At some point over the next seven weeks, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is planning on getting together with Ravens wide receivers and tight ends for informal workouts to begin preparation for the 2014 season.
Tight end Dennis Pitta acknowledged that Wednesday at his news conference following the signing of his five-year, $32 million deal.
“We’ve talked about it, and it’s nothing set in stone right now, but I know that’s something Joe wants to get done,” Pitta said. “He wants to be able to meet with us and kind of get on the same page and go over some of the new things that we’re going to be doing. So, I’m sure we’ll get that ironed out in the next few weeks.”
As usual, Pitta said all the right things. He thanked owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh for sticking with him through his career-threatening hip dislocation last year. He reiterated that he didn’t want to play anywhere else and he acknowledged that his new deal puts the onus on him to “live up to those expectations and produce on the field.”
But perhaps the thing that he said that should be most encouraging to Ravens’ fans was his take that the Ravens’ offensive players are already champing at the bit to get back on the field and start learning coordinator Gary Kubiak’s new offense.
“Last year, I think we weren’t as productive as we wanted to be, certainly, so we’re all looking forward to getting back to work and being the offense that we know we are capable of,” Pitta said.
Informal workouts between Flacco and his receivers before the offseason program begins on April 21 is a good and necessary start. It’s also something that the Ravens really haven’t done too much of in the past and the hope this year from many people around the team is that will change.
Flacco has been a constant in offseason workouts at the team facility and his work ethic has been consistently praised. However, an offsite minicamp of sorts would take things a step further, and give many of the organization’s young receivers more of an opportunity to gain chemistry with the veteran quarterback.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning organizes similar workouts every offseason, sending his receivers plane tickets and an itinerary. His brother, Eli Manning, has done the same with New York Giants receivers. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson became the latest to get into the act last offseason.
The timing of a similar initiative by Flacco would be ideal as the offense figures to undergo massive changes before the 2014 regular-season opener. Kubiak is now calling the shots and the Ravens will also have new position coaches for the quarterback (Rick Dennison), running backs (Thomas Hammock), wide receivers (Bobby Engram) and tight ends (Brian Pariani).
Obviously, the brunt of the preparation and the learning will be done in the various offseason minicamps and training camp. However, why not get a head start?
Far too many times last year, Flacco and his receivers didn’t look completely in sync. A ball was thrown at the receiver’s back shoulder, only the receiver would keep heading up field and not bother to turn around. A receiver would break free in the secondary only to watch the ball sail slightly high and wide. A seemingly perfect deep sideline pass would turn into an incompletion as the receiver got only one foot inbounds.
It wasn’t always a huge disconnect between quarterback and receiver, but it was enough to prevent the Ravens downfield passing game from clicking all season, and contribute to Flacco’s career-high and franchise-record 22 interceptions.
Would a week-long, Flacco-organized passing camp fix all that ailed the Ravens’ passing game last year? Obviously not.
Flacco is going to have to be more accurate and make better decisions. The receivers need to a better job of beating press coverage and then holding onto the ball. The offensive line needs to do a much better job of protecting Flacco.
Pitta also said yesterday that everything will have to start with the Ravens relocating their running game though he acknowledged the obvious needs for improvement in the passing game as well.
“We have to continue to work at the pass game – the timing, the chemistry between Joe and his receivers, and that’s an ongoing process,” Pitta said.
That process could start in the next six or seven weeks, even before the players report back to Owings Mills for team activities. And that is certainly good news for the Ravens.