OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Drop back. Throw long. Repeat.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was flinging the ball far downfield Thursday during a voluntary offseason training practice, targeting an array of receivers that includes newcomers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead.
“Someone kind of joked that we completed more deep balls in practice today when we did the whole offseason last year,” coach John Harbaugh said.
The Ravens’ top priority this season was to vastly improve a passing attack that last season ranked 29th in total yardage and was dead last with 5.7 yards per attempt.
General manager Ozzie Newsome dumped Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Campanaro, signed the aforementioned trio of free agents and drafted two wide receivers.
Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman are the only two of 13 receivers on the roster who caught a pass for Baltimore last season. Whether it’s a change for the better remains to be seen.
“Obviously, we’ve got to do our job — catch the ball, catch touchdowns, first downs and all that,” Crabtree said. “I’m confident in the guys we have. We’ve got some football players here.”
Crabtree has five career TD catches of at least 40 yards; Snead will fit nicely in the slot; and Brown in 2015 had a 1,003-yard, seven-touchdown season with Arizona.
Forget the check-down pass, because the Ravens are looking to go long in 2018.
“Joe’s known for throwing the deep ball, and I think we’ll hit a lot of those,” Brown said.
Flacco is the starter, but backups Robert Griffin III, Lamar Jackson and Josh Woodrum will keep the receivers busy downfield this summer.
“Every one of our quarterbacks has a reputation for throwing the ball deep,” Harbaugh said. “I feel like that’s got to be a big part of who we are. We want to throw it out there, and go get it.”
That was the Ravens were looking for from Perriman when they drafted him in the first round of 2015. Perriman has thus far been a huge disappointment, but the hope is that this is the year he finally fulfills his potential.
“He’s in great shape. He’s playing very fast,” Harbaugh said. “Not just that — he’s catching the ball really well. He looks much smoother, and he’s getting in and out of routes quicker. He’s taken a step in the right direction. I know he’s determined to carry that right through training camp.”
Crabtree, 30, has become the leader of the pack simply because of his age and experience.
“I don’t have a choice. I’m going on 10 (years) in the game,” he said. “That’s just my role. At the same time, I’m out there competing like I’m 21. I’m going to have fun with it.”
Crabtree had 58 catches with Oakland last season, down from 89 in 2016. Snead started the 2017 season in New Orleans with a three-game DUI suspension and fought through a hamstring injury. Brown is looking to regain the form he showed in 2015.
All three hope the move to Baltimore will bring about a return to stardom.
“We’ve all had our ups and downs,” Brown said. “It just feels good to have a new start and keep things rolling.”
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