We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident In Baltimore
When is the last time tempering offensive expectations seemed necessary in Baltimore?
"Maybe never?" wrote Sports Illustrated's Don Banks.
Banks spent a few days with the Ravens during training camp and their first preseason game, and that's the vibe he is getting. The Ravens feel like they can be very good on offense, but know they have to prove it out on the field.
"This team is going to be really good," quarterback Joe Flacco told Dan Patrick earlier this week.
"Would you tell me if you guys were going to be really bad?" Patrick asked.
"No," Flacco bluntly replied. "We've been a good team for many years now, and you can tell. … It's going to come down to how well we play on Sunday. We understand that's not an easy thing, but I really do feel like we have a good team."
The biggest thing the Ravens have going for them this season, says Banks, is that they know who they are on offense again. Last year's defending champs seemed to lose their identity, but they rediscovered what they do best and who they can count on.
That identity isn't complicated. It's simple, and based on a* *foundation that will sound familiar.
As Banks describes it: first, consistently gain rushing yards* *with a one-cut running style behind a physical offensive line that dictates to the defense; second, implement a screen game with tight ends, running backs and athletic guards; third, follow it up with big-damage play-action passing; and finally, keep it all up-tempo to suit Flacco's style.
And how will the Ravens pull it off when they seemed to struggle last year? They've always wanted a physical offense with a run-first mentality and a fast tempo. What is making Banks believe in the Ravens offense enough to predict a bounce-back season?
Banks wrote, "[W]e hold these truths to be self-evident in Baltimore:"
1) The hiring Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator has been "a godsend" for the Ravens.
"The fit between Kubiak and Flacco has been superb, and their rapport easily betters any working relationship Flacco had with past Ravens OCs Cam Cameron or Caldwell," wrote Banks. "Kubiak's offense is ideal for the talent on hand in Baltimore, plays to Flacco's strengths and the quarterback raves about it being simple to master."
He added: "One Ravens' observer compared Flacco's role in the offense to being a pilot or doctor who operates off a checklist. As experienced as Flacco is, he now has that checklist to go by, and it makes the job very simple, very organized and removes much of the possibility that a player and coach will interpret a situation very differently."
2) There's "great cause for optimism" on the O-line.
There have been a lot of changes up front from a year ago. Jeremy Zuttah is a "sizable upgrade" over Gino Gradkowski, says Banks. Plus, guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda are coming in 100 percent healthy unlike last year. And re-signed Eugene Monroe has a year under his belt after being traded mid-season in 2013.
3) Running back Ray Rice looks "lighter and explosive again, capable of breaking tackles and making people miss."
As good as Rice looks, Banks notes that fullback Kyle Juszczyk and rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro will be "surprisingly important weapons." Add in a cast of capable tight ends led by Dennis Pitta, the addition of Steve Smith and home-run threats in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, and you have a recipe for success.
"The Ravens of 2013 didn't get old overnight, or see their talent evaporate in the Super Bowl after-glow," Banks wrote. "But on offense they lost sight of who they were, and what they did best, and this offseason was dedicated to re-establishing that identity. So far, when they check their look in the mirror, they love what they're seeing."
Ed Reed Coming To Your Living Room
It was just few months ago in June when Ed Reed said he was still preparing to play in the NFL.
But teams seemingly aren't dialing his number to sign him to their roster. So why not join the media ranks?
The future Hall of Famer is joining the crew on the "Inside the NFL" show, which will air on Tuesday nights on Showtime and re-air Wednesday on NFL Network.
"I'm very excited to be part of the 'Inside the NFL' team this season," Reed said in a statement. "It's an honor to work alongside such an award-winning cast and crew. I look, very much, forward to continuing to work in and promote the game I love so much."
The Emmy-award winning show has a completely different cast in 2014. In addition to Reed, current Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall and CBS Sports' Boomer Esiason will join Phil Simms as analysts, with Greg Gumbel becoming the new host.
And, for all those Reed fans that would like to see him extend his playing career, the fact there is already a current player on the show maybe still leaves the door open for Reed if a team comes calling.
If not, Reed becomes the latest Raven to transition to the television studio. Ray Lewis, Trent Dilfer, Shannon Sharpe and Bart Scott have all enjoyed success as football analysts.
"Let's hope for Reed's sake that his transition is just as smooth," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli.
Why Does Smith Fit In Better With Baltimore?
Steve "Quote Machine" Smith Sr. has admitted he feels like he fits in better in Baltimore than he did Carolina.
