When Jim Caldwell was appointed the Baltimore Ravens‘ offensive coordinator in December of 2012, he was given the unenviable task of fixing an offense overnight that had struggled under Cam Cameron for almost five years. His first game as the team’s official OC was unflattering to say the least, as the Ravens suffered a humiliating 34-17 defeat at home to the Denver Broncos.
Just when the wheels appeared to be completely off in Baltimore, they came roaring back the following week with an impressive 33-14 thumping of the New York Giants.
His success immediately carried over into the playoffs, as the Ravens steamrolled the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round. The following game was Caldwell’s true litmus test, though. A rematch against the heavily-favored Broncos — on their turf — was a game no team wanted.
What followed was one of the most memorable and entertaining playoff games in NFL history. Under Caldwell’s guidance, Joe Flacco led the 16th-best offense in the league to a double-overtime victory over the second-best defense in the league.
John Harbaugh put the fate of his team in Caldwell’s hands with less than a month before the season ended, and Caldwell delivered an offense that scored 84 points in four games. He did that mainly by shifting the offense to exploit everybody’s talents all at once.
Caldwell faces a bigger challenge in 2013, though. With Anquan Boldin gone and Dennis Pitta out for the season with an injured hip, Caldwell will have to tweak whatever offensive plans he has made this offseason to accommodate the lack of clutch receivers.
Torrey Smith is the clear leader of the wide receivers and has reportedly had a tremendous camp, but the rest of the receivers on the roster are either questionable or unproven. Ed Dickson has the talent to step in for Pitta, but he hasn’t had much time to develop chemistry with Flacco, and his current injury could delay that learning process further.
Jacoby Jones excelled as a kick returner and third option last season, but hasn’t shown the ability to handle a larger workload. Tandon Doss has shown flashes of talent, but hasn’t had much playing time build upon it. Visanthe Shiancoe was once a productive tight end, but hasn’t caught a ball in a game since 2011. Deonte Thompson has created some buzz, but needs more development.
One thing Caldwell has now that he didn’t have last season is time. He has a whole month to work, with four preseason games throughout the month to test the offense. It’s too early to project the Ravens as Super Bowl contenders, but they still have enough talent on the field to at least make another run at it.
It’s just up to Harbaugh, Caldwell and the other coaches to milk that talent out of the players.