Before Dennis Pitta‘s season-ending injury, the Baltimore Ravens‘ were looking to build upon their recent postseason success to carry them back to another Superbowl title.
It was going to be difficult without Anquan Boldin, since he was their most reliable slot receiver, but Pitta was slated to take more of that workload. With him, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell could have sent Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones off to the races on the edges while Pitta cruised up the middle of the field.
Joe Flacco would have had an easier time moving the chains with all of them working at once. He also would have had an easier time making big plays downfield, which is where the Ravens’ thrived. Now, they will have to play without a proven slot receiver. How will that affect their game plan?
The running game will be the same, if not better. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce look to be a dangerous ground duo, which will take some pressure off of Flacco as well as keep the play-action alive.
Torrey Smith‘s development will be key to the passing game. The collective word is that he has had a tremendous offseason and is primed for a breakout season. If he takes the next step in his third season, he could become Flacco’s new go-to guy.
He has already shown his ability as a deep threat, and has matured as a route runner since his rookie season. That progression will get him double-teamed a lot, though, which will make the other receivers’ reliability paramount.
If Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson don’t step up as viable slot receivers, Caldwell will have to get creative and use a committee approach, which creates more uncertainty than comfort. He’ll also have to use more vertical passing, which could be harder without a threat in the middle.
Ed Dickson, Visanthe Shiancoe and Matt Furstenburg could all take turns taking punishment from linebackers to give Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Thompson room to make the field smaller. Caldwell could also use them in various combinations to attack the edges.
Although it’s unlikely, the Ravens could experiment with the read option with Tyrod Taylor, who has proven himself to be a dangerous, mobile quarterback in addition to being a competent passer.