Comcast SportsNet's Brian Mitchell asked Smith in the sit-down interview below why he feels that way, and the 14-year veteran gave a gem of an answer:
"When I look in the defensive meeting room and I see 'Play Like a Raven, Baltimore Ravens, We Build Bullies,' that's what I'm talking about," Smith said. "When I think of a Baltimore Raven — and I'm a Baltimore Raven – what I think of is we go in there, we take your lunch box, we take your sandwich, we take your juice box, we take your applesauce, and we take your spork and we break it. And we leave you with an empty lunch."
Mobile users click "View in browser" at the top of the page to view the video below. And click here to watch the full 10-mintue interview.
Flacco Wants To Blow 4,000 Yards Out Of Water
4,000 passing yards.
Flacco has wanted to break the barrier for a few years now. He came close last year – falling just 88 measly yards short.
Does Flacco still hope to reach that number, or does he not care about that type of goal?
"Of course," Flacco told CSN's Brent Harris in the video below. "Yeah, I always want to blow that out of the water, do way more than that."
Harris joked about even hitting the 5,000 yard mark – a number that only Denver's Peyton Manning and New Orleans' Drew Brees surpassed last year.
Of course Flacco would welcome 5,000 yards, but he emphasized that while individual goals are something each player has, "nobody goes above the team and it's all about winning."
Lewis-Moore's Recovery Will Take 6-8 Months
Ravens defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday to repair a torn Achilles tendon and it appears it will be the start of a "lengthy period of rehabilitation," reports The Sun's Aaron Wilson.
It will take six to eight months before Lewis-Moore can return to full activity, according to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, which projects him to be able to participate in next spring's offseason activities. Mandelbaum is the co-chair for medical affairs for the Institute of Sports Science in Los Angeles and doesn't treat Lewis-Moore.
That means, as suspected, Lewis-Moore will miss his second full NFL season. He was sidelined last year after tearing his ACL in his final college football game before being drafted by the Ravens.
"It's a bad injury," Mandelbaum told Wilson. "The prognosis is good for a full return nowadays with the repair techniques that premier surgeons like Dr. Anderson do, followed by rehab techniques that all elite NFL players have available to them. He should get back to playing professional football somewhere around six to eight months. At his age, you can rest assured he will return to full unencumbered function. He won't be 100 percent at first, but the most likely probability is he will return to his old form by next season."* *
Ravens Defense Ranked No. 13
After ranking all the NFL offenses and offensive position groups, ESPN and Pro Football Focus (PFF) are doing the same thing on defense.
The Ravens defense came in at No. 13 overall, which is higher than what the unit ranked in overall total yards allowed last season (No. 21).
"The Ravens have some aging playmakers on defense, but they have not reached the point where they've stopped making plays," wrote Pro Football Focus' Nathan Jahnke. "Few teams are two-deep at pass rusher like Baltimore is, with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. Both posted double-digit sacks, double-digit hits and double-digit hurries the past season. They also have a few players who are somewhat one-dimensional but very good in their respective specialties."
Breaking down the defensive groups, PFF ranks the secondary at No. 18 (average), linebackers at No. 15 (average), edge rushers at No. 8 (above average) and interior line No. 24 (below average).
- Tebowing, Kaepernicking, Manziel Money Sign, Terio Dance … Where does Ice Bucket Challenge rank among social media trends? [FoxSports.com]
- The Ravens may soon change Rice's workload. "Come next week, the Ravens will likely have to prepare for Rice's upcoming two-game suspension," Hensley wrote. "The third preseason game is typically considered a dress rehearsal for the regular season, and that probably means Rice will have to give way to the Ravens' other running backs." [ESPN]
- "Rookie seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro is making a convincing argument that he belongs on the team," wrote Hensley. "He looked like the best receiver on the field, and he continued to make plays when he was a member of the scout team going against the first-team defense. Campanaro doesn't look like a rookie when he is running routes." [ESPN]
- "As Deonte Thompson had one of his better days catching the ball, another wide receiver fighting for a job did not," Hensley added. "LaQuan Williams had trouble holding on to passes, which could push him closer to the 'long shot' category." [ESPN]
- "Rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks is starting to come on a little bit and he made arguably his most athletic play of training camp with his interception of [quarterback Keith] Wenning," wrote Jeff Zrebiec. "Brooks actually tipped the pass to himself before picking it off. Saturday's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys is a big one for Brooks, who could find himself on the field more and more with the rash of injuries in the secondary." [The Baltimore Sun]
I swear my kids will not have to experience any of the stuff I had/have to deal with — Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) August 15, 2014
#Ravens LB Josh Bynes holds onto the feeling of living on the roster bubble. http://t.co/ujmnzGvngh pic.twitter.com/A9UFXuTu6t — Jon Meoli (@JonMeoli) August 13, 2014
Dennis Pitta was greeted by his son as soon as he walked off the practice field today. #RavensCamp pic.twitter.com/mNe0z29eE6 — Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 14, 2014