Reaction to the Good News About Joe Flacco and the Ravens Offense Was Priceless
Talk about a busy weekend.
Franchise quarterback Joe Flacco returned to the practice field, along with 2015 first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman and running back Danny Woodhead, a top offseason acquisition.
The Ravens also made two trades to bolster the offensive line. Six of the 10 practice squad players were signed. Oh, and 39 players were either cut or moved to injured reserve for the Ravens to get to the required 53-man roster limit.
Where should we begin addressing all this?
Let's start with the news item that will have the biggest effect on the Ravens' success this season: Flacco's return. Eight days prior to the season-opener against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals, the sight of the 10-year veteran simply jogging onto the practice field energized all of Baltimore.
The reaction was priceless as memes of relief, celebration and gratitude were in full force:
After missing 36 days of practice, Flacco was zooming passes 25 to 30 yards downfield almost like he'd never even had a back problem. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Flacco "looked good," and added that how his back responds over the next few days would be important to monitor.
"Back injuries are tricky -- we need to see Flacco take an on-field shot or two -- but, for now, disaster has been avoided in Charm City," wrote NFL.com's Mark Sessler.
Obviously, until Flacco successfully absorbs a hit in a game, nobody will feel quite comfortable that he's 100 percent, but all signs are encouraging at this point.
"He made all the throws and didn't appear to be visibly limited by the back injury," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"The Ravens and their fans will continue to hold their breath until Flacco stays on the field and shows his back is no longer a concern after he was sidelined for the entire summer," added WNST's Luke Jones. "However, the fact that there are only two quarterbacks on the roster leads you to believe the organization is confident that Flacco is truly healthy and ready to go."
While adding Perriman, Woodhead and left tackle Ronnie Stanley into the mix, suddenly the offense looked whole again after so many injuries plagued the unit all summer.
There are new questions, of course. Can the offense get on the same page quickly with so little time before heading to Cincinnati? Will Flacco's health hold up? What will his chemistry be with his receivers?
"I disagree with Allen Iverson," ESPN's Jon Gruden said. "I think practice is really important when you've got 11 guys that you've got to manage. Fortunately, [the Ravens] got the same coordinator two years in a row. That's a novelty in Baltimore.
"[Flacco is] going to have to get out there and not only show that his arm is healthy, but he's got to get himself back in I think to football shape and really work through the timing with this young receiving corps … [He's] lost a lot of valuable time, the snap count, the pre-snap information gathering, the hand signals, all the things that these guys do that no one really studies."
There will no doubt be some growing pains. It would be helpful to see the stout defense we've seen all preseason continue to dominate. But …
"A healthy Flacco is a key to the Ravens returning to the postseason after missing it in consecutive seasons and in three of the past four years," wrote Zrebiec. "The Ravens believe their defense is significantly upgraded and they've improved the offensive cast around Flacco with the additions of Woodhead and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. They also are focused on taking pressure off Flacco by running the ball more and being more balanced on offense."
Disappointment Over Losing Taquan Mizzell and Josh Woodrum
As John Eisenberg wrote, there were no major bombshells on cutdown day. Just a few tremors.
Among the tremors were not being able to sign quarterback Josh Woodrum and undrafted rookie running back Taquan Mizzell to the practice squad after they were cut from the active roster. Both became fan-favorites during the preseason, and both were claimed off waivers by other teams Sunday.
The disappointment voiced on social media was loud and clear. The folks at Baltimore Beatdown conducted a poll that asked fans whether the Ravens should've kept Mizzell, and an overwhelming 80 percent of 885 votes said yes.
"The Ravens definitely wanted to stash Woodrum, [Donald] Payne and Mizzell on the practice squad, but that is the risk they took when they cut those players who have to go through waivers," wrote Logan Levy.
Nobody wants to dismiss the performances that these players turned in during the preseason, but the tweet below from former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. is worth considering (which was not in direct response to the Ravens' cuts – just about cuts in general).
It's been rare in the Harbaugh era for the Ravens to cut undiscovered talent from the initial 53-man roster, only for another team to find they can play at a high level in this league. Maybe a few players have gone on to notch a couple of good games, but nobody's really had fruitful careers. Shoot, the same could also be said of veteran free agents the Ravens let go.
Maybe Mizzell or Woodrum will buck the trend, but there are plenty of stories of preseason standouts being cut and fans subsequently going ballistic. Those cut players never really caught on elsewhere, however. Running back Bobby Rainey is a good example.
The Ravens reportedly did find a running back they'll add to the practice squad to replace Mizzell. According to the NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Ravens signed running back after he was originally going to sign with the New York Jets, but had a change of heart. Pelissero said Baltimore offered him a better fit and opportunity.
Lingering Questions After Cutdown Saturday
While the majority of the 53-man roster is set, you can bet General Manager Ozzie Newsome isn't finished tinkering heading into the season-opener on Sunday. There are still some questions that bear monitoring.
1) Could Ravens still try to upgrade at running back?
Even if Mizzell was kept on the active roster, this would still be a question. It lingered all preseason and continues to do so.
"This group lost much of its upside after Kenneth Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury right before training camp, but the unrest on the offensive line this summer made it difficult to evaluate the backs," wrote Jones. "Woodhead figures to be a major part of the passing game if healthy, but how well West fares as the No. 1 back will depend on how effectively the line gels.
"This is a position the Ravens should explore upgrading, especially if they can find a back possessing some return skills."
2) Will the Ravens try to sign Alex Boone to further bolster the offensive line?
"The Ravens finally have their projected starting offensive line on the practice field, but there are plenty of questions beyond Yanda and Stanley. Newsome attempted to address the depth by making two trades, but neither Bergstrom nor Bowanko are established commodities," wrote Jones. "Beyond taking a leap of faith that Greg Roman's blocking schemes will work their magic, there isn't a ton to love about this group on paper, which is unsettling when your quarterback is just returning from a back injury."
With that being the context in Baltimore, it's no wonder many fans wanted to know whether the Ravens would pursue left guard Alex Boone after he was surprisingly cut from the Minnesota Vikings.
Left guard might be the most unsettled position on the offense, and many were quick to point out that Boone has a connection to Roman as they worked together in San Francisco.
3) Who will the Ravens sign when they place Maurice Canady on injured reserve?
After suffering a knee injury during training camp, the Ravens didn't place cornerback Maurice Canady on injured reserve over the weekend. They're expected to do so at some point this week so that he's eligible to be activated later this season when his knee heals.
When that happens, it will open up another spot on the roster. Who could get it?
- The only thing worse than Anquan Boldin not playing in Baltimore is Boldin playing for one of the Ravens' rivals. Yup, Boldin has reportedly considered un-retiring and signing with … wait for it … the New England Patriots. Luckily, it might not happen. "In light of Julian Edelman's injury, a league source said the Patriots and recently retired Anquan Boldin had mutual interest in bringing Boldin to New England this offseason, and he remains intrigued by the possibility," wrote Ben Volin. "But the point is likely moot. Boldin signed with the Bills, and was placed on Buffalo's reserve/retired list Aug. 22. That means the Bills retain his rights, and they would need to release him in order to let him sign with the Patriots. That sort of cooperation from a division rival doesn't seem likely." [The Boston Globe]