Thursday, May 6, 2010
Learning to Fly
Forget the Foo Fighter reference or even the Might Ducks reference. This weekend is the first mini-camp of 2010 for the Baltimore Ravens. With what has to be regarded as their best wide receiving core since 1996, the Ravens will start the process of dramatically improving their passing game for the 2010 season.
The Ravens acquired Anquan Boldin, signed Donte Stallworth, and re-signed Derrick Mason. They will help quarterback Joe Flacco take the next step, and will help take the pressure off of running back Ray Rice and former number two wideout Mark Clayton. Clayton may have a tough time making the squad as the fourth receiver because he doesn't play special teams. Your fourth and fifth wide receivers on the depth chart must make an impact in the special teams department if they want to stick.
The Ravens have set up their wide receiving core perfectly. They have Boldin to work the middle of the field, make tough catches, and bully his way up the field after the catch. Mason still works the sidelines better than 95% of the league, and can occasionally get deep when he's matched up one on one. Stallworth is faster than any receiver they've ever had, and will be asked to run down the field most downs. This opens up Mason and Boldin underneath or in the intermediate routes. Clayton or whoever the fourth and fifth receivers are will be asked to play the slot and make only a small contribution.
One must remember that Ray Rice led the team with 78 receptions out of the backfield, which went along with his 1,339 yards rushing. He is a budding superstar in the league, and somebody every defense must account for at all times. Rice's presence alone should help open things up for the other players.
The Ravens hope their playmakers make plays; they also hope their young offensive line continues to get better. Michael Oher and Jared Gaither are solid bookend tackles, and guards Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda are a force to be reckon with. They're anchored by solid veteran center Matt Birk. This line is very young and should continue to gel.
The Ravens have the best offense on paper that they've ever had. If all of the parts are clicking, it will be a fun year of offense in Baltimore. This weekend will be fun to watch to see just how the moving parts are coming together this offseason.