The early results are in, and opinions are quickly being formed about which Ravens are in store for big seasons.
The 13 days of practice for organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp provided a glimpse of what to expect in 2014, so which players are you most excited to see take the field after initial impressions?
WR Steve Smith Sr.
The 14-year veteran didn't waste any time acclimating to Baltimore, as he participated in the entire offseason program after signing with the Ravens in March. Smith has shown that he clearly still has gas left in the tank, as he consistently made big plays in practice. Smith has quickly assumed a leadership role in the locker room, and brought intensity to the practice field that has been recognized by teammates on both sides of the ball.
QB Joe Flacco
Flacco is in the midst of his first system change since he entered the NFL in 2008, and he appears to have quickly picked up the scheme. New Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said Flacco is ahead of everyone else in his knowledge of the offense, and Flacco told reporters at the end of minicamp that he feels comfortable in the system. Kubiak's offenses have consistently been among the best in the NFL, and Flacco could help drive the unit to be one of league's best.
RB Ray Rice
Rice's offseason has been dominated with off-the-field headlines, but the running back has clearly worked to put himself in good position for a bounceback year on the field. He was noticeably leaner when the Ravens began OTAs, and he showed good burst and movement throughout offseason practices. Rice didn't look like himself last year as he battled a nagging hip injury, but he seems to be getting back to the elusive playmaker he was earlier in his career.
ILB C.J. Mosley
The rookie first-round pick learned the defense without much of an issue and was praised across the board for his mental approach to the game. He also showed impressive speed and movement during drills, as he physically looks ready to make the jump to the NFL. By the end of minicamp, the Ravens had Mosley working with the first-team defense, an indication of the progress he made over the last two months. The Ravens drafted Mosley with expectations for him to be a defensive playmaker, and he has shown glimpses of that kind of ability.
S Matt Elam
At this point last year, Elam was trying to learn an NFL defense and also prove he deserved a starting job. It's much different this season. The safety has become a leader on the back end of the defense, and he's the one calling out the coverages*for the rest of the secondary. He has become much more vocal, which caught the attention of elder cornerbacks *Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith. Elam displayed plenty of promise in his rookie campaign, he he's poised to make a big jump this year.
CB Jimmy Smith
The cornerback came into his own last year in his first season as a full-time starter. Smith was able to stay healthy and ended up being one of the best defenders on the team. Smith is now in a friendly competition with Webb for the distinction of the Ravens' No. 1 cornerback, and he's also determined to come up with more interceptions this year. Smith is off to a strong start in the turnover department, as he came up with a pair of pick-sixes off Flacco during offseason practices. He's playing with confidence and the Ravens could have a very formidable secondary if he's able to keep it up.