Ravens face questions heading into OTAs

Ravens safety Will Hill took to his Twitter account Thursday to lament that "it's not football season yet," and to post a picture of himself in the team's locker room with his helmet on and his teeth clenched.

The Ravens' regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos is still about 3 ½ months away, but for Hill and the rest of his teammates, preparation for training camp and the 2015 campaign is about to accelerate.


The Ravens will have their first of three weeks of organized team activities, starting Tuesday at the Under Armour Performance Center. Each week will consist of three days of voluntary practices.

Contact is prohibited during OTAs per the collective bargaining agreement, but teams are allowed to do seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills. More than anything, the workouts will give the Ravens coaching staff a glimpse of what kind of shape certain players are in and how the rookie class acclimates with the veterans, along with providing players a precursor to the mandatory June 16-18 minicamp.


For the Ravens, there will be plenty of storylines to watch:

How is Joe Flacco picking up Marc Trestman's offense?

This has become an annual talking point as the Ravens are on their fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons following Gary Kubiak's departure to become the head coach of the Broncos. Flacco, who has never used the turnover in playcallers as an excuse, had arguably the best season of his career under Kubiak.

The Ravens will keep the same West Coast-style offense they ran last year, though Trestman will put his own imprint on it. There obviously won't be a ton of offensive wrinkles revealed during OTAs, but it's an important time for Flacco to get to know some of his new targets and to continue to develop chemistry and familiarity with new quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg and Trestman, who has gotten high marks in his career for his work tutoring passers.

"I'm really excited about Marc being here," Flacco said late last month. "I think he's a great mind. I think he does a great job in the meeting room. My conversations with him have gotten me excited."

How much will Dennis Pitta and other veterans coming off injuries be able to participate?

The Ravens finished last season with 19 players on injured reserve, tying for the most during John Harbaugh's tenure. That list included running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, tight end Dennis Pitta, right tackle Rick Wagner, defensive linemen Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban, linebacker Arthur Brown, defensive backs Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson and Terrence Brooks, and long snapper Morgan Cox.

Players like Taliaferro, Brown and Jackson should be full participants. Others, like Wagner and Smith are more focused on being ready later this summer for training camp, and the same goes for center Jeremy Zuttah and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who are recovering from offseason hip and wrist surgeries respectively. Brooks won't be available until midseason at the earliest after he suffered a significant knee injury last December.


Much of the focus will remain on Pitta, who fractured and dislocated his hip last September for the second time in less than 15 months. The 29-year-old has been running and participating in the team's offseason program, and making good progress by all accounts. However, both Pitta and Harbaugh have been noncommittal about whether the tight end will be available for the 2015 season, saying that decision won't likely be made until later in the summer.

The Ravens are covered either way after drafting three tight ends (Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle) over the past two years. But the return of Pitta from another career-threatening injury would provide an inspirational lift.

Who will stand out in the wide receiver competition?

Nobody is suggesting that jobs will be won or lost over the next couple of weeks, but early impressions can go a long way, especially in a wide receiver competition that is expected to be tight.

The Ravens are carrying 11 wide receivers and only about six of them figure to make the final 53-man roster. Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and first-round pick Breshad Perriman are all pretty much locks if they are healthy.

That leaves very little room for the rest of the group which includes sixth-round pick Darren Waller, Jeremy Butler and Aldrick Robinson, and undrafted free agents Daniel Brown, DeAndre Carter and Cam Worthy. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are gone, but the Ravens have plenty of players that will try to fill their roles.


"I think you can never have too many horses in the stable," Steve Smith said earlier this month. "You always have playmakers. … Obviously, we lost some guys, so you got to replace those guys to some capacity."

What rookies will impress?

Ravens first-year players got their feet wet at the rookie minicamp earlier this month, but more will be expected during the OTAs. Coaches will be looking to see how much mental and physical progress the rookies have made over the past couple of weeks and how they respond to the established veterans joining them on the practice field.

"One thing we'll tell them is, 'Don't be intimidated. It's still football. We're just going to be playing football, OK? You know football, and you'll find when these guys get here, it's still going to be football, and it'll be fine. Just don't get tangled up with anybody,'" Harbaugh said earlier this month. "That's probably the main thing."

There will be plenty of attention paid to Perriman's hands, Williams' rapport with Flacco and how Waller uses his 6-foot-4, 240 pound frame. There's also much curiosity about Carter, who had 207 catches and 35 touchdowns in 41 career games at Sacramento State.

Will most of the team's veterans be in attendance?


Some of the Ravens' older players, like Marshal Yanda, Terrell Suggs, and Chris Canty, traditionally don't participate in on-field workouts this early, and nobody at the Ravens complex bats an eye.

In a perfect world, Harbaugh and his staff would love to have all of the healthy players on his 90-man roster participating, especially the offensive players who are still getting to know Trestman. But OTAs are "voluntary" and Harbaugh understands that some of his established veterans will opt to remain at home and work out on their own before the mandatory minicamp.

The Ravens don't spend too much time worrying about what players aren't there. In some cases, an established player not being present helps younger players get more repetitions. Arthur Brown certainly needs to be taking snaps at inside linebacker much more than Daryl Smith does at this time of year.

And of course, there's always concern of injuries during the OTAs.