Offensive Weapons Abound For Flacco

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Last year, it was a common occurrence to see Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco drop back from center and look first to wideout Derrick Mason.

But if Mason was covered, the next read was often a dump-off to running back Ray Rice.

That's not likely to be the case moving forward.

Heading into the 2010 campaign, the Ravens might have the biggest collection of weapons in franchise history.

"Hopefully, that forces us to throw the ball more, because if you have weapons, you have to use them," Flacco said with a laugh. "I'm pretty excited about it. I think we've got a few guys on the outside that can put some fear in some defenses.

"I think it's going to be a great benefit to us, having so many guys that can come in and contribute."

To get an idea of the number of weapons at his disposal in 2010. Let's take a look a hypothetical situation and possible reads for Flacco.

Say the Ravens are down six with 80 yards to the end zone and time is running off the clock…

Read 1: Anquan Boldin

Flacco could connect with Boldin, the three-time Pro Bowler acquired via trade this offseason. Boldin gives the Ravens a gritty, proven receiver that is one of the NFL's best at making the tough catches. Coming off a 101-catch, 1,377-yard campaign (eight touchdowns), his fifth 1,000-yard showing, Boldin is a tremendous initial target.

But what if he's covered, doubled even?

Read 2: Derrick Mason

Then, Mason steps back into the limelight. He was the one often getting two defenders last year. Singled up, there aren't too many cornerbacks that can

stick with the 36-year-old, as evidenced by his 73 grabs for 1,028 yards and seven scores in 2009. Obviously, Flacco has a great relationship with Mason, so it reverts back to pitch-and-catch for the duo.

Read 3: Tight End

If Mason is shadowed, tight end Todd Heap and one of two fleet-footed rookies, Ed Dickson or Dennis Pitta, might be where Flacco goes next.

By all accounts, Heap is feeling healthy as ever and is still considered a solid player at his position. The Ravens drafted him some help in Dickson and Pitta last weekend, and Heap will undoubtedly benefit from the added rest they provide.

As far as the rookies are concerned, both players were prolific pass-catchers in college and have the speed and size to create mismatches over the middle.

If protection holds up, free-agent signee Donte' Stallworth might be streaking up the field on a nine route. Stallworth, a regular at the Ravens' offseason conditioning program, has impressed many with his speed – first shown during his tryout and continuing through football schools. Considering the circumstances that kept Stallworth out of football last year, he will be highly motivated to step up his game.

Read 5: Fourth Receiver

The Ravens have a crowded group of receivers past Stallworth, but any one could step up. Mark Clayton, a former first-round draft pick, is expected to return and provides a speedy threat that has shown flashes of explosive ability. Demetrius Williams, who enters his fifth season, can be a tall (6-foot-2) threat if he can stay healthy.

And rookie David Reed, a fifth-rounder out of Utah, is another interesting alternative. According to Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz, he is a "crafty route runner" with an impressive knowledge of spacing, perfect for a slot receiver.

Read 6: Ray Rice

And of course, Rice will always be available. The diminutive playmaker is one of the NFL's best with the ball in his hands and space to run. Flacco hit him a team-high 78 times in 2009, and Rice amassed 702 receiving yards and a touchdown, as both a check-down and a directly-targeted receiver.

Not a bad final resort, if needed.

The Ravens were certainly able to move the chains throughout their run to the AFC Divisional Playoffs, and the new additions have yet to see live action.

But barring any major setbacks, the Ravens could look scary this year with a bounty of offensive choices. 

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