Most people still look at the Baltimore Ravens as a run-first offensive team, but that appears to be changing. In fact, the 2011 season numbers are proof that this has already changed now that the NFL has become a passing league. Last year the Ravens ran the ball 459 times, yet threw it 544 times.
While it seemed like QB Joe Flacco took the ball from center Matt Birk and gave it to RB Ray Rice more often than he dropped back to look for an open receiver, it just wasn't true. That's why who is going to be on the receiving end of his passes in 2012 and beyond are more important than ever.
It's not hard to expect a majority of those passes to go to five specific players, Rice, along with wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, plus tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta,should catch an overwhelming majority of those throws. Of course, that's in a perfect world where everyone stays healthy and productive all season.
However, in the NFL today, that is just not enough to get through a full 16-game regular season and of course as every Ravens fan expects, the post-season as well. People just need to look at the Ravens final offensive play of the season when WR Lee Evans could not hold onto what was as perfect a back-shoulder pass as could be thrown, in the devastating loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
The battle for the third wide receiving option behind Boldin and Smith does not to be quite that. Jacoby Jones was signed to be that guy just like Lee Evans was supposed to be that guy in 2011, Dante Stallworth in 2010 and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2009. The big difference this year appears to be the wealth of talent in the slots behind those first three options.
David Reed continues to be the big mystery, not so much wondering about how good he might be, but perhaps why he is even still on this roster with all the miscues and injuries he's endured compared to his production in his short time here on the team. LaQuan Williams earned a roster spot out of Training Camp last year, surprising everyone with his grit and determination.
This season the guys who are looking to make an impact are rookies Tommy Streeter (Miami) and Deonte Thompson (Florida). Streeter was a third round draft pick with speed and potential, but has not stood out so far in the team's off-season practices. Thompson went undrafted but has done nothing but impress in the recent rookie and mini-camps.
Will Baltimore carry five, six or perhaps even seven WR's on their final roster? Obviously, the tail end of that group will have to impress on Special Teams in order to earn a roster spot. But which of these guys gets on and which loses out in what appears to be the luxury of a numbers game that the Ravens have not had, perhaps in their 17-year history?