Vensel: Flacco, Suggs, Boldin among minicamp standouts

I'm hesitant to read too much into a windy weekend of practices where rookie tight ends were blocking the offensive coordinator and the franchise quarterback spent a big chunk of the time sans helmet. That disclaimer aside, there was a lot to like about the Ravens' first minicamp of the offseason.

That's totally unsurprising given the wealth of talent head coach John Harbaugh has at his disposal.

Since the Ravens weren't going full speed this weekend — at times, though, they did come close to running into the red — I'm taking it easy, too, in today's column by giving you my quick-hit thoughts on the workouts in Owings Mills:

••• With a new crew of targets and highly regarded quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn on board to accelerate his development, Joe Flacco (left, with WR Anquan Boldin; photo by AP) is poised for a breakout season. We know he has the physical tools. He showed off his laser, rocket arm this weekend, zipping accurate strikes despite strong wind gusts that could give concrete-coiffed broadcaster Mark Viviano a bad hair day. But after Flacco often fumbled around the pocket in his first two seasons, it's on Zorn to help his young pupil develop a better feel for the position. Early returns looked promising.

••• The defense appeared to be back to its predatory ways after the pass rush was toothless in 2009. Terrell Suggs was fit and fast, stalking from sideline to sideline. Sergio Kindle backed off the Defensive Rookie of the Year boasts he made the weekend of the draft, but he showed a mix of tenacity and pass-rush ability that could propel him into the award discussion at season's end.

••• Flacco's receivers, both new and familiar, impressed. Anquan Boldin is as good as advertised. Donte' Stallworth has the wheels to get deep in a hurry — as long as the frail wideout isn't sidelined with a blown tire. And Derrick Mason will still be a major factor. Even Demetrius Williams had a good weekend — bad news for Mark Clayton, who didn't practice because he recently had a shoulder procedure done. Rookie tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, both fluid route-runners, could be factors, too.

••• Michael Oher and Jared Gaither swapped spots on the offensive line Friday, then a gimpy Gaither sat out the rest of the weekend with a mysterious, oddly timed foot injury. No matter the reason for the disappearing act, cementing Oher at left tackle is the right move for the Ravens. Whether it's due to injury, inconsistency or apathy, Gaither is nowhere near as reliable as Oher. Besides, Oher has more talent and upside anyway.

••• Rookie nose tackle Terrence Cody didn't look out of place running with the first-team defense. He's familiar with the 3-4 scheme from his college days, and he showed a quick burst you wouldn't expect from such a large mammal.

••• Ed Reed, who said he would mull retirement during the offseason, was a no-show this weekend after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. The fact that the All-Pro safety had the surgery is enough to convince me that Reed is returning. If he doesn't, though, the Ravens secondary could be in trouble. Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski are solid players, but they're incapable of covering up mistakes like Reed can.

••• The Ravens broke out the Wildcat with Flacco flanked out wide and Willis McGahee under center. On another play, Ray Rice threw a touchdown pass to Boldin. Chalk the trickery up as just the coaching staff keeping things loose at minicamp — and nothing more than that.


Matt Vensel is a content creator at b. Follow him on Twitter, @mattvensel.