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Eisenberg: Ravens Hooked Up Joe Flacco

Posted Apr 5, 2014

Is the receiving corps better than last season? Do the Ravens wear purple? It’s now up to Flacco to deliver.


The Ravens obviously believe their pass-catching corps was a problem in 2013. They’re going to considerable lengths to make it better.

In the past month, they’ve re-signed Dennis Pitta, re-signed Jacoby Jones, acquired Steve Smith and signed Owen Daniels. That’s four major moves, far more than they have spent on any other area of the team.

If the goal was to provide Joe Flacco with a more viable supporting cast in 2014 so he would have a better chance to prosper, the organization can declare “mission accomplished.” Between the recent signings, Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown and Kyle Juszcyzk, the Ravens’ quarterback should have quite an array of targets to choose from.

Is this receiving corps better than last season’s? Do the Ravens wear purple? It might be the best group in franchise history, at least potentially. There’s a nice blend of youth and age, speed and route running. Torrey Smith should be entering his prime. Marlon Brown came out of nowhere to set rookie records in 2013. Jones is slotted to be the No. 3 wideout, a better spot for him. The newcomers, Steve Smith and Daniels, bring a combined seven Pro Bowl appearances to the mix.

“There are so many weapons here, it’s going to be hard for defenses,” Daniels said Friday at his introductory press conference. “I don’t think you can say enough about it. They’re all playmakers, and they’re all a little different.”

It’s been fun watching General Manager Ozzie Newsome attack what he clearly perceived as a shortcoming, and I wouldn’t rule out his adding yet another receiver with a high draft pick next month.

The Ravens didn’t do Flacco any favors last season when they traded Anquan Boldin and never found a replacement. Boldin’s absence and Pitta’s hip injury left the Ravens’ quarterback depending on largely unproven young players and near-the-end vets to catch key passes, and that didn’t go so well. Flacco’s own performance also tailed off, resulting in his throwing 22 interceptions, easily a career high, but count me among those who believe it was crucial that his help was wanting.

That excuse is now gone. With these receivers to throw to and new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak working off a blueprint that produced so well in Houston, Flacco is positioned to engineer a much stronger performance in 2014.

A year after not doing him any favors, the Ravens have hooked him up.

Now it’s up to him to deliver.

Yes, questions remain on that side of the ball, none bigger than the fate of running back Ray Rice, who is facing a third-degree aggravated assault indictment in New Jersey. Kubiak’s system depends on a strong running game, and the Ravens were counting on Rice to carry a load.

It’s also worth noting that the blocking corps probably needs some attention, as both Pitta and Daniels are known as receivers more than blockers, fullback Vonta Leach was a salary cap casualty and the starting right tackle job is up for grabs.

But there’s time to address those issues, and regardless of what else happens, it’s already certain a radically overhauled offense will take the field in 2014 featuring a reconfigured line, an upgraded pass-catching corps and the same quarterback who struggled last season but is now seemingly surrounded by a better supporting cast.

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I’m sure free agent running back Justin Forsett was thrilled to sign a one-year deal with the Ravens Friday. He’s 28 years old and gained just 31 yards in Jacksonville last year before injuries ended his season. Players who fit that profile don’t always find a buyer.

But he has done some things in his six-year career, and the Ravens need depth at running back – need it pretty desperately, I would say. Rice’s status is unclear. Bernard Pierce is recovering from shoulder surgery. Cierre Wood was the only other back on the roster before Forsett signed.

The move doesn’t mean the Ravens are now out of the market for backs. To the contrary, I’m still expecting them to draft one next month, perhaps as early as in the third round. They might need a back who can carry a sizable load, not only in 2014 but also beyond. It’s a need that demands a real investment.

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