Carroll County Times

Ravens analysis: Post-minicamp thoughts, predictions

Organized team activities are in the books. So is mandatory minicamp. And the only things left before the regular season at this point for most of the Baltimore Ravens' players are merely a five-week break, training camp and the preseason.

The Ravens wrapped up their mandatory three-day minicamp Thursday. Most of the Ravens' players are now off until having to report for training camp the latter part of July.

Training camp is scheduled to start July 21, when rookies, quarterbacks and injured players will report. The rest of the team will report July 24. The first full-team practice of training camp is scheduled for July 25.

Question marks remain at several positions heading into training camp. But, for what it's worth, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said after the completion of the three-day minicamp Thursday that he's "really happy" with where the Ravens are at this point, although he did emphasize that "we will find out [more] when the pads come on."

We will, but here are some observations and thoughts from the last few weeks of practices:

The tight ends look poised for a jump in pass-catching opportunities

So much has been made about which wide receiver or wide receivers will help the Ravens replace Anquan Boldin. And yes, the competition for playing time at wide receiver will be one of the more interesting positional battles to watch during training camp. But regardless of which receiver ends up winning the starting job opposite Torrey Smith, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson both appear set to take on bigger roles in Baltimore's passing game.

Pitta had a breakthrough season last year. He caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season and 14 passes for 163 yards and three scores in the playoffs. He's a versatile player highly regarded for his route-running and ball skills and could see even more time split out at wide receiver this season. He was a primary target of quarterback Joe Flacco during minicamp.

Dickson, meanwhile, has been arguably one of the most impressive players for the Ravens through this point of the offseason.

Dickson only had 21 catches last season, but he's just two years removed from a 54 catch, five touchdown season and is an athletic player at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds. He was heavily targeted during both OTAs and minicamp and showed, as he has in the past, the capability to both contribute in the short passing game as well as stretch the field vertically.

Suggs looks to be healthy and in great shape

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was limited by his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon for most of last year. His explosiveness was lessened. So was his overall mobility. And he was in less than optimal shape after missing training camp, the preseason and the first six games of the regular season.

But Suggs did begin to return to form some during the playoffs, and he showed up to minicamp last week noticeably trimmer and more fluid in his movements than he was last season.

Suggs didn't say how much he weighed last week, but defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said that Suggs is "definitely motivated" to re-establish himself as one of the NFL's premier defensive players.

Suggs had 21 tackles and two sacks in the playoffs, but he only had 22 tackles and two sacks in the regular season. The year before, Suggs had an AFC-best 14 sacks, an NFL-high seven forced fumbles and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Questions do remain

Wide receiver is the biggest one offensively - the biggest part of that being what the situation will look like opposite Smith.

Jacoby Jones is a big-play threat who was a contributor for Baltimore in a situational-type role last season, but most view him as relatively one-dimensional deep threat who is better suited for a situational-type role.

Tandon Doss has been one of the standouts of the offseason, but he struggled in a limited role last season and has just seven catches through the first two seasons of his career.

The Ravens like some of their other young receivers, too. Second-year player Deonte Thompson is one of the fastest players on the team and has been consistently praised by coaches throughout the season, and David Reed is a former fifth-round pick who Baltimore seems to believe has the potential to contribute. But, even more so than Doss, Thompson and Reed have just limited experience at receiver to this point of their careers.

The primary question marks defensively are at inside linebacker and cornerback.

The inside linebacker situation looks much better on paper than it did two months ago, but it's still yet to be seen if Jameel McClain will be healthy enough to play this year, if second-round pick Arthur Brown will be able to step into a substantial role as a rookie and if recently-signed Daryl Smith will be able to return to form after dealing with a lingering groin issue last season that prevented him from playing in all but two games.

It will also be interesting to see how things shake out at cornerback. The Ravens are deep at the position, and it has the potential to be a productive group. But does Lardarius Webb return to form as expected coming off of a torn ACL? Can Corey Graham follow up his breakthrough season from last year? And after receiving so much praise during the last few weeks, what actually becomes of former first-round pick Jimmy Smith this year?

SOME OTHER THOUGHTS: First-round safety Matt Elam was one of the standouts of minicamp last week. He won't be able to show off the physical part of his game until training camp, but his versatility was on display during minicamp, lining up in a number of different spots. He also made some impactful plays in pass coverage, most notably intercepting Flacco on a deep pass over the middle during the 11-on-11 portion of practice Wednesday.

- The next five weeks will be big from a training standpoint for outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw showed up to OTAs last month noticeably heavier, and he said earlier this month that he weighed 285 pounds at that point. Upshaw dealt with weight issues last year, too, but he ended up playing last season around 270 pounds.

- Wide receiver Tommy Streeter, a sixth-round pick last year, is another player who will have a tough time making the Ravens' 53-man roster, but he did make some plays during minicamp and is still a somewhat intriguing player because of his combination of size and straight-line speed.