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Football is BACK. Ravens Training Camp Preview - Offensive Edition

flacco training camp

 

Two more days. The long wait is almost over, as Ravens training camp opens on Wednesday. Having missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, it seemed July 23rd would never come. Yet here we are, and there are plenty of personnel changes and questions to be answered between now and Week 1. More blogs about football, less blogs about beating wives/Flacco’s thighs. We’re all winners today.

Today we’re talking offense, an offense that desperately needs improvement. If you’re wondering why Baltimore’s streak of playoff appearances ended at 5, look no further than the 307.4 yard per game they averaged on offense. That goes double for the running game, as their 83 rushing YPG was their worst in franchise history. Only Jacksonville was worse in the AFC in those categories, so yeah, there needed to be some new faces. Here are their stories.

 

Joe Flacco In Kubiak’s New Offense

flacco kubiak

New sheriff in town. Jim Caldwell out, Gary Kubiak in. Kubiak was the best name available, and we nabbed him. Scooped up Rick Dennison, his former O-Coordinator in Houston, to be the QB’s coach too. Kubiak brings in a tremendous track record with the QB’s he’s worked with (John Elway, Steve Young) and a wildly succesful zone-blocking scheme.

The challenge in training camp will obviously be installing it. Kubiak has been impressed with Joe Flacco’s ability to grasp the new playbook so far during OTA’s. The biggest obstacle for him will be learning the footwork, as Kubiak’s offense features shorter drops and more rollouts than Caldwell’s. Most outside Baltimore aren’t aware of how well Flacco throws outside of the pocket, but he’s remarkably efficient, even surprising Kubiak himself thus far. I’m excited to see how this offense continues to develop over the course of training camp.

 

The Running Backs

running backs

 

Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme is based on stretching the defense and making one cut to get upfield. Arian Foster has made a name for himself in that role, and Bernard Pierce is the same style runner. He can start to prove he deserves the starting job in camp, and will get an opportunity to cement that status whenever Goodell finally puts his foot down on Ray Rice. As ridiculous as it is that the NFL hasn’t disciplined Rice yet, I don’t think he’s in a place to complain. He’s just lucky to have a job, and will likely have to sit 3 or 4 games.

Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro should get some good looks in camp, particularly in the red zone, and Justin Forsett should get some carries too. But all in all, I think Bernard Pierce controls his own destiny to be the guy carrying the rock in Baltimore moving forward regardless of what the coaching staff says about Rice.

 

The Receiving Corps.

steve smith

 

Can’t say enough about the Steve Smith pickup. Brings intensity, physicality, and work ethic that they missed in Boldin’s absence last year. He’s already had a dust-up with Lardarius Webb in OTA’s for chrissakes. With Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones in the mix, the Ravens just might have the fastest receiving trio in football. Add 6-5 Marlon Brown and a healthy Dennis Pitta and it’s safe to say Joe might have more weapons than ever before.

Can’t wait to see these guys grow within this offense and do some damage. Expect to see the hometown kid Michael Campanaro win a roster spot out of camp, and UMD product Laquan Williams and Deonte Thompson compete for a spot as well.

 

The Offensive Line

o line

This was the Achilles’ heel last year, and is the biggest concern moving forward. I’ve written about my concerns with Rick Wagner at right tackle to no end. He’s got everything to prove in training camp, and I remain skeptical. The good news is that they improved at center by trading for Jeremy Zuttah, and they get a healthy Kelechi Osemele at left guard. If Wagner sucks, Osemele can play RT or they can still pick up Eric Winston off the free agent pile.

A sneaky interesting storyline will be undrafted FA James Hurst out of UNC. He excelled against top competition in college (including Jadeveon Clowney) and was projected to be a 1st or 2nd round pick, but broke his leg in UNC’s bowl game and went undrafted. My hope is that he proves to be a steal and earns a spot on the 53-man roster out of camp.

 

Tomorrow we talk defense.