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Late For Work 5/26: Are You Ready for the Ravens Deep Ball?


Are You Ready for the Ravens Deep Ball?

What two years was Joe Flacco at his best?

How about 2010, when he posted a career-high 93.6 quarterback rating and tossed 25 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions? How about 2012, when he went on a record-tying run in the playoffs with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions?

What did those two years have in common for Flacco?

They were his two biggest years in deep passing yards. He racked up 910 yards on passes of 20 or more yards down the field in 2010, then 1,110 yards on such passes in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. That year, he ranked fourth out of 33 NFL quarterbacks in that category.

So, you may ask, what does this have to do with right now?

Well, with big-play speedsters Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman looking like Flacco's two starting wide receivers this year, it gives Flacco a good chance at putting up a lot of deep passing yards.

Throughout this entire offseason, General Manager Ozzie Newsome has said he would keep an eye out for a "complementary" wide receiver. It seems Newsome and the Ravens are pretty confident in the threats they'll line up outside.

Wallace and Perriman have done well to hold up their end of the bargain so far during OTAs. Tight end Dennis Pitta said Perriman has been the most impressive player in the three days of practice.

"OTAs certainly can be a tease," The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec wrote, pointing out the non-padded, non-contact practices. "For Perriman, though, any positive reinforcement for the work he has put in is appreciated. It also is nice to be talking about making plays rather than being injured."

Perriman got over that hurdle last year, playing in all 16 games. He's worked diligently this offseason to improve his route-running and rapport with Flacco, which was shown when the two connected on a back-shoulder play against top cornerback Jimmy Smith Thursday.

But even after showering Perriman with praise, Head Coach John Harbaugh made sure to say he needs to "keep building, keep stacking."

"It's understandable why Ravens officials would be cautious in their praise of Perriman, given his injury problems and his inconsistency last season," Zrebiec wrote. "There's still a decent chance the Ravens trade for a wide receiver before training camp or add one in free agency."

Cruz Signs One-Year Deal With Bears

Though Zrebiec said there's still a chance the Ravens add a wideout, he added this line next:

"The shallow pool of available talent at the position was thinned even more with veteran Victor Cruz signing with the Chicago Bears on Thursday."

As first reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Kimberly Jones, Cruz agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Bears.

After being released by the New York Giants in mid-February, Cruz garnered interest from the Bears, Jaguars and Ravens. A couple of weeks ago, there was a report that Cruz and the Ravens had "mutual interest" and would have a potential visit. There was no word on whether that materialized.

Cruz is the fourth popular receiver to join the Bears this offseason. Chicago also signed former Steeler Markus Wheaton, former Titan Kendall Wright and former Giant Rueben Randle.

The Bears already had Kevin White, who was picked 19 spot ahead of Perriman in the first round of the 2015 draft, and Cameron Meredith.

So, after months of speculation about Cruz, and talk about whether he or former Raven Anquan Boldin would be a better fit in Baltimore, Boldin is the only one of the two still remaining.

ESPN's Experts Predict Best Defenses; None Pick Ravens

Yesterday, I wrote about the excitement and bold statements surrounding the possible "legendary" Ravens defense this season.

Well, the national pundits aren't buying what Ravens players are selling. And something tells me that will be just fine with Baltimore.

ESPN's NFL Insiders made their early picks for which team will have the best defense in 2017. None of the six pundits selected Baltimore; in fact, the Ravens weren't even mentioned.

Three teams got two votes each: the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and Giants.

"On defense, give me the Seahawks," Matt Bowen wrote. "Getting Earl Thomas back is the key to Seattle's core Cover 3 scheme. This unit wins with the perfect mix of rush and coverage."

"Defensively, I still love the Broncos from a pure talent perspective and think they'll add a new dimension of aggressiveness under first-year coach Vance Joseph," wrote Kevin Seifert.

"Defensively, I'll go with the Giants as a narrow winner," Field Yates wrote. "They kept Pierre-Paul and figure to be better in the secondary with the further development of Eli Apple, who came on strong during his rookie season.

The writers also predicted the NFL's top offense and five of the six scribes pointed to the New England Patriots. The Steelers were the other selection (by Seifert).

One Raven Among Top Six Undrafted Rookies in Best Spot

Sometimes a big part of making the team is what openings there are at that position.

"While there is no substitute for things like talent, work ethic or instincts when it comes to undrafted free agents making it in the pros, finding a good scheme fit or a favorable roster situation are often critical components for mining diamonds from undrafted signings," wrote NFL Media's Lance Zierlein.

With that in mind, Zierlein named six undrafted rookies who "find themselves in favorable situations" as they try to make the 53-man roster.

One of those names is Ravens wide receiver Tim Patrick out of Utah.

Zierlein: "When you look at the sheer number of wide receivers on the Ravens' depth chart, it would appear that Patrick faces a daunting uphill climb to make the roster. However, there aren't many names on the depth chart whom the Ravens are likely to be married to. Former first-rounder Breshad Perriman has yet to play to his draft slot, Steve Smith retired and Mike Wallace has only one year left on his contract.

"Patrick is lanky, but has good length (6-4, 208) and he's an explosive leaper with quality deep speed. Durability has been the biggest concern for Patrick, who missed 17 games over three seasons at Utah. When healthy, he has played with great competitiveness against the likes of Adoree' Jackson, Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Chidobe Awuzie. His willingness as a blocker and ability to make contested catches could help him become an undrafted success story in Baltimore."

Patrick did have an impressive deep touchdown catch during Thursday's practice in front of the media. Patrick appeared in 22 career games (14 starts) at Utah, recording 61 receptions for 888 yards (14.6 avg.) and five touchdowns.

After Thursday's practice, Harbaugh was asked about what the team is going to do at the fullback position. He mentioned that in-house candidates could do the job, and mentioned undrafted rookie fullback Ricky Ortiz.

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