. As a result, the Ravens lined up in that formation 74 percent of the time.
Compare that to formations run by Kubiak when he was the Houston Texans head coach from 2006 to 2013:
3WR, 1 TE, 1 RB: 28 percent
2WR, 1 TE, 2 RB: 26 percent
2WR, 2TE, 1 RB: 26 percent
It's difficult to get more balanced than Kubiak's offense over the previous eight seasons. If he continues to use these multiple formations as frequently this year, Owen Daniels (No. 2 tight end), Marlon Brown (No. 3 wide receiver) and Kyle Juszczyk (fullback) all will play significant roles.
The balancing act for Kubiak this offseason has been installing all of these different looks while trying to establish a comfort level for the players.
"That’s my challenge right now," Kubiak said. "It really is -- finding out what we do best and making sure I don’t overload them. But I did think it was very important that we challenge them mentally as well as physically, especially throughout the course of OTAs [organized training activities]. I told them that. I said, ‘Guys, I’m going to throw a lot at you. We need to go make some mistakes, but let’s go make them hard. We’ll figure it out and make sure on opening day we’re doing what we do best.’ I think that’s been important, and they’ve responded to that.”
Change was in order for a Ravens offense that finished No. 29 in total yards (307.4) and No. 25 in scoring (20.0). Kubiak has been working with the Ravens for three weeks of offseason practices, and he'll have a mandatory minicamp next week before training camp begins in late July.
The transition has been helped by having someone in nearly every position group who has a familiarity with Kubiak's system. Daniels can teach the tight ends about the different nuances, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones and running back Justin Forsett can do the same, too.
"I’m throwing the kitchen sink at them, and then I have to kind of watch and see what sticks and what they do best," Kubiak said. "When we come back for camp, I’ll probably have to cut some things down. We have plenty of time from a teaching standpoint, plenty of time on the field. I’m just taking it a day at a time, but I think we’re building something."