On July 25, the first team practice will occur. From that time until camp breaks, there will be a lot of hard work and long, hot days.
When camp breaks, the Ravens will not be a finished product. But it's important for the team to identify goals or questions that need to be addressed in order to get the most out of training camp. Otherwise, the players are just beating up on each other in strenuous heat for no reason.
The core of the team is in place. Veterans who have moved on have been replaced by players who may turn out to be better or worse than their predecessors. We don't know yet and probably won't know for a couple of years.
The Ravens are one of the few teams that, at least on the surface, doesn't have a lot of major issues to sort out during camp. Their head coach, coordinators and quarterback are clearly defined.
Maybe the biggest thing Baltimore needs to do is to stay motivated despite its recent Super Bowl Championship.
As far as Ravens fans go, here are five storylines they should keep an eye on during training camp.
When Jim Caldwell became the Ravens offensive coordinator in Week 15 of last season, the Ravens were 9-4 and were not realizing their full potential offensively. They were scoring 25.5 points per game on average.
After Caldwell took over, Baltimore went 5-2 (including the playoffs) en route to its win in Super Bowl XLVII.
In those seven games, Caldwell helped the Ravens offense score an average of 27.3 points per game. If that was Baltimore's average for all of last season, it would have been good for fourth best in the league.
Caldwell's influence also led to a successful shuffle of the offensive line. Baltimore's offensive line allowed its running backs to rush for 146.4 yards per game and allowed just 11 sacks in Caldwell's seven games as offensive coordinator last year.
With a full offseason with Caldwell as the offensive coordinator, you've got to think more of the same is ahead for Baltimore's offense.
Bernard Pierce played well in his rookie season. When he touched the ball, he maximized yardage and rarely went down after first contact. He's fluid, strong and fast.
And then there is three-time Pro Bowler Ray Rice.
First thing's first when analyzing this topic: It's a good problem to have.
If you know what today's NFL is like, you know it's a passing league. That said, to be at their best, teams still need multiple running backs to share the workload.
How much sharing will take place? How much should Pierce play this season?
In 2012, the Ravens rushed 444 times for 1,901 yards and 17 touchdowns. Here's how Rice and Pierce compare:
|Ray Rice||Bernard Pierce|
To be clear, Rice is the starter and will remain so for the foreseeable future. But given Pierce's performance last season, the Ravens would be well-served to get him on the field more often.
Matt Elam agreed to a four-year contract with the Ravens on Thursday, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson reported that the contract is worth $6.767 million. Elam was the last rookie to sign with the team.
As the Ravens' first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Elam will likely play a lot and will do so early in the season. A player doesn't get drafted that high and sit on the bench.
Baltimore's roster currently lists Elam as a safety. There is no "strong" or "free" designation next to Elam's name. That could be because the Ravens are still looking at where he fits best, or they could already be planning for Elam to play both positions.
Either way, he is going to be just fine. It's not a stretch to say that if he stays healthy, he will be great.
Secondary coach Teryl Austin told Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com:
Matt Elam is what we expected and maybe a little bit more. [He’s] going through the usual changes that a rookie goes through, but he’s smart. He’s tough, he’s fast, he gets football, and I think he is going to be a fine player for us soon.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees also praised Elam's game to BaltimoreRavens.com, saying, "What I liked most about him watching on film is there's a dying art in college football in the secondary called tackling, and this guy has that art."
Don't be surprised if Elam makes the Pro Bowl within his first three years. He has that kind of potential.
Matt Birk retired after last season. Joe Flacco played with Birk as his center since 2009 in Flacco's second season. So for the majority of Flacco's career, he learned from Birk, the six-time Pro Bowler who played in 210 career NFL games.
Enter Gino Gradkowski, the second-year center out of Delaware.
Gradkowski was drafted prior to the 2012 season and played in every game without starting last year. He also got plenty of reps as the first-team center during last year's training camp.
The only foreseeable problem for Gradkowski will be if he struggles with the Ravens' up-tempo offense on a consistent basis.
That's pretty good considering Dumervil, one of the league's premier pass-rushers, would have been a Bronco if not for a delayed fax.
Reed leaves, and the Ravens sign Huff, a capable free safety in the prime of his career.
Canty is a 6'7" defensive lineman who helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI. If you watched the Ravens last year, you know their defensive line struggled.
Spears, despite starting for eight seasons in Dallas, figures to be a rotational player in Baltimore, as the competition is stiff among defensive linemen this year. Furthermore, he has started just 18 games in the last three years.
Although Dumervil plays the same position as Courtney Upshaw, who started at "Sam" linebacker in Super Bowl XLVII, Dumervil will likely earn the starting role. Huff is the most seasoned safety of the bunch and right now the best, so he will probably start too.
So if the Ravens end up gaining two or three starters from free agency alone, that would be a big deal for a defense that was below average in 2012.
Besides, if none of these players ends up starting, which would be very surprising, the Ravens are only on the hook for about $1.6 million per player.