3 Reasons Why Kamar Aiken Will Have (Another) Breakout Year
Is it really happening? Is Kamar Aiken really getting kudos and generating buzz?
Yes, Aiken's name is a hot one right now in the media, and I love this headline from CSNMidAtlantic.com:
"Is It Possible To Have Two Breakout Seasons? Ravens' Kamar Aiken Could."
Aiken posted a team-high 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns last season.
He was one of the league's most productive receivers in the second half of the year, as he finished with nine consecutive five-catch games. It's the longest such streak in franchise history and third-longest active streak in the NFL.
"Yet, there has been little buzz about Aiken this offseason," CSN's Clifton Brown wrote. "The Ravens' wide receiver talk has centered on Steve Smith Sr., and his recovery from Achilles surgery. Or the acquisition of Mike Wallace during free agency. Or the latest knee injury to Breshad Perriman, or Keenan Reynolds' transition from Navy quarterback to NFL wide receiver.
"Meanwhile, Aiken looked more confident than ever during OTA's and mandatory minicamp, getting open and making catches."
Brown listed three reasons why Aiken could surprise people once again this season.
"He hasn't missed a game the past two seasons. At a position that has been plagued by injuries, Aiken has proven to be dependable."
2) Chemistry with Joe Flacco should be better
"There's a trust factor between Flacco and Aiken built on what happened last season. In key situations, like third down and in the red zone, Flacco is not afraid to look Aiken's way."
3) Offensive weapons added could help Aiken
"Yes, there could be fewer targets for Aiken, because Flacco will have more options. However, the Ravens' depth at wide receiver and tight end should produce more favorable one-on-one matchups for Aiken. After Smith got hurt last season, Aiken was often defended by the opponents' top corner, but proved he could still get open. Hardly anyone expected Aiken to threaten 1,000 yards last season, but he did. Aiken is just 27 years old. He could have another surprising season in store."
Brown isn't alone in liking Aiken's prospects this year.
NFL Media's Adam Rank forecasted that Aiken will have 10 touchdowns this year as part of his 16 bold fantasy football predictions.
"I saw one expert had Aiken ranked as the WR65 behind Victor Cruz. I don't understand this at all," Rank wrote.
ESPN's Eric Karabell ranked Aiken as the second-best fantasy receiver on the Ravens roster, trailing Smith and ahead of Wallace and Perriman.
But when you read Karabell's write-up, you see there are still some doubts about Aiken. Karabell said that Aiken would be a good safe final receiver in this year's draft, and that it's unlikely he cracks the top 30 fantasy wide receivers.
"Well, he's not old, so that's a good start. He's also not raw and inexperienced or a major health concern," Karabell wrote.
"Aiken is more journeyman than potential breakout star, and the fact that I'm ranking him here is more reflective of his competition. It's all flawed. At least Aiken should start and be relatively consistent, if boring as a No. 6 fantasy wide receiver."
ESPN Ranks Coaches' Playing Careers; Harbaugh Comes In At No. 26
It doesn't take an All-Pro NFL career as a player to make an All-Pro NFL coach. Head Coach John Harbaugh has certainly proven that in his nine years at the helm of the Ravens.
Still, I'm going to guess that Harbaugh might lobby to be a little higher on this list.
ESPN ranked all 32 NFL head coaches' playing careers and Harbaugh came in at No. 26.
"Harbaugh played sparingly in his career at Miami (Ohio), most notably on special teams as a senior in 1983," wrote Kevin Seifert. "At a statue dedication of Harbaugh, he said, 'I wasn't a really good football player, but I was the best football player I could ever be.'"
Harbaugh did win the school's Football Scholar Athlete award. So there ya go, he's got the brains.
And how many of the coaches ahead of Harbaugh have statues at their alma maters? Harbaugh is in Miami University's "Cradle of Coaches."
The six coaches who Harbaugh beat out are the Vikings' Mike Zimmer, Bills' Rex Ryan, Patriots' Bill Belichick, 49ers' Chip Kelly, Giants' Ben McAdoo and Dolphins' Adam Gase.
One Certainty For Ravens Offense
The Ravens should have an improved offense this year, but there are still question marks coming out of minicamp.
First of all, Flacco's health is of upmost importance, although all signs are that it's very good. Smith is coming back from an Achilles injury and Perriman is rehabbing his knee. There are great battles at tight end and running back that need to be sorted out.
But there's one constant, and that constant's name is Marshal Yanda.
"There are a lot of uncertainties with the Ravens, but right guard Marshal Yanda is not one of them," Brown CSN's Brown. "Yanda has made five straight Pro Bowls, and at age 31, he shows no sign of slowing down."
The Ravens do still need to settle on who their starting left guard will be between John Urschel, Ryan Jensen and rookie Alex Lewis. Urschel took the snaps with the first-team offense throughout Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp.
5 Things To Consider During Break
This is the slowest time of the year, but that doesn't mean the Ravens are twiddling their thumbs.
There are still decisions to make and things to do over the next few weeks before training camp opens, and The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec laid them out: 1. Decide where roster upgrades are necessary
Newsome traditionally makes a roster addition or two ahead of training camp. This year, Zrebiec says he would only consider adding a wide receiver ("the return of Anquan Boldin would be a nice story, wouldn't it?") if there are concerns about Smith and Perriman's health. Zrebiec said a veteran offensive tackle would be a decent addition and named Will Beatty and Jake Long as possibilities. But "if there is a big question mark on the current roster, it's at inside linebacker." Zrebiec threw out the names of David Hawthrone, A.J. Hawk, DeMeco Ryans and Donald Butler, but said "it's tough to get too excited" about the veterans. 2. Rest, rehab and return healthy
"It's hard to remember a time when the Ravens entered training camp with so many injuries to key players," Zrebiec wrote. There were at least 10 players missing from every practice at last week's minicamp. The Ravens' starting quarterback (Flacco), top receiver (Smith), top pass rushers (Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil), top cornerback (Jimmy Smith) and third-round pick (Bronson Kaufusi) were all unable to practice. Wide receivers Perriman and Michael Campanaro also sat out. 3.Devise a plan for handling Flacco, returning vets
With all those players coming back from injuries, they will need to be eased back into action while still getting prepared for Sept. 11 versus the Bills. "Knowing Harbaugh, who is a meticulous planner, this process has already started. But given the number of Ravens coming off injuries and the need for the team to get off to a fast start, the importance of these decisions cannot be understated," Zrebiec wrote. 4. Find a compromise with kicker Justin Tucker
The Ravens have until July 15 to sign Tucker to a long-term extension before he plays under the $4.5 million tag. While Tucker said there haven't been any significant talks lately, "deadlines spur action," Zrebiec wrote. "He certainly has a case for being the league's highest-paid kicker." The Sun scribe also said the Ravens should explore a long-term deal with nose tackle Brandon Williams. 5. Stay out of trouble
Before the players departed the Under Armour Performance Center, they were reminded of how they need to improve in the meantime, and that means keeping their nose clean. "This is the time of the year NFL coaches and executives worry about," Zrebiec wrote. "Many players go home for four or five weeks, and with no practice or meetings to attend the following day, and plenty of time at their disposal, they often blow off steam with friends before the long grind of the season begins. That can lead to trouble."