Baltimore Ravens: 3 Players Poised for a Breakout Campaign in 2014
The Baltimore Ravens have plenty of established veterans whom they can count on to produce in 2014. However, if they want to get back to the playoffs after going 8-8 in 2013, they'll need some surprise production from less-heralded players.
Baltimore has done a great job of adding young talent through the NFL draft and free agency over the years, and some of them will finally display their full potential this coming season.
Here is a look at three players who are poised to break out in 2014.
WR Marlon Brown
The Ravens didn't get a lot of production from their wide receivers in 2013, but Marlon Brown was a bright spot.
After signing with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, he caught 49 passes for 524 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.
In Year 2, he figures to put up even better numbers, especially in the red zone.
The 6'4", 205-pound Brown is a huge red-zone target for Joe Flacco. Pro Football Focus even tabbed Brown as its Ravens secret superstar for 2014:
Brown’s highlight in the final month of the season was his Week 14 display against the Vikings, his best game of the season. Registering season-highs in targets (11), catches (seven) and yards (92) Brown came alive late as the wintry weather cleared with 68 second-half yards, including two pivotal catches in the final 45 seconds, taking a starring role as the Ravens overturned a late deficit to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Expect to see big things from Brown going forward, and it starts in 2014.
CB Chykie Brown
Cornerback is a position that the Ravens have done a poor of job of addressing this offseason. After letting Corey Graham depart in free agency, Baltimore did nothing in free agency or the draft to replace him.
Graham played in 1,293 defensive snaps over the past two seasons, so there's a lot of playing time up for grabs.
As of now, Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are the only cornerbacks with any NFL experience on the roster.
Webb and Smith are two quality starters, Brown played in just 39 defensive snaps in 2013, and Jackson was only used on special teams.
Entering his fourth NFL season, Brown has a golden opportunity to make an impact on the Ravens defense in 2014. According to Bo Smolka of CSN Baltimore, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has talked with Brown about this coming season being his chance to shine: "At the pre-draft news conference, Newsome said, 'Every time I walk past Chykie, he’s saying, "This is my chance," and I say, ‘Yes, it is.'"
Judging by Baltimore's reluctance to add another corner in NFL free agency or the draft, it looks like the team believes Brown is ready to answer the challenge in 2014.
TE Dennis Pitta
One could argue starting tight end Dennis Pitta has already his "breakout" campaign. In 2012 he caught 61 passes for 669 yards (11.0 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.
But in his other three NFL seasons, he combined to catch just 61 passes for 575 yards (9.4 yards for catch) and four touchdowns.
Pitta has had just one productive season, but a hip injury prevented him from having another one in 2013. It's possible we've yet to see the best of him, and new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak could help him reach a new level in 2014.
Kubiak became the offensive coordinator this offseason after spending the seven previous years as the Houston Texans head coach. There, the tight end was a focal part of Kubiak's offense.
According to Larry Hartstein of CBSSports.com, Houston targeted tight ends an average of 171 times the past two years under Kubiak, compared to the Ravens' 128.
As long as Pitta is healthy and Flacco is the one throwing him the ball, Pitta is in for a big year in 2014.