Your 2012 Baltimore Ravens stormed the castle…er…Under Armour Performance Center today. Ravens nation is beginning to emerge from the off season once again. It’s been a long 185 days since the Ravens came within a dropped pass and missed kick from the Super Bowl. Luckily, Baltimoreans have relevant baseball keeping them entertained in late July, but Ravens fans are still eager for the 2012 season to arrive.
Without lockout coverage 24-7 and the aforementioned winning Orioles, this hasn’t been an off season filled with soft stories and Top 10 lists (except for the usual off season fluff on NFL network). But in order to get focused for 2012, I decided to pick a hand full of players to whom I’m paying particular attention.
1. Courtney Upshaw – This is an easy one, who doesn’t keep an eye on your team’s top draft pick. But just under two months since the reigning defensive player of the year suffers a season threatening injury, I want to know how one of his potential replacements pans out. Although, it’s worrying that the 6’2, 272 lbs pass rusher failed his initial conditioning test entering camp, I’m more excited to see how his size and strength plays into an NFL defense. The SEC isn’t anything to scoff at but I’m curious to see if he can impose himself on the next level. Will Upshaw be able bull rush NFL linemen? I’d like to see him in one-on-ones.
2. Lardarius Webb – Many will argue Webb should have been a Pro-Bowler last year. But none-the-less, his 2011 season earned him favor in every Ravens fans’ heart as well as the front office who rewarded Webb with a six-year, $50 million deal. While I have faith in Webb to continue to make plays, there’s always some concern in performance dropping after a contract year. Notably, Terrell Suggs’ major weight gain following his 2009 deal. Although, Webb is playing in a secondary with the up-and-coming Jimmy Smith and solid veteran Cary Williams who will keep Webb competitive in camp.
3. Torrey Smith – I grew up hearing “you can’t teach speed” from coaches all the time. Unfortunately, nobody could ever teach me speed and my football career ended seven years ago. Save for maybe Ray Rice, Smith was probably one of the most exciting offensive players on the roster last season. You can’t give a man the athletic tools Smith possess, but another year in an NFL system and another off season with Joe Flacco can only help his chemistry, knowledge and route running abilities. Mix these factors in with Smith’s burners and Torrey Smith could end up the Ravens’ most dangerous offensive weapon in the near future.
I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say Torrey Smith has the potential to be the offense’s best player as soon as 2012.
4. Terrance Cody/Arthur Jones – I’m going to go ahead and cheat as I list two Ravens in this spot. But I’m a fan of the battle in the trenches. We all know the kind of impact Haloti Ngata brings to the defense. We all look at Ray Lewis’ stat lines and know that part of his late-career numbers are thanks to the guys in front of him. With Cory Redding en route to Indy, I’m excited to see how the down linemen schemes and stunts will adjust.
5. Dennis Pitta – I like Ed Dickson, but I trust Dennis Pitta a bit more. His chemistry with Flacco is evident, from the Fu-Man-Chus to their golf outings. Chemistry means a lot with Flacco, who now has a veteran Boldin, a speedster Smith, a check-down option in Rice and a possession tight end like Pitta.