The Baltimore Ravens will report to the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills on July 26 for the first full-team practice of training camp. Some players have high stakes going into this year’s camp, so it will surely be one to watch. Training camp comes to an end on Aug. 15.
M&T Bank Stadium will hold its first-ever Fireworks Night on July 28, which is free and open to the public. This night includes a practice, entertainment, fireworks and laser show, and an opportunity for autographs. There will also be two more practices open to the public, including one at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md.
These few quiet weeks will soon be over as the team returns to work. The Ravens have had a strong offseason but certainly have room for improvement, especially before the 2014 season begins. Training camp gives officials one last chance to assess the players and decide who is worthy of the 53-man roster. Competition is higher than ever and decisions will be difficult after such successful offseason moves.
Major transitions are taking place on defense, with only two or three defensive starters remaining from the 2013 Super Bowl-winning team. It will be interesting to see how the younger defensive players perform and if they have the potential to push the veterans out of the starting lineup. Fans should expect a stronger and more athletic defense in the upcoming season, including new depth in the linebacker and safety positions.
Training camp will give offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak another opportunity to become comfortable with the players and their abilities. Can Joe Flacco bounce back after a career-high 22 interceptions in 2013? Wide receiver Steve Smith provides one of several new targets. Will Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce continue their slump, or show up new and improved? Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro might become powerful contenders, especially if Rice misses some early games.
Starting safety is currently a big question mark as third-round pick Terrence Brooks competes with Anthony Levine and former St. Louis Ram Darian Stewart. Stewart was an early favorite at OTAs and has the most experience, but Brooks also has the talent to clutch this job. He totaled 56 tackles and two interceptions in 13 starts for the BCS championship-winning Florida State Seminoles.
After losing Michael Oher to the Tennessee Titans, the right tackle position is even weaker than it was during the 2013 season with 48 allowed sacks. According to Kubiak, second-year Ricky Wagner plays decently enough to become a starter. However, there are no standout backups for Wagner and the Ravens failed to add one from the draft and free agency.
Cornerback is another position with questionable depth, which officials will need to keep an eye on during camp. The Ravens lost Corey Graham to the Buffalo Bills. The two solid starters are Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith, but backups Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown lack the star talent needed for this spot. The Ravens also signed Aaron Ross from the New York Giants and Dominique Franks from the Atlanta Falcons soon after the draft. This position is something the officials will have to watch immediately at camp to determine if they need to make a trade for more depth.
Tough decisions are ahead for the Ravens and the 90-man roster will eventually shrink to 53 players. The team needs to rebound after going 8-8 last season without reaching the playoffs. Hopefully a wise combination of talent, experience, potential, and dependability leads the Ravens to one of their best seasons yet. Training camp will be intense to say the least.