With the Ravens so close to a Super Bowl berth last season, the players and coaches have come back this season with a dedication towards being great. Even though pads and contact aren't allowed during OTAs, we've gotten a chance to see first hand some of what the Ravens are working on and how the players are looking.
Matt Elam and Arthur Brown are improving
We covered it in more detail, but both Matt Elam and Arthur Brown are beginning the redemption process. Brown has added weight to his frame and still looks quick, while Elam has slimmed down a bit and looks like he is finally getting the mental part down. Only time will tell if either are able to take that progress and continue it with pads or if we will see the same story again this season. But if both continue, they will both have a shot at seeing the field a lot more in 2015 and beyond.
Joe Flacco starting where he left off
Quarterback Joe Flacco has gotten a lot of criticism for being mediocre and inconsistent during the regular season only to turn it on in the playoffs. While there is some truth to that if you look at the stats, it looks like January Joe might finally become just Joe Flacco for the Ravens. During OTAs, I saw Flacco throw the ball with accuracy and zip. Not just on short throws, but over the middle, sideline and deep throws were all where they needed to be and on time. Of course, this is without pads, but Flacco starting things off this way should only spell positives for the entire offense this season.
The Ravens might need another backup quarterback
While Joe Flacco has been on point so far, Matt Schaub has been the opposite. Even though Flacco has yet to miss a game and with the offensive line in front of him this season, is looking at another perfect attendance award, the Ravens brought in a veteran quarterback to hold things together if Flacco were to ever miss any time. Not only does Schaub look like he couldnt go out and win the Ravens games, I have my doubts on whether he could be a game manager for Baltimore. His throws have been wild and inconsistent during OTAs and I've seen him have a case of "happy feet" at times with the oncoming pass rush. All of that together has led to multiple interceptions and just a poor showing from the backup quarterback. If any of the young passers can string together a good preseason, Schaub might not have the job on lockdown like you'd think.
Pass rush looks ferocious
The Ravens were without Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs during OTAs and even with those playmakers not on the field, the Ravens had a vicious pass rush. The combination of guys like Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams and Brent Urban on the line have been able to hold up the entire offensive line and even get penetration by themselves. Once you add in the outside linebackers rushing from the edge, I've seen what would have been vicious sacks if hitting was allowed and batted balls. With the rest of preseason to go, these players will gel together even more and grow with what defensive coordinator Dean Pees wants to do, to be an even better unit. If you thought the Ravens were nasty last year, 2015 looks like it might be the best yet.
All in all, this year's team looks better already than last season. Some of that is of course the lack of injuries (knock on wood), but a lot of that is due to the continuation from last season. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees is back again and new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is keeping the same type of offense that Gary Kubiak had in town. The addition of some players on both sides of the ball have meant that the Ravens are coming in younger and hungrier than we've seen in a long time. If OTAs are any indication, the Ravens are in a Super Bowl or bust mindset.