Eisenberg: Don't Be Surprised If Ravens' Ozzie Newsome Makes A Move


It wouldn't surprise me to see the Ravens add a new player to their offensive mix before they start the regular season in Denver.

GM Ozzie Newsome has been known to make moves on the eve of the season, and with injuries and unanswered questions having created some uncertainty about their complement of playmakers on that side of the ball, an addition makes sense.

It could be a wide receiver, running back, or tight end and he could arrive via a trade or as another team's salary cap casualty, but regardless of who it is or how he gets here, if he possesses a track record and the potential to make plays, he would be a welcomed addition.

The Ravens didn't expect to find themselves in this situation, especially after selecting skill-position players in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of the 2015 draft a few months ago, but, well, stuff happens.

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, the first-round pick, hasn't practiced or played since injuring his knee at the start of training camp. Tight end Maxx Williams, the second-round pick, has dealt with several injuries that have limited his progress. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, expected to back up Justin Forsett, underwent knee surgery after the second preseason game.

Those injuries have opened windows of opportunity for others, but few players have used the opportunity to establish themselves as viable puzzle pieces.

While it's certainly true, as always, that the Ravens will go as far as quarterback Joe Flacco takes them on offense, he needs a supporting cast.  And beyond veterans Forsett and Steve Smith Sr., the team's top wide running back and receiver, it's not clear who can be counted on to churn out a steady stream of "plus" plays in 2015.

The Ravens felt good about their receiving corps entering training camp, but with Perriman out, there's no one with the speed to burn past a defense. That can cause a troubling ripple effect, as opponents clamp down on the Ravens' rushing game and short passing game.

Who could step up and change that scenario? Wide receiver Michael Campanaro has exhibited playmaking potential going back to last season, but he keeps getting injured. (He is back on the field this week.) I expect Kamar Aiken to start the season as the No. 2 receiver opposite Smith, with Marlon Brown also getting snaps. Those two have made plays before, but not deep ones, and they have just five receptions between them in the preseason this year.

If the prognosis on Perriman were clearer, I would expect the Ravens just to wait until he is healthy and quickly fold him into the mix. But since there's no telling when Perriman might be ready, it could be time to bolster the group.

Twice in the Flacco era, Newsome has brought in a wide receiver shortly before the season, signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh in late August 2010 after he was a cap casualty, and trading for Lee Evans during training camp in 2011. Both times, the GM was trying to give Flacco more targets and keep defenses from clamping down on a No. 1 receiver. Sounds familiar.

At running back, with Taliaferro out, the No. 2 job (a significant role that likely entails more than 100 carries) has fallen to rookie Buck Allen, who has averaged just 2.7 yards on a team-high 29 carries in the preseason and lost a key fumble last weekend. Another rookie, Terrence Magee, has opened some eyes with his hard-running style, but is an undrafted free agent ready to carry a load?

At tight end, it's doubtful the team would add a player after drafting three in the past two years, and with Dennis Pitta still a possibility to return at midseason. Crockett Gillmore is the clear-cut starter, and if his tough-as-nails scoring play in last weekend's game (nullified by penalty) is any measure, he's ready to make some plays in 2015. But who else will catch the ball at that position beside Gillmore?

Basically, several questions being asked at the start of training camp remain unanswered. Who is the No. 2 wideout? Who is the No. 2 running back? Can the offense get by without a veteran tight end?

Maybe Newsome sees the answers on his roster, but in a week when all 32 teams are making cuts and interesting names invariably become available, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Ravens react.

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