The Baltimore Ravens are going through an under-the-radar yet promising offseason, thanks in part to less news about Joe Flacco's contract and more focus on the team as a whole.
With Flacco, C.J. Mosley, Steve Smith and the Ravens secondary making headlines for a myriad of different reasons, there is plenty to analyze in Charm City.
Here is the latest Twitter buzz about Baltimore's training camp and how it will impact their 2014 season.
Flacco fitting in Kubiak's offense
From Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell to Gary Kubiak, Flacco has had three different offensive coordinators in the past three offseasons. Luckily, the next transition doesn't seem difficult for Flacco. If he is handling the offense as effectively as BaltimoreRavens.com columnist John Eisenberg claims, then the Ravens should have high expectations for 2014.
Kubiak's quick-hitting passing game should mask an offensive line with question marks outside of Eugene Monroe and Marshal Yanda. Add in a healthy Dennis Pitta, and Baltimore could easily improve upon its underwhelming 2013 offense.
That doesn't mean Flacco will return to his Super Bowl MVP form, however. Last season, he tallied 22 interceptions and posted a 73.1 quarterback rating (with plenty of credit going to the porous offensive line). The offense is improved, but the only reliable receiver besides Torrey Smith is the 35-year-old Steve Smith.
Flacco remains one of the NFL's most divisive quarterbacks—just look at that last tweet. Chances are he will be at a happy medium between his ugly 2013 version and his transcendent 2012-13 postseason form. And for Kubiak and the Ravens, that's a good start.
Is C.J. Mosley the guy at ILB?
Mosley will always be compared to Ray Lewis in Baltimore no matter how great he becomes. But for now, Mosley is the Ravens' first-round rookie and a training camp stud.
The inside linebacker out of Alabama has impressed running mate Daryl Smith, per Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, and should excel as a rangy weak-side linebacker next to Smith.
If he starts, that is.
Mosley is in a tight competition with second-year linebacker Arthur Brown, according to Downing's report. This isn't a knock on Mosley—Brown was a second-round pick just last year and is making massive strides as an NFL-caliber linebacker.
Right now, I'd give Mosley the slight edge to start. Either way, the Ravens have three inside linebackers built for today's pass-happy, mismatch-centric NFL. That should help create a defense worthy of the days of Lewis.
Steve Smith will continue to be Steve Smith in Baltimore
Smith has already gotten into an offseason skirmish with a teammate. This time, it was with Lardarius Webb. Thankfully, Smith made amends with a delicious breakfast.
General manager Ozzie Newsome knew what he was getting into with Smith. Smith has certainly lost some of his physical ability—his statistical drop from 2011 to 2013 accentuates that—but he will bring all the fire, passion and personal fouls that he had with the Carolina Panthers.
That could equate to Smith either having an Anquan Boldin-like second act or being released early in his Ravens career.
Either way, Smith should wake up Baltimore's laid-back offensive personnel and provide reliable hands on the outside. He should also be his usual self when it comes to run-blocking. According to Dan Schneier of ProFootballFocus.com, Smith finished last season with a plus-2.1 grade in blocking.
Kubiak's offensive scheme isn't terribly kind to the second option at wide receiver. However, Smith's blocking and trademark intensity should give him a fine second act if his receiving ability continues to drop.
There's a battle for the 3rd CB position
Baltimore wasn't confident enough in Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown as the only cornerbacks worthy of the No. 3 spot this offseason. Veterans Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks will increase the depth of that competition.
If Ross manages to stay healthy, he will be a decent slot defender in the Ravens scheme. Brown and Jackson have the age advantage, but they have taken too many lumps in coverage. A frontrunner likely won't appear until deep into preseason.
Tight competition is never a bad thing, but it's more often due to desperation rather than depth. The Ravens secondary is certainly no Seattle secondary, and that could be a problem.
With the frequency of nickel defenses around the NFL due to the passing surge, one of these guys having a career revival would be a huge boon to the Ravens defense. How the secondary handles the departure of the reliable Corey Graham will be a story to keep track of this season.
Overall, the Ravens offseason has been quieter and more productive. Nearly the entire roster is healthy. The team is more used to the absences of Lewis and Ed Reed. The 2013 draft class could provide major returns in terms of starters or key role players. Questions still linger about Flacco, as well as Ray Rice's looming suspension, but the Ravens are in a better spot than they were a year ago.
Let's see if that continues.
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