Thursday's first full-squad workout in training camp will begin the daily reports about how Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense are taking to Gary Kubiak's new plays and schemes. But not all of the Ravens' visible changes will be on offense. I interviewed coach John Harbaugh last month for an article that will run in The Baltimore Sun in the next couple days, and he made it clear that there was significant time spent this offseason on addressing some of the team's defensive woes from last year. A couple issues on which Harbaugh harped were how many big plays the Ravens gave up, and how susceptible that they were to play-action passes. One of the keys to the latter being corrected is the Ravens doing a better job of stopping the run with seven men in the box. With the addition of weak-side linebacker C.J. Mosley and the depth and size the Ravens added on the interior of the defensive line, they should be in better position to do that.
Overall, though, Harbaugh’s main gripe was that the defense needed to be more aggressive and less reactionary. I’ll let him take it from here: “We need to become more of a pressure defense and you do that by having guys who can get to the quarterback and by being able to cover,” he said. “There are some things in our scheme that we have to get better at, that are more nuanced that you really can’t explain. We always chase this, but we need to find ways that we can dictate totally where people can’t get us out of what we want to do. We can run the defense we want to run when we want to run it, and people can’t take us out of it with a personnel group or a formation. We are hard at work at that.”
It was interesting to see the comments of reserve outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who told the team website earlier this month that his goal was to lead the Ravens in sacks. This is the time of year for great optimism and you can’t fault McPhee, or any other player for that matter, for establishing high goals. Perhaps, it’s just McPhee being his free-spirited self, but I also wonder if the statement reveals a little about how he’s feeling health-wise. Whether it has been his knees or his groin, McPhee just hasn’t been healthy since his impressive six-sack rookie season. He has totaled just 3 1/2 sacks over the past two seasons. He has clearly lacked the quickness and explosion that he showed when he came on the scene in 2011 and left several veterans, including Jarret Johnson, predicting big things for McPhee. The Ravens have to create a much more consistent and formidable pass rush than they had for much of last season, and a healthy McPhee could be a big part of that. But it has been a while since he has been healthy.
The Ravens’ decision to put nose tackle Terrence Cody on the physically unable to perform list ahead of training camp wasn’t particularly surprising, nor was it extremely significant in the grand scheme of things. By all accounts, Cody is making good strides in his recovery from offseason hip surgery, and he can be placed on the active roster as soon as he’s ready to start practicing. What does bode well is that Cody was the only Ravens player placed on that list. Things could change over the next couple days, but Harbaugh painted a positive picture about the overall health of his team last month during the mandatory minicamp. The guy to watch is running back Bernard Pierce, who had offseason shoulder surgery. Pierce was limited during the various offseason minicamps, though he looked in good shape and raring to go. If he has been cleared for contact, it will be a nice development for the Ravens, especially with Ray Rice’s suspension announcement looming.
I was going to write “with Rice’s suspension imminent,” but that’s what I’ve been thinking for about three weeks now. It has been exactly five weeks since Rice and his wife met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York. Goodell has plenty of other disciplinary issues on his plate, so I have no idea what the holdup is in making the decision on Rice. I would have guaranteed you earlier this month that the Ravens would know how long Rice would be sidelined before the start of training camp. Now, I’m not so sure.
Speaking of Cody, he’d be on my list of Ravens veterans who are very much on the roster bubble heading into training camp. Off the top of my head, I’d also include wide receivers Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams (Maryland), tackle Jah Reid, guard-center A.Q. Shipley, linebacker Albert McClellan and safety Anthony Levine on that list.
I’ve been asked a couple times about when the Ravens will unveil the statue outside M&T Bank Stadium for retired linebacker Ray Lewis. My understanding is that the team is still working through that and an announcement could come relatively soon. My guess is that the unveiling will occur during the preseason, but we’ll know for sure shortly.