Ravens' passing game is better, but one more catch needed

March 09, 2010|By Mike Preston

On paper, it appears the Ravens have upgraded their passing game, and that answer will come in time. But if they want to solidify it even more before the regular season begins, the Ravens need to add another wide receiver or tight end.

If there is one area the Ravens have improved, it's speed, with the additions of Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth.

But there are still a lot of questions surrounding the Ravens heading into the 2010 season.

If Boldin and Stallworth play up to the standards they set years ago, then the Ravens are in great shape. But if they have problems fighting through recent injuries again, then the Ravens are in trouble.

We've seen substantial development in quarterback Joe Flacco during his first two seasons, but there are still questions about him going on to the next level, especially throwing over the middle.

And then there are just as many questions about the No. 3 receiver and tight end. Todd Heap, the starting tight end from a year ago, can still make plays, but doesn't get as much separation as he once did.

If you combine all these reasons, then it's safe to conclude the Ravens need another top receiver, either through the draft, trade or free agency.

So at this point, the Ravens should continue to pursue veteran Derrick Mason or select a receiver such as Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas, Illinois' Arrelious Benn or Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham in the first round.

Now, don't get me wrong.

The recent trade for Boldin by the Ravens in exchange for mid-round picks was a good move. But the Ravens need to be greedy. They need one more so they don't end up like last season when teams just doubled Mason and took out the passing offense.

Like Mason, Boldin is a possession receiver. The Ravens need more speed on the outside. Stallworth might have some juice left in his legs, but he missed last season and has a history of leg problems.

Stallworth comes with risk. Benn and Thomas are gambles, too. The Ravens need another weapon, someone who can complement Boldin, or they are going to be defended exactly as they were the past two seasons.

That's why it's too early for the Ravens to discard Mason. He isn't going to command top dollar on the free-agent market, but he would be a big asset in Baltimore. He knows the system and has a great working relationship with Flacco.

He can play outside or in the slot. Mason still has enough talent left that he could beat most teams if they tried to play him one-on-one for the entire game.

Mason and Boldin. Boldin and Mason. It's an interesting combination.

And if the Ravens can get Gresham, or a tight end who could work the deep third of the field, then the Ravens are in business and less dependent on one or two individuals.

In this year of the uncapped salary, the Ravens have already made some good moves. The next one would be to trade left offensive tackle Jared Gaither and recoup some picks for the draft, which some experts say is pretty deep.

The Ravens could move Michael Oher to left tackle and insert Marshal Yanda at right tackle and Chris Chester at right guard. If they could acquire some backup help, then this group would be ready to roll.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Flacco if the Ravens can get the other piece of the puzzle. You saw some leadership abilities start to emerge at the end of the season.

The arm strength is there; so is the toughness and other intangibles. Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's relationship has been strained at times, but former quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson bridged any problems.

Now, it's Jim Zorn's turn to foster their relationship and give Flacco more technical insight from the eyes of a former NFL quarterback. Flacco has to be more consistent with his mechanics.

But at least now the Ravens appear to have some talent and some speed. On paper, it appears Flacco has more quality receivers to throw to than he did a year ago.

Now, he just needs one more.

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