Baltimore Ravens 2013 Training Camp Preview
2013 Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Preview
Training camp is less than one week away, and the Baltimore Ravens and their fans have many reasons to be optimistic.
The Ravens are coming off of an up and down 10-6 season in which they got hot at the right time and won the whole enchilada. They are the first ever defending Super Bowl Champions to turnover nine starters from that team, future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed just to name a few. A lot of new faces were brought in who could actually make the team better, more on them later.
The Ravens have won the AFC North for two years in a row now and could be poised for a third consecutive division title. Many pundits are high on the Cincinnati Bengals after a great draft and two straight trips to the playoffs, but they're still unproven against the big competition. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a little under the radar now and could be a huge threat if Ben Roethilsberger can stay healthy and of course the Cleveland Browns will probably still be everyone's doormat.
The quest to a repeat championship is never an easy one, especially with all the turnover the Ravens had this offseason. Still, under John Harbaugh the Ravens have made the playoffs and won at least one playoff game every year. Harbaugh and his staff will put the best players on the field. The battles for depth chart positions should be intense as always. Here are some things to look forward to in camp.
Current Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco is the unquestioned starter and will look to parlay a historic postseason in to a consistent 2013 regular season.
Tyrod Taylor is the incumbent backup, but he should see good competition from Caleb Hanie. It's unlikely the Ravens will keep three quarterbacks on the roster.
Ray Rice is still the man at the running back position and will continue to be the home run threat running and catching out of the backfield. Bernard Pierce emerged as a very dangerous change of pace back and looks to be on the verge of a breakout season.
The number three spot will be a three man race between Anthony Allen, Damien Berry, and last year's pleasant surprise Bobby Rainey. Allen is the mild favorite for the spot as of now.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are locks to make the roster as both are experienced and have a ton of speed to stretch defenses.
Tandon Doss has a chance to be a starter, as the Ravens believe he could be the possession receiver they need with the departure of Anquan Boldin. Deonte Thompson, David Reed, and LaQuan Williams will also be in the mix for what will probably be five or six receiver spots on the roster.
The Ravens are set at the tight end position with Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Expect to see Pitta and Dickson on the field a lot together as the Ravens will look to go to more two TE packages. Billy Bajema is the third TE on the roster, but he could get a run for his money from undrafted free agent Matt Furstenberg.
With the re-signing of left tackle Bryant McKinnie, the Ravens front line should be very similar to the line from the postseason. Kelechi Osemele may have found his calling at left guard and is poised for a breakout campaign in 2013. Marshall Yanda and Michael Oher will be a great tandem on the right side as always, plus Oher seems to false start a lot less on the right side.
The center position is the only spot that's really up for grabs. Gino Gradkowski was drafted as the potential successor to Matt Birk. He'll have to earn it though and beat out veteran free agent A.Q. Shipley.
Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata will look to bounce back from an injury plagued 2012. Ngata should be able to slide more in to the middle, where he's more effective, thanks to the signings of Marcus Spears and the versatile Chris Canty. Arthur Jones is improving every year and will have a prominent role in the line rotation.
The incumbent nose tackle, Terrence Cody, will need to be on the top of his game to stave off Brandon Williams, the Ravens' impressive third round draft pick.
Newly signed Elvis Dumervil and a hopefully healthy Terrell Suggs could form one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. Courtney Upshaw emerged as a pretty good run stopper last year and will look to improve on his pass rushing abilities. If he can then look out for an impressive season from Upshaw. Pernell McPhee and rookie John Simon also figure in to a lot of pass rush packages.
The heart of Ray Lewis will never be replaced, but his production on the field in the past few years can be. Jameel McClain will look to reclaim his starting spot after suffering a brutal spinal cord contusion last season. Rookie second round pick Arthur Brown will also look to snag a starting inside linebacker spot as the Ravens are very high on him. Free agent signing Daryl Smith could step in to one of the starting spots if McClain or Brown falters. Albert McClellan, Josh Bynes, and Bryan Hall will provide nice depth. Linebacker is clearly the Ravens' deepest position on the roster.
The Ravens will get back Ladarius Webb, who was lost in Week 6 to an ACL tear. The hopes are that Webb can return to his shutdown corner form, and if so it will be trouble for opposing offenses. Corey Graham stepped into a starting role last year and was a lot better then people expected. Jimmy Smith has had consecutive injury plagued regular seasons but impressive postseason performances. He'll look to bring it all together this year and maybe develop in to the shutdown corner the Ravens thought he could be when they drafted him. Chris Johnson, Chykie Brown, and Asa Jackson will look to provide depth at the position.
The safety position is in flux due to both starters from last year the great Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard leaving. Michael Huff will likely occupy Reed's old spot, he can't cover like Reed that's for sure, but he can tackle which is something Reed couldn't really do for the past couple of seasons. Rookie first round pick Matt Elam is an impressive specimen and looks to be a playmaker both in coverage and in the box. James Idehigbo filled in to start a few times and did an admirable job. He'll likely have the same role this season. Young guys Christian Thompson and Omar Brown are really the only other guys at the position and both are unproven. Hopefully there are no major injuries at the position.
No surprises as far as the special teams guys go. Justin Tucker is the placekicker, Sam Koch is the punter, and Morgan Cox is the long snapper. It may be a little to early to say this, but Tucker could really develop into the next great clutch kicker.
Expect Jacoby Jones to still be the main return guy along with a combination of the rest of the receivers, with the exception of Torrey Smith.