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The Answer In The Middle?


Once Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator last season, the Ravens offense drastically attacked the middle of the field.

Remember the touchdown to Anquan Boldin in the AFC championship, in which he stood over two Patriots? Remember Boldin's touchdown snag to open Super Bowl XLVII? Remember tight end Dennis Pitta's touchdown in the Superdome, in which he found a soft spot in a 49ers zone defense?

Problem is, neither Boldin nor Pitta will be providing their services this year in Baltimore.

"You love those guys when they're here, and it's pretty easy to realize the fact that they're not here," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "So, what are you going to do about it?"

What Flacco and the Ravens have done so far this offseason is search for two new targets over the middle. And Flacco thinks they've got their answer.

"We've got a couple of those guys at wide receiver – Tandon [Doss] and Deonte [Thompson]," Flacco said Tuesday.

Doss and Thompson have worked extensively in the slot throughout training camp, and each have stood out in recent days. They each possess a different set of skills.

Thompson brings a lot of speed inside, something that isn't usually seen. Normally, a team's fastest receivers are on the outside. That's still the case with the Ravens with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones outside, so the speedy Thompson may bump inside.

"His potential is really high and he is getting better and better each day," Flacco said of Thompson. "He's a really good player, so it's just a matter of getting some opportunities in these preseason games and seeing what he can really do to get that confidence going."

Thompson said he prefers playing in the slot more than outside because he gets more mismatches.

"I'm too fast for linebackers and safeties. It's a big mismatch," he said.

But is he concerned about what will happen when those bigger defenders catch up with his 6-foot-0, 203-pound frame?

"I'm not afraid. It's football; you're going to get hit," Thompson said.

Doss is more of a possession receiver, similar to Boldin. He has less raw muscle and experience than Boldin but more quickness and speed.

"Tandon is that real strong-handed guy that can go up and make some catches for you, and he's got a good feel for how to run the routes in there," Flacco said.

The next step is for Thompson and Doss to prove they can transfer the success they've had in practice this offseason to games. After all, both are largely unproven.

Doss, a former fourth-round pick entering his third season, had seven receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown last year. Thompson, an undrafted player going into his second year, caught five passes for 51 yards.

Thompson says he's eager to show Thursday night in Tampa Bay that he can make plays in game situations.

"Guys like us, they don't know who we are yet," Thompson said. "Give them a few weeks and we'll get our name out there."

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