When the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp concluded Thursday, it also marked the unofficial conclusion of the offseason. The next item on the team’s agenda is training camp.
If forced to pick one adjective to describe the offseason, I’d go with unpredictable.
Thinking about everything that has happened since the Ravens lost a playoff game to the Los Angeles Chargers in January, honestly, it’s been one surprise after another.
C.J. Mosley signing a barrier-busting contract with the New York Jets? No one saw that coming.
Terrell Suggs taking his talents to Arizona after 16 years in Baltimore? The Ravens were shocked.
Earl Thomas III landing here as the secondary’s new block captain after a stellar run in Seattle? That was predicted by absolutely no one. Same with the return of Pernell McPhee to bolster the pass rush, and the addition of Mark Ingram II as the starting running back.
A new and different approach to the draft was deemed possible with a new general manager in charge, but taking wide receivers in the first and third rounds? That was an out-of-nowhere franchise first.
The run of surprises continued this week when defensive tackle Michael Pierce reported for duty at the mandatory minicamp only to be told not to practice because he wasn’t in good enough shape. Definitely didn’t see that coming.
The Ravens’ rampant unpredictability actually began before the offseason. It traces to last November, when Lamar Jackson replaced Joe Flacco at quarterback. That move itself was foreseeable because you don’t draft a quarterback in the first round with the expectation that he’ll sit for long. But no one expected the Ravens to go 6-1 with Jackson and come from way behind to capture their first division title in six years.
Nor did anyone expect the influence of the entire rookie class to provide the difference between the Ravens making the playoffs and sitting then out again.
That unpredictability has simply continued through the offseason, and if you think it’s due to start ebbing soon, think again. Jackson is entering his first full year as a starter, running a new offense, supported by a crop of playmakers featuring many new faces. The defense also has undergone a major personnel overhaul. There are a lot of new parts, with some serious shaking out still to come. I wouldn’t begin to try to predict what’ll happen.
My two cents, that’s a good thing.
Not too long ago, the Ravens were stuck in a cycle of missing the playoffs and hovering around .500. The seasons had started to run together, and I don’t think I’m out of line suggesting parts of the fan base were starting to yawn. There were more empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium.
That’s not why the organization has engineered so much change and ended up harder to predict. But the Ravens are morphing into a new era and certainly more interesting as a result.
Granted, they’re still predictable in some respects. They want their defense to lead them, per usual. They have a star kicker who can blast the ball through the uprights from 60+ yards out, as he did in practice this week. It’s hardly a secret that they’ll continue to lean heavily on their ground game with Jackson at quarterback.
Also, let’s not forget that they made it through the spring season of practices without experiencing one of those dreaded, impossible-to-predict major injuries that blows up the depth chart. Remember those?
They’re still flush with unpredictability, though – the kind that moves you to the edge of your seat and leaves you wondering how the pieces will fit and whether certain new players will perform as advertised. (Cough, hello Marquise Brown.)
The players themselves are waiting to see what unfolds.
“We don’t know how good we’re going to be,” guard Marshal Yanda said this week, referring to the offense.
But they’re as optimistic as they are curious, as energized as they are uncertain.
There’s no predicting what’ll happen next, but either way, you want to see, don’t you?