Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 Baltimore Ravens Wide Receivers

The 2010 Baltimore Ravens wide receiving corps has to be the most complete receiving corps the team has ever had. With the likes of former Arizona Cardinal Anquan Boldin teaming with Derrick Mason and newcomer Donte Stallworth, these receivers make one forget the days of Travis Taylor and Kevin Johnson quickly. Remember those days? They are well in the past. That can only be a good thing.

The Ravens have been trying to assemble a solid receiving corps for the last few years starting with the drafting of Mark Clayton in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL draft. Clayton has not been a bust, but he hasn’t been the number one receiver the Ravens thought they were taking with their first pick either. Instead, Clayton has been a solid third or fourth receiver to go along with other good players like Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap. Clayton will battle Donte Stallworth and Demetrious Williams for time in the slot, while Boldin and Mason will be the starters on the outside as each player has proved they are more than capable of producing at a high level in the NFL.

Boldin was a player coming out of Florida State in 2003 with a reputation for being a bit of a “tweener.” He was injury prone and didn’t run a very fast 40-yard dash. However, as general manager Ozzie Newsome said at Boldin’s introductory news conference in March, "I think I made a mistake in that draft, to worry more about measurables than about the football player. And Anquan is a football player."

Boldin is the physical receiver that can make tough catches over the middle and break tackles that result in a lot of yards after the catch. The Ravens haven’t had a player with Boldin’s combination of size and strength at receiver in a very, very long time.

Mason has been one of the best receivers in franchise history. He continually puts up 1,000 yard receiving seasons and has developed a terrific rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco. Mason is terrific in intermediate routes and has perfected the 10-yard out route. He’s also tough as nails as he played the last half of the 2008 season with a torn labrum. Mason has hinted that 2010 could be his last season.

Battling for the last two spots on the depth chart will be Williams, Clayton, and rookie David Reed. Reed is a 4th round pick in this years draft and is said to be like a little Mason. He has terrific hands and is a solid return man, and he will make the roster because of his abilities on special teams. This means that Clayton and Williams will be fighting for the final spot on the chart. It should make for a terrific camp storyline. If I had to make a prediction, I would be that Williams makes it over Clayton because Clayton makes more money and is in the same mold as Mason. Williams brings a little more playmaking ability to the table.

The 2010 receiving corps should bring a great amount of excitement to Baltimore this season. They haven’t had much depth at receiver in the last 10 years, and this year if somebody gets hurt or isn’t playing well there isn’t as much pressure to produce as there was before. Boldin and Mason by themselves could carry this team for a while. Throw in Stallworth and his 4.3 speed going down the field to open things up and you have an aerial attack not seen since the days of Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ravens 2010 Running Backs

The 2010 Baltimore Ravens could have the best running backs group in the NFL this season---at least on paper. They return 2,000 all-purpose yards halfback Ray Rice, former pro bowler Willis McGahee, and fullback/short-yardage back LeRon McClain.

Rice is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. He ran for 1,339 yards and compiled over 70 receptions out of the backfield. Rice should be able to run for even more yards this season with the additions of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth. These new wide-outs should command the presence from the defense that will not allow the opposition to just stack the box and stop the run. Rice, 23, should be able to hit the ground running from the opening game against the New York Jets.

McGahee is in his 4th season with the Ravens, and third as the backup after the Ravens drafted Rice in 2008. He went to the pro bowl in his first season with the team, but management and the new coaching staff didn’t care for his work ethic. The rest is history. McGahee, however, has handled his demotion with class and has taken it in stride. He continues to be one of the best backup backs in the league, and he continues to be a touchdown machine. He had 12 touchdowns and averaged 5.0 yards per carry in only 109 carries. With McGahee on board as the backup, the running game will not suffer one bit if something happens to Rice.

McClain has made the pro bowl as the fullback the last two seasons. He is a tremendous short yardage back and has accumulated 12 rushing touchdowns in 2008 and 2009. He has developed into a terrific lead blocker, as well. He figures to keep getting some short yard opportunities, and he has publicly pleaded to get more carries. That probably won’t happen, but McClain is all about winning and will do what it takes.

The running back situation in Baltimore is one that probably 30 teams would like to have. They have two backs capable of over 1,000 yards and a fullback that can knock people’s heads off. Look for big production out of this group.

Next post: Wide Receivers

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flacco Ready To Take The Next Step

Today marks the first day of my look at the Baltimore Ravens roster. Since it’s the most important position on the field, I’m going to look at the quarterbacks. What do the Ravens have at qb? What did they do this offseason at quarterback? Did they need to do anything?

The quarterback of the present and future is Joe Flacco. Flacco has taken this team to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, and a third trip to the playoffs in consecutive seasons would be a remarkable achievement. Flacco has improved each of the past two seasons, and is the first Raven quarterback to throw 20 or more touchdowns since Vinny Testaverde did it in 1996. Flacco also set a Ravens record for quarterback rating at 88.9.

Flacco, a 2nd round pick in the 2008 draft, has been a terrific pickup. He came from the University of Delaware, a Division I-AA school, and has not disappointed. He is much further along in his career than anybody could have imagined to this point, and he only figures to get better. Flacco has one of the strongest arms in the game, is very intelligent, and is much more mobile and athletic than people give him credit for. He will benefit from having newly acquired wideout Anquan Boldin and newly signed receiver Donte Stallworth. These two targets give Flacco a tandem, along with Derrick Mason, that Baltimore hasn’t seen in a very long time.

I look for Flacco to have a big season. I can see him throwing more than 25 touchdown passes with close to or over 4,000 yards passing.

In the unfortunate case that Flacco gets injured this season for any period of time, the Ravens signed former pro bowler Marc Bulger to be the backup. Bulger has been a starter in the NFL since 2002, but injuries and a bad team caught up with him. He’s a very capable insurance policy, and is somebody the team can rely on to play well if called upon. It was a great depth move by Ozzie Newsome and his people to bring Bulger aboard.

Tomorrow I will preview the running backs

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Two Weeks until Launch

We are coming up on the MLB All-Star break, which usually means two things: the pennant race is about heat up and training camp is roughly two weeks away.

The Baltimore Ravens will fly into training camp in Westminster, MD, with lofty expectations and visions of grandeur. They have made the playoffs the past two years with head coach John Harbaugh and rocket-armed quarterback Joe Flacco, and now they will look to make the big game in Dallas in their third year. Flacco became the first quarterback in Baltimore since Vinny Testaverde in 1996 to throw more than 20 touchdown passes.

Flacco will be surrounded with the best wide receiving corps---at least on paper---that the Ravens have had in their 15-year history. The additions of Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, and the resigning of Derrick Mason make this squad deep at the position. Add in Mark Clayton, Demetrious Williams, and rookie David Reed, and there is a serious competition for the last two spots in this group. Flacco will have the ability to hit Boldin over the middle, Stallworth deep, and Mason all over the field. Time will tell, but this group is easy to get excited about on paper.

The Ravens will also feature star running back Ray Rice and former pro bowler Willis McGahee in the backfield.

Did I mention the defense? That unit will be rock solid again, and with the rededication of Terrell Suggs, the drafting of Sergio Kindle, and the presence in the middle of Terrence Cody, the Ravens pass rush should make their ball-hawking secondary even better.

Over the coming weeks, I will do a preview of each position on the team heading into the season. It looks to be a very, very deep squad this season.

It’s time to get excited. We are two weeks away from football season.