August 3, 2017 -- Sports columnist Mike Preston believes the identity of the Ravens has not changed from last season. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
The Ravens are keeping quiet about the availability of receiver Breshad Perriman. Maybe it's because his hamstring injury is more serious than expected or there is no need to rush him back onto the practice fields.
It's probably the latter. Perriman, in his third season, is the X-factor of the offense in 2017. Everything else about this unit is predictable. The Ravens have a solid running game, a below average offensive line, an unhealthy group of tight ends and an injured quarterback who is good but not great.
The top two receivers are set and they know what they're getting there, too. On one side is speedster Mike Wallace, who can turn a short pass into a big play. Then there is versatile veteran Jeremy Maclin, who can play inside or outside and become a possession-type receiver.
As for Perriman, he has no value at this time but he is an intriguing prospect. As of Thursday he missed his third straight practice with a hamstring injury.
Before the injury Perriman was having a good training camp. In fact, since last season, there was notable progress in every offseason minicamp. His confidence had grown and you could see it in his route running.
He was getting his arms away from his body to catch passes. His sheer speed allowed him to blow by cornerbacks. Perriman was starting to look like the receiver the Ravens expected when they made him the team's top draft pick and No. 26 overall selection in the 2015 NFL draft.
Those dreams aren't gone but the Ravens are in limbo even though hope is still alive.
"He was having a good camp. I'm excited about him. Things happen for a reason, and maybe this is a blessing in disguise," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after Thursday's practice. "We'll continue to work on all the things he needs to work on, in terms of his body, catching, and things like that.
"I would say he's had a 'plus' camp, and hopefully, it'll lead to a really good season. I'll also follow with: I wish we had him out there practicing the rest of the time, obviously, but that's what we have right now."
If Perriman can play and stay healthy, he presents a lot of problems for defenses. Like Wallace a year ago, when he teamed with Steve Smith Sr., Perriman can work underneath and turn a short clearing pass into a long gainer.
With Wallace as the No. 1 receiver and Maclin in the slot, Perriman should be able to win a lot of matchups against No. 2 or No. 3 cornerbacks. He can be the primary target or a decoy, but opposing teams always have to respect Perriman because of his speed, which is the great equalizer.
"I hope you guys see what I see just in terms of his approach mentally – [it's] great," Ravens receivers coach Bobby Engram said. "You see the raw speed on the field, but the route running and catching the football has greatly improved. I think he has been a lot more consistent."
We've only seen glimpses of Perriman's star potential. He was targeted 66 times last season and had 33 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns. But for each tough catch he made there were several others that simply bounced off his hands or body.
It is sad watching Perriman with these recurring injuries because he appears to be a nice kid who works extremely hard.
He missed the entire 2015 campaign because of partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He missed most of training camp last season because of a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
It's hard to bounce back from any injury, but it might be harder when you were a top draft pick with enormous expectations.
Perriman's presence in the lineup would make a difference. Terrance West is a solid running back but other teams won't fear him. The Ravens could use proven starters at center and right tackle, two positions in which they will probably struggle the entire season.
The Ravens have a revolving door at tight end and quarterback Joe Flacco has been nursing a back problem since the start of training camp. Perriman's return would give the Ravens some instant relief.
The Ravens have a top notch kicker in Justin Tucker and a defense that will keep them in just about every game.
But on offense they are going to have to squeeze out every point and they will need big plays. The Ravens need Perriman.
"I think he will be fine," Engram said of Perriman. "Obviously, it is a part of our profession, which none of us like to deal with. But mentally, he is in a really good place. He has a great group of guys in this room that are supporting him. He knows this organization is behind him. He just has to get healthy, come back and let's roll."