The Baltimore Ravens were labeled as one of the contenders this summer, even before the NFL lockout ended. This appeared to be a veteran team who returned the majority of the coaching staff and the players.
General manager Ozzie Newsome believed it was time to make difficult decisions on the roster by getting younger on both offense and defense. He decided to part ways with veterans Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Willis McGahee and Leron McClain.
Newsome addressed part of the team’s plans early on in free agency. However, the wide receiver depth was a concern, and rookie Torrey Smith did not perform well in the team’s first preseason game to bestow confidence to the front office.
The Ravens didn’t waste time finding a new receiver by trading for Lee Evans. Evans provides not only veteran leadership, but also a down field threat that the offense has lacked in the past.
Quarterback Joe Flacco developed good chemistry with Evans in the last three preseason games. In Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Evans recorded zero catches in the win. Though, it must be noted that the Steelers defense planned to eliminate Evans from exploiting the weakness down field.
His presence allowed Anquan Boldin, Ed Dickson and Ray Rice to attack the vulnerable Steelers defense. Unfortunately, not only did the success not continue in Week 2, but the team was exposed by the Tennessee Titans.
With Boldin facing corner Cortland Finnegan, Flacco looked for Evans to step up as the main target. Evans continues to battle a foot injury, and it showed this past week. Evans did not appear to be on the same page with Flacco on multiple occassions.
In a conference call this week, head coach John Harbaugh was asked on the progression of the new receivers.
“I’d say it’s a work in progress,” said Harbaugh. “They’re progressing, but like anything its been one of those years where you add.. you didn’t get the rookies in the off season stuff and the veterans were added so late.”
“I think we’re going to see a lot of teams progressing as the year goes on and it’s really important not to overreact. It’s really important not to panic as a coaching staff or as an organization and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
It is not time to panic in Baltimore, yet. The Ravens were flat in all phases of the game last week, and the team will be prepared to take advantage of a Rams team decimated with injuries.
However, if the new receivers fail to make a bigger impact, the results will be the same in year’s past. The main priority needs to be Evans’ health. Evans needs to be the different maker down the stretch, which Derrick Mason could not bring the last few seasons.
Smith, Dickson, and Dennis Pitta need to take advantage of their playing time by stretching the middle of the field. Flacco has begun building chemistry with his young tight ends, while Smith appears to be a rookie that has suffered from a lack of off season workouts.
The Ravens offense will be challenged in their next few games. After the St. Louis Rams, the Ravens must prepare to face the defenses of the New York Jets and the Houston Texans. Time will tell if the Ravens can be the elite offense they have the potential to be.