European League of Football: Playing GM – Munich Ravens

The Munich Ravens were undoubtedly the most entertaining team in the European League of Football last season.

Their standout wins were against the Stuttgart Surge and multiple high-scoring games that entered into the 50+ scoring mark many times. They averaged 35 points per game, second in the league only to the champions, the Rhein Fire.  However, they did have their problems and it was obvious where it was, the defensive unit allowed 28 points per game. We can be contenders if we can sure up the defense and keep as much of the firepower as possible.

Munich Ravens (7-5)

Coaching Staff

Photo: Roland Johannes

The head coaching position isn’t an issue with this rebuild. The Ravens announced the hiring of former Hamburg Sea Devils defensive coordinator, Kendral Ellison. Ellison has been part of the Hamburg franchise since the inception of the European League of Football and his defenses have been 2nd, 1st, and 9th over the past three seasons. There was a slight decline in 2023, but the Western Conference is the strongest in the league by far, so that is an important factor to consider. As for assistant staff, the head coach should certainly have a big say in who he wants as part of his organisation, if he wants a new DC or OC then he should be able to contribute to the discussion. The difficult part is to find an offensive coordinator who can be at the same level as last year when John Shoop was calling the offense. The natural progression would be to promote within the current offensive staff as all aspects of their offense were responsible for the great year. That would be a decision to be made through interviews and personality, but the choices would certainly all be internal.

Improving the Offense

Photo: Fabio Castelvetri

The offensive strategy was abundantly obvious – keep the trio intact. Wide receiver Markell Castle, quarterback Chad Jeffries, and running back Tomiwa Oyewo were arguably the best offensive trio in league history. Castle is the second-ever triple-crown winner, Jeffries was the second-best quarterback in the league last year and Oyewo has a strong case for being the best back in the league. Marvin Rutsch at wide receiver was also a huge asset and he surprised a lot of people with his production this year, including this writer who had him as a slightly above-average role player. He certainly proved that he could be a leading number two receiver behind Castle. His 708 yards and 3 touchdowns had him 9th in yards among European receivers. He would be on the list of high priorities to retain. However, those three mentioned combined for 280 targets out of the 415 which was 67.4% of the total targets. So, let’s get another receiver who can contribute. Cedric Ellis from Murray State could be an option if he finishes his education in the Division One program. Caleb Schweigart of the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, however, is the most likely option. An experienced, quick, physical receiver who achieved 883 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2023 in 15 games. He adds size and also has the complementary skill of being an elite return specialist.

Photo: Fabio Castelvetri

Over to the offensive line, there have been some retirements over the last few weeks and hopefully, the recent trail in Munich has seen some depth pieces come in. But Noah Nnabuo in Black Hills State is in his senior year. Nnabuo is a Stuttgart native and was part of a strong rushing attack at the Division 2 level. If he is available, he is certainly a player we would want. If he is or isn’t we still, go to the tried and tested method of hunting the less successful teams for the more talented players. Fabian Kratz of the Cologne Centurions is one of the best young German talents on the line. He would pair excellently with the established players while keeping the core young with the potential star of Dominik Ondra. This leaves our American spots covered by Castle and Jeffries, our European spot reserved for Oyewo, and with the great base of German players and a retooled offensive line built around the German talent we can put a lot of emphasis on the defense becoming a formidable unit.

Improving the Defense

Munich LB Josh Akena #40 tackling Milano ball carrier Photo: Steve Bunkahle

As previously mentioned, the defense in 2023 was one of the leakier units. To improve the weapons here we will start with the defensive line. Johannes Zirngibl led the team with 5.5 sacks, then Amin Black who left the team in week 9 was in second place with 4. It’s of utmost importance that we find a dominant pass rush. Teams in 2023 had far too long to throw the ball so Julius Welschof from the Charlotte 49ers is a graduate student and, currently a top target for my version of the team. Secondly, Leander Strathmann of the Concordia Stingers is a senior defensive end who possesses years of experience in Canada. He could also be a huge asset in adding to the quality of the Munich defensive line. Within Germany, it’s very much expected that Ellison will try to take a few of the foundations of his scheme in Hamburg. Evans Yeboah on the inside of the defensive line would be an incredible addition and was a huge part of Ellison’s defensive unit and not the last player we will see that makes the move. Lastly, on the defensive line, let’s use one of the European spots to push this new team forward. Ellison likes to use speed rushers in his system, so I want to go after Emil Hovde the Swedish end from the Berlin Thunder. He could be a serious weapon in the defense and was an underrated talent last season, notching seven sacks in his rookie year.

Photo: Steve Bunkahle

Moving into the linebackers, the Ravens struggled massively with the American import spot last season. Ffor this reason, we will start afresh at the position. A.J. Wentland was heavily linked with the Ravens once he hit free agency in the midseason. Wentland was the best tackler in the league and most importantly, was super durable. We need that as a team as there was so much inconsistency with the American position last year and with AJ it should be a locked-in position. As for his support, we still have several Europeans left to allocate, so Antony Rodrigues, the French former Enthroner, is a player who suffered an early injury and seems to be under the radar. In addition to Rodrigues, Lucky Ogbevoen from the Raiders Tirol is a primary target. It’s an extremely unlikely acquisition given the Raiders hiring a Superbowl-winning linebacker coach and the opportunity to play with his brother. However, those three would be the core of a strong linebacker group. The emergence of Kevin Titz as a homegrown player early in the season before his injury adds to the team value in the position. Ambroise Mati, the current Hamburg Sea Devil, would also be a player we would be trying everything to get, he is a young star and extremely underrated. This means we could have a lot of rotation in the linebackers, keeping players fresh and being able to be an extremely diversified scheme. Mati has had his best seasons under Ellison so it isn’t a reach to say he could reunite with his head coach.

The secondary is also in need of development. They ranked 14th in the passing game overall. Justin Rogers is a multiple-time All-Star so building around him once again is preferred. He was an All-Star in Ellis’ defense in 2021 and 2022 so this is a match made in heaven. A gem of a player who could be a game-breaker is Deon Montgomery from Fordham University. He’s American born but attended high school in Germany. Montgomery played under Michael Lave at Spangdahlem High School. If he is a German national or the League allocates him as a homegrown player, he is immediately placed into the cornerback spot which gives the team Division One experience and athletic ability. William James, again another Leipzig King who moved to the Panthers following the collapse, is the main target for the secondary. We are doubling up at defensive back for European players and the other target has to be Dutch All-Star Roedion Henrique, also formerly of the Kings before a season-ending injury in week one. If he is good to go, we could have one of the best secondaries in the league with Rogers, James, Montgomery, and Henrique. This is a group of players that is as good as it gets for creating turnovers and getting the ball back to our offense.

Special Team upgrades

The special teams unit isn’t in much need of immediate improvement. Marvin Rutsch and Caleb Schweigart are excellent return specialists and the kicking was about average for the league standard. If a kicker did attend the try-outs and had success it could be an option but isn’t a main priority for the team at this time. The defensive overhaul should also be a big asset to stopping returns, but once again they only allowed two last season so it isn’t a huge concern.

In summary…

This is perhaps my best rebuild. I’m extremely happy with the team that I have “built” and I honestly believe it could compete for a championship. Every signing has an opportunity to be a massive improvement. Let me know what you think. Until next time.