Ravens Offense Not Young Anymore


The Ravens offense has grown up.

Joe Flacco is a clear-cut franchise quarterback. Ray Rice is one of the game's premier running backs. There are Pro Bowlers at fullback, wide receiver and offensive line.

The group is full of stars.

In fact, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron thinks this is the best group of leaders that he's seen from the unit during his five years in Baltimore.

"This is the best leadership," Cameron said. "We just have a group of guys, of leaders in this locker room and this offensive meeting room that is really, from a coach's perspective, is something to be excited about."

Players like Flacco, Rice, Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda were just learning the ropes of the NFL a few years ago.

Now they're established veterans.

Then of course you add in Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Vonta Leach, Bobbie Williams and Bryant McKinnie – who have combined to start 629 NFL games. The average amount of NFL experience among the players listed on the first-string depth chart is 7.5 years.

"We have leaders at each position – quarterback, offensive line, running back, wide receiver – you name it, we have leaders across the board," Boldin said.

The Ravens have long been known for their defensive leadership thanks to perennial Pro Bowlers like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.

The offense, however, was carried by younger players at key positions. Outside of a few veterans like wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap, the Ravens offense was driven by young stars.

Flacco and Oher were both thrown into starting roles as rookies. Rice took over the backfield in his second season.  Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta took over substantial roles in their second years.

Getting that experience at a young age has turned those players into respected elders in the Ravens locker room today.

"It's just a natural growth that you would see, that you're looking for," Cameron said. "Collectively, it's a group that I think enjoys playing with each other. Guys are maturing."

Much of the focus on the offense's maturation has been placed on Flacco.

He has been vocal about the offense taking "the next step" this year, and is shaking the reputation of a [add] quiet, keep-to-himself quarterback.

"He's been outspoken," Rice said. "For me and him, we came in together, and I think he's going to prove to everybody why he's a top quarterback in the league."

The coming-of-age also corresponds with a set of expectations that may have never been higher for Ravens offense.

The group showed off a no-huddle attack in the preseason and Flacco shined with the approach. He was sharp and the offense had success moving the football, and has said on numerous occasions that he believes the Ravens could be one of the league's top-five offenses.

"We just have a lot more experience on our side of the ball," Flacco said. "We have a lot of guys that are feeling comfortable with their play and feeling comfortable heading into games and have a lot of confidence.

"I think when you have a lot of guys playing with a lot of confidence, that's when you can see good offenses really start to emerge."

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