Reporting Mark Zinno
So the Ravens mini-camp is over and they get almost a six-week break before training camp. I never glean that much from OTAs and mini-camp as everyone is running around in shorts and helmets, with no pads. It’s hard not to look impressive because simply, that’s not football. But when I see the Ravens roster and the direction they are headed in, my questions are more philosophical. They also all sit on the offensive side of the football. The problems with the defense seem to have a clear solution, they guys who practice the best, play the best in pre-season games, will win the starting jobs. I have faith in the Ravens coaches to figure that out fairly easily. The offense is a different story.
Let’s look at the running game. Vonta Leach is gone. Since his second year in the league – the last four seasons, Ray Rice has had at least 250 carries a season, going over 300 carries in 2010. He’s had a fullback in every single one of those seasons. Leach is gone and now Rice must run out of a single-back set. I question whether he can keep the same production without a fullback and furthermore withstand the beating of all those first hits?
The response to that is, “well, we have Bernard Pierce.” That is true. Pierce has impressed in his rookie season. He averaged almost five yards per carry, 4.9 to be exact. He carried the ball 108 times last year. So he can certainly handle a bigger workload. But the price to pay for that is taking the ball away from your best play-maker on offense! Does that make sense to anyone? Especially when Rice just got a $40 million dollar deal before last season. That’s a lot of cake to pay a guy who may only get under 200 carries a season. That’s only 12 carries a game for Rice. We all have seen that is not enough.
Onto the passing game. Jacoby Jones is now the number two wide receiver. Anquan Boldin is gone. So are his 70+ catches and nearly 1,000 yards receiving. Where does that production come from? Jones is a one-trick pony at wide receiver. He runs “go routes.” That’s what he does best. He can also catch a screen pass if the defender is playing off him and grab 5-7 yards. Okay, so he’s a two-trick pony. But when he’s on the field, it’s pretty clear what they are asking him to do. Not much else. Jones had 30 catches last year. If he catches more than 50 balls in 2013, I would be shocked. Totally shocked.
Jim Caldwell may be taking this offense away from the run and turning it into a pass-first team. That is fine because Joe Flacco is the quarterback who can excel in that position. That comes at a risk though. Shorter time of possession, defense will be on the field longer and the Ravens play in the AFC North – the toughest, most physical division in football! Finesse will be smacked in the mouth in this division. The problems facing this team are more on offense then on defense … at least the problem of what to do with the football and who to give it to.
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