Evan Habeeb – USA TODAY Sports
We are now less than a week away from the unofficial start to the 2017-18 NFL season. Players have gone through mini camps and OTA’s over the past few months so the organization can make sure the rookies get acclimated to a professional lifestyle and to make sure the veterans have been staying in shape and out of trouble. Training camp is that part of the season where the team will finally be able to see what their draft picks are made of and how any of their newly signed free agents fit into the culture and scheme of the team. Most importantly, the organization will set up their roster that will try to compete for a title this season.
For the Baltimore Ravens, this season is going to be a bit more important than years past, especially for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco.
Flacco and Harbaugh are entering their 10th season as starting Quarterback and Head Coach, respectively. Throughout NFL history, a head coach’s career has been tied to who he picks to lead the team on the field; let us not forget that Brian Billick was a great head coach in Baltimore until he selected Kyle Boller in the 2003 draft. Harbaugh, like Billick, is now on the hot seat after a few years removed from winning a Super Bowl and some people thought that would be enough but this league is about staying relevant. The Ravens have missed the playoffs the last 3 out of 4 years and one more could have Harbaugh looking for another job.
Joe Flacco has yet to live up to his $120 million contract he signed after the 2012 season where he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs on his way to becoming Super bowl Champion. Many Flacco supporters have said that he hasn’t reached his potential because of the constant change in offensive coordinators and that he has to learn different schemes every year.
Many fans have come to realize that Flacco is not a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning and that he needs to have a sound minded coordinator to create the game plan that Flacco can execute. However, the coordinator doesn’t call audibles, run the 2 minute drill, call out blitzes and point out mismatches. Flacco has shown poor ability to run through the basic checklist of most NFL QB’s and relies on his arm strength to fit balls in tight spaces or to throw past coverage.
Going into training camp Flacco will have Marty Mornhinweg for the 2nd year in a row and will be able to work with Marty on a scheme that will highlight his strengths; throwing down field and play action. Marty’s main focus is going to have to have to be on getting the run game back to 2014 levels when they were ranked top ten in almost every rushing category.
Team Stats and Rankings Table
|Lg Rank Offense
The running back depth chart is going to be one to watch during camp as expected starter Kenneth Dixon will be suspended the first four games due to performance enhancing drugs. He will be able to participate in camp but the Ravens are going to have to rely on Buck Allen, Terrence West and Danny Woodhead to carry the load against their 3 division opponents in the first four weeks. With Kyle Juszczyk signing with the 49ers, Lorenzo Taliaferro has decided to switch positions so that he can remain on the roster.
With three of the running backs on the roster having pass catching ability, the scheme is going have to evolve a bit and include more split back formations as to confuse linebackers of who Flacco’s going to. If Flacco is going to continue to dump off passes, they might as well make it work. The next focus will be on the Tight End
Dennis Pitta injured his hip for the third and hopefully final time at OTA’s early in the offseason and it has created an opportunity for the Ravens to find out who will be the starting Tight End. The logical choice would be Benjamin Watson, he’s a veteran with playoff experience and a former super bowl champion but he is 35 coming off a torn ACL last season. Nick Boyle is on thin ice after his second violation of the performance-enhancing drug policy in 2016 but many are expecting him to breakout in 2017.
Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore both have been dealing with injuries the last two years that has only left their potential up to speculation. The rise of the Tight End position in the NFL cannot be understated and the Ravens, usually, are good at stocking up on talent at that position. If all players can stay healthy they could potentially have the most diverse Tight End group in the league.
The Wide Receiver depth chart is pretty much set, barring any injuries, as we know the top three will be Jeremy Maclin
, Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace but who will be four and five? Micheal Campanaro has the fast track to one of those spots but he has been plagued with injuries during his short career and Chris Moore will probably make special teams and be the defacto returner. Interesting prospects that could take one of those spots are Tim Patrick and Tim White.
(6’4″, 210 pounds) is a guy to watch this preseason. He got a late start walking on at Utah in 2014 and then injuring his knee in 2015, so there wasn’t much to go on for NFL teams to spend a pick on him. What he does provide is the ability to block in the run game and snag balls beating one on one coverage. Tim White
is a former track star who could challenge for the KR/PR spot as well as slot receiver. The problem for the Ravens at Wide Receiver is they don’t have enough spots and someone might catch on for another team.
On defense, The Ravens are set at Safety and Inside Linebacker but the issues that plagued them last year were pass rushing and lack of quality depth at Cornerback. Outside Linebackers Tim Williams
and Tyus Bowser
will immediately have the opportunity to produce with the release of Elvis Dumervil and compete to start opposite of Terrell Suggs. It also provides some competition with existing OLB’s Za’Darius Smith
and Matt Judon
The Ravens Cornerback position will be the one of the most critical groups for the team this season. With Jimmy Smith’s proneness to injury and the loss of up and coming star Tavon Young; Marlon Humphrey
, Brandon Carr and Maurice Canady will have to produce. Humphrey has a really good chance to start alongside Jimmy Smith since he was drafted to guard Wideouts like Antonio Brown and A.J. Green. Carr will provide some veteran leadership to that unit, and Canady could be that breakout star Tavon Young was last season.With the loss to the Steelers at the end of last season, The Ravens drafted and signed players to this defense to beat the defending AFC North Champs.
Training camp provides a lot of hope for teams and fans alike on what could be the beginning of a championship run. The Ravens have a lot of depth opening camp this season and many potential depth chart combinations. This season will determine the fate of Harbaugh, his coaching staff and maybe even Ozzie Newsome No one really knows how things will turn out come week 1 but like their namesake, they know how to plan for the future.