Heading into Thursday's nationally-televised preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens' intent is clear. In what is expected to be the last extended playing time for the starters before the Sept. 5 regular-season opener in Denver, the Ravens are focused on developing some momentum and rhythm on offense.
Three-receiver sets were by far the most commonly used personnel grouping in the NFL last season. Even the Ravens used them on nearly half of their snaps. By putting an extra wide receiver on the field, the Ravens are able to stretch defenses and take full advantage of Flacco's strong arm. They are still trying to determine which three wideouts are their best combination, but the three-receiver sets are here to stay in Baltimore and in the NFL as a whole.
With as many as six new defensive starters from the team that won Super Bowl XLVII in February, it was probably inevitable that the Ravens would deal with some communication issues, especially this early in training camp. However, a few too many surfaced in the Ravens' preseason-opening 44-16 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce took turns tearing through defenses last season. But in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, the Ravens sent the Pro Bowl running back and his rookie understudy onto the field together for the first time all season.
Apparently in the two weeks after the season-ending injury to tight end Dennis Pitta, the Baltimore Ravens had seen enough of their young receiving corps and a patchwork group of tight ends to decide they needed to bring in a pair of veteran slot specialists.
Wanting to add more depth at wide receiver and give quarterback Joe Flacco a couple of reliable, veteran targets, the Ravens struck deals with wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark, two former Indianapolis Colts who have familiarity with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
As soon as he saw the ball hit Dennis Pitta's hands, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw his arms up in the air anticipating a touchdown. Pitta had made similar plays so many times last season and there was nothing to suggest that Flacco's first throw during the Ravens' third full-team practice would result in anything different.
Pitta was a clutch target who was particularly valuable to quarterback Joe Flacco on key third downs and red-zone situations. He is a skilled route runner with arguably the most reliable hands on the Super Bowl champions' roster.
As his newest tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe, ran extra routes on an adjacent field, Ravens coach John Harbaugh stepped behind a microphone and confirmed that the team's worst fears were true on tight end Dennis Pitta.
As the Ravens start training camp this week, few players are as eager as Streeter to prove themselves. The 2012 sixth-round draft pick from the University of Miami is completely healthy now after diligently rehabilitating his lower body in the training room and weight room for an injury that didn't require surgery.
Months before they would lift the Lombardi Trophy into the confetti-filled air, the Ravens' top decision makers started to have regular discussions about the future of the organization and the potentially wide-scale changes it would face following the 2012 season.
After catching just 41 passes in his first two NFL seasons, Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens emerged as one of the NFL's better pass-catching tight ends in 2012. And there is reason to believe Pitta could be even more productive in 2013.
Only once in Joe Flacco's first five seasons in the NFL has the quarterback ranked among the top 10 players at his position in fantasy points scored. That could change this season, though, if the Baltimore Ravens continue to open up their passing attack with Flacco.
Last season, which started with Cam Cameron calling the plays and ended with Jim Caldwell assuming those duties, only four teams ran the ball out of single-back sets less frequently than the Baltimore Ravens, who used two backs on a whopping 64 percent of their running plays, according to Football Outsiders.
The Baltimore sports scene is blessed with a bunch of talented bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. This week, we exchanged emails with Phil Gentile, who blogs about the Baltimore Ravens for Purple Reign.
Given that track record of success after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, Harbaugh is maintaining his low-key approach and staying the course. When asked if he's consulting with other coaches that have won championships as far as how they attempted to defend their titles, Harbaugh indicated he'll continue to consult with his usual advisors.
The Baltimore sports scene is blessed with a bunch of talented bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. This week, we exchanged emails with Dan Bryden, who blogs about the Ravens for Baltimore Sports and Life.
A former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who's the NFL's all-time active leader with 61 interceptions, Reed signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Houston Texans following the Super Bowl. He's ranked 18th on the list.
Now, the Ravens are transitioning at center to Gino Gradkowski. Although Gradkowski will face competition from former Indianapolis Colts center AQ Shipley, he remains the frontrunner to win the starting job.
After last week's mandatory minicamp, Ravens players and coaches have gone their separate ways. After a productive 12 months, they should savor these next few weeks before getting back to business in late July.