It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens’ offense has a little bit of work to do before the season opener. But without a doubt, the team looks to be in pretty good shape as training camp approaches. Here’s a look at five of the key players on offense that will be stepping up this season to help the Ravens defend their title.
1. Joe Flacco
After leading his team to Super Bowl victory and simultaneously claiming the title of Super Bowl MVP, all eyes will be on the Ravens’ 6’6” quarterback this season. Joe Flacco will take on more of a leadership role on offense this year. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will most likely loosen the reins this season, allowing Flacco to run the no-huddle more often and letting him call more plays on his own.
Giving Flacco more freedom on the field will be a big change for the Ravens’ offense this season, but it should not be a difficult adjustment. Flacco’s patience in the pocket will give him time to sort through his options. With Flacco’s arm strength and natural ability to throw the ball, it seems as though the sky’s the limit.
Unfortunately, Flacco has a notorious description of “consistently inconsistent”. One day, he hits the field and looks like the best quarterback in the league, and the next, everyone is scratching their heads wondering how anyone let him on the field. As long as he stays reliable, Ravens fans shouldn’t have too much to worry about from their quarterback this season.
2. Ray Rice
For a small guy, Ray Rice sure knows how to make a big impact. Everyone remembers Rice’s 4th & 29 run against the San Diego Chargers. Rice will be a key player on the Ravens’ offense yet again this season because of his versatility. He is a running back that can catch and is not afraid to take a hit. Whatever the Ravens need him to for, he will do so with no questions asked. Rice finished the 2012 season with 61 receptions, the same number as tight end Dennis Pitta and only four receptions behind Anquan Boldin.
Rice is also one of the most dependable players on the Ravens’ roster. After replacing an injured Willis McGahee during his rookie season in 2008, Rice has not missed a single game.
3. Torrey Smith
Even though Torrey Smith has only been in the NFL for two years, the Ravens are looking to him to be their number one receiver. Smith finished last season with only 49 receptions, but managed 855 total yards from those 49 catches.
During the Ravens’ Week 3 game against the New England Patriots, Torrey Smith finished the night with an amazing 6 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns, all coming less than 24 hours after his younger brother’s death. He decided to play after a night of grieving, traveling, and hardly any sleep. Smith’s dedication is what makes him stand out on the Ravens offense more than anything.
4. Dennis Pitta
Everyone in Baltimore jokes about the “bromance” between Joe Flacco and Dennis Pitta. Call it whatever you want, but it has been working for the Ravens on offense. Pitta finished last season with 61 catches for 669 yards. Pitta will most likely be one of Flacco’s favorite targets this season, especially since Anquan Boldin is no longer in the picture.
Since Jim Caldwell was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-2011, he knows a little something about a good quarterback/tight end relationship. Caldwell will most likely shape Flacco and Pitta’s chemistry into an unstoppable pairing a la Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark from Caldwell’s days in Indianapolis.
5. Marshall Yanda
The Ravens’ two-time Pro Bowl guard tends to be overlooked by many. But Marshal Yanda is the backbone of the offensive line. The seven year veteran had a blocking efficiency rating of 98.4 last season, leading all right guards in the NFL.
Yanda is currently rehabilitating from rotator cuff surgery, which he underwent this offseason. Head coach John Harbaugh mentioned that Yanda is ahead of schedule with his recovery, but he still may have to sit out the first part of training camp. Yanda is expected to make a full recovery before the Ravens take on the Broncos in the season opener on September 5th. As long as Yanda can stay injury-free after his return, the Ravens’ offensive line will be one of the strongest in the league.
With names like these on Baltimore’s offense, this upcoming season could be a fun one for Ravens fans.