Throughout the 2011 season the Baltimore Ravens passing game had it's ups and downs. Just like most other teams, They dealt with injuries, drops, receivers that were unable to create separation, poor pass protection and flat out bad decisions from their quarterback at times.
Despite having only one of the teams starting wide outs returning from the 2010 team, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterback Joe Flacco still managed to distribute the ball quite evenly between the teams new receivers. As usual running back Ray Rice lead the team in receptions with 76. Rice is the safety valve for the steadily progressing Flacco, who is quick to check down from his first read if he doesn't like what he sees down field. Rice finished 2011 with 704 receiving yards, averaging 9.3 yards per reception, and three touchdowns through the air. Not too shabby for a running back that usually had 20+ carries per game as well.
Although Rice lead the team in catches, it was Boldin that lead the team in receiving yards with 887 on only 57 receptions for an average of 15.6 yards per catch despite missing substantial time due to injury. It was however a disappointing year for Boldin as far as finding the end zone. He finished the season with only three touchdown receptions. His lowest total ever in the NFL since 2004 when he was recovering from facial reconstruction surgery and only played in 10 games.Just behind Boldin in yards was rookie Torrey Smith with 841 on 50 receptions, averaging 16.8 YPC. Smith, however lead all receivers in touchdown catches with seven. He tied the Ravens rookie TD record set by Jamal Lewis. Smith did not have a single catch in the first two games of the year but ended up serving time as the teams number one receiver when Boldin went down due to injury. He ended the season challenging Anquan as the teams number one receiving option as his chemistry grew with Flacco.
The Ravens duo of young, talented tight ends also filled in nicely in the absence of long time fan favorite Todd Heap who was released prior to the 2011 season and signed on to play for his home town team the Arizona Cardinals. Which coincidentally is Boldin's former team. Heap was once again plagued with injuries in 2011 making the Ravens decision to release him look that much better in the end.
In the beginning of the season Ed Dickson was the top receiving threat of the two due to his slight size and speed ad . He finished the season with 54 catches for 528 yards and five touchdowns. However, after dropping some very catchable passes in key situations, Dickson's counterpart Dennis pitta come on strong late ending the season with 40 catches for 405 yards and three touchdowns himself. Pitta was able to do this coming off the bench, taking much fewer snaps than Dickson, showing maybe the best hands on the team.
I see the Ravens passing game taking some major steps in 2012. Last season Joe Flacco threw for 3,610 yards and 20 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 80.9. Not his best year statistically but you could definitely see him coming into his own by the end of the season.The biggest thing is that he improved mentally more than the casual fan would notice. He became a leader and was just starting to figure out how to get the best out of the weapons he had when the Ravens season came to an abrupt end in New England.
I could easily see Flacco throwing for over 4,000 yards this season and cracking the 30 TD mark. With all of these yards and touchdowns some of his receivers are bound to make some major jumps in statistical output.
So, without any further adieu, here are my predictions for the Ravens 2012 receiving leaders. Some may be a bit over board or a bit pedestrian but predictions are all fun and games any way right? Unless you have money on them, in which case some of my more optimistic predictions my have to take a back seat to reality but here we go none the less.
Receptions: Anquan Boldin 87. Rice will continue to be at the top of the team in catches but will not match his output from 2011 due to the Ravens better and deeper receiving core. With The emergence of Torrey Smith as a receiver able to create separation and another speedster on the outside in Jacoby Jones, Boldin will be able to return to the slot and create mismatches all over the field.(Honorable mention: Ray Rice 68)
Receiving yards: Torrey Smith 1,324. There will be no Sophomore slump for the speedster out of Maryland. He will have another breakout campaign in 2012 and help the Ravens offense strike fear in defensive coordinators across the league. (Honorable mention: Anquan Boldin: 912)
Receiving touchdowns: Dennis Pitta 14. Last season Pitta showed to be Flacco most reliable target when things got hairy. The two are creating quite the chemistry on and off the field. I see big things in the future for these two as they grow together. Pitta has the intangibles that can only be measured on game days. he has an uncanny knack for getting open and amazing ability to haul in passes even if totally covered by a defender. I see him becoming a big time red zone threat. (Honorable mention: Ed Dickson 8. I see a big year for Baltimore tight ends)
I know, maybe my predictions are a bit out there but we can all hope cant we. Many media sources are reporting that Flacco and Smith are looking sharper than ever in OTA's and I know the Ravens will want to pass the ball more in 2012. With a full off season to work with his offense I see Joe Flacco having a big year this season.
Agree or disagree, please give us some predictions of your own in the comment space below! Thank you.