Even though it is still early and the team has only been practicing in pads for a few days now, one thing is very apparent at the Under Armour performance Center in Owings Mills Maryland. The Baltimore Ravens offense is much improved than in past years
Things finally seem to be clearly coming together for Joe Facco, Cam Cameron and the rest of the squad. In Flacco's first four seasons it was clearly apparent the kid had skills. Flacco would make throws on a dime that not too many other quarterbacks in the NFL could make. The problem always seemed to be his grasp of the over all offensive game plan. Because of this he had a hard time being the leader of the squad. Now, having played on the biggest of stages and learned about himself in ways that you only can through experience, he is taking over completely.
This is the most important thing for any NFL team. Your quarterback has to be able to execute your game plan. He has to believe in it. Trust it and be ready for things to change on the fly. I noticed it towards the middle to end of last season. Joe would just start picking teams apart. In big games and in key situations too. Yeah he still had his clunker weeks where he and the rest of the guys just looked lost but he gritted through it and came out much better than even I expected.
All I've heard about in camp is that Flacco looks sharp and has picked the defense apart numerous times with some of his shiny new weapons. Of course, at the same time I'm wondering if that is just because the defense is lacking a bit this season due to losses and younger players still learning their roles. I will attempt to reserve judgement however as I truly do expect big things from Joe this season. After all, the Ravens defense is missing a few starters from last season, but the secondary was ranked fourth in the league. The same guys we have out there now only a year older and smarter and Joe has to see them every day.
Joe Flacco isn't the whole story though. The Ravens have a slew of young receiving talent. It all starts with Torrey Smith. Then you have Jacoby Jones as your number three and several intriguing options for the fourth, fifth and sixth spots. if there are that many. Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson all have the physical ability to make an impact at the NFL level. Witch ever of these guys ends up seeing playing time could put themselves on the map. Add in the tough, solid veteran presence of Anquan Boldin and you have yourself quite a receiving core.
The Ravens also have a pair of highly athletic, play-making tight ends. Yes, Pitta is out with an injury for now but He'll be back. When he does it will only make this unit stronger. Even though he has become a favorite target of Joe's I expect they will not miss a beat without him on the field during the preseason.
Put all this together with the best fullback in the game and perhaps the best running back as well and this could be the best Ravens offense we have ever seen. Bernard Pierce was a steal in the draft. The guy has the potential to tear it up in the NFL. If the Ravens plan on passing the ball more Rice could be used similarly to Darren Sproles in New Orleans. With Pierce doing the majority of the heavy lifting in short yardage situations.
No matter what it is going to be a very fun year watching all of these players come together as a unit with Joe at the lead. It is time now. Everything else has just been a warm up. We will see the true Joe Flacco in 2012 and I think he's going to surprise a lot of people. Except Phil Simms that is, he already knows about Joey.