With one week to go before the Ravens take the field in Philadelphia, players, coaches and fans are anxiously awaiting that first snap.
What is usually something most players don’t care for (a pre-season game) is now something they need, in order to make up for lost time. Although most starters won’t play much, it will be good for everyone involved to get back into the routine of game day operations.
It will be especially beneficial for Joe Flacco, as he will look to test his rapport with his new backs and receivers.
With the departure of Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Willis McGahee comes the opportunity for receivers Torrey Smith & Tandon Doss and tight ends Ed Dickson & Dennis Pitta to compete for starting jobs. Running backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry will also compete for playing time as the backup to Ray Rice.
Mason and Heap combined for 101 receptions, 1,401 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. McGahee scored six touchdowns on only 114 touches last season.
Although the players that are being counted on to replace those veterans are young, they are very talented. They may experience trouble due to the lack of preparation with teammates due to the lockout.
The signing of fullback Vonta’ Leach should work well for the Ravens. Leach brings an intensity that yields results.
Last season, Texans running back Arian Foster led the league in rushing (1,616 yards) by almost 300 yards more than the next player, behind the blocking of Leach. Signing Leach to a three-year deal worth $11 million shows the Ravens like what he brings and thinks he’s an upgrade over Le’Ron McClain (signed with Kansas City yesterday).
Defensively, the Ravens cut Kelly Gregg and saw defensive back Josh Wilson (Washington) and Dawan Landry (Jacksonville) sign elsewhere. With the drafting of defensive tackle Terrence Cody (2010) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (#1 pick, 2011), in addition to the signing of strong safety Bernard Pollard, the Ravens have gotten younger at each of those positions.
Pollard joins Leach, coming from Houston to Baltimore. In 2009, Pollard was tied for eighth in the league in tackles among defensive backs (102). He was tied for third in tackles among defensive backs in 2010 (108).
All in all, the Ravens drafted well, were patient in free agency and upgraded their roster.
The true test comes on September 11, when the regular season starts in Baltimore, against the Steelers.