With training camp looming on the horizon, summer vacation will soon come to an end for players and coaches. The start of the offseason program always carries with it a number of burning questions that teams hope to find answers for quickly. The Ravens have their fair share of questions for 2014 camp, many revolving around a new offensive scheme, injuries, suspensions, and new players.
The offseason is a time for teams to restock, reassess, and forget about past failures (or even successes). It is a reset button for the past, and the only time each team is on equal footing. Every fan feels like their team can win the Super Bowl. It is a time to be optimistic, but we are going to take this time to be realistic instead.
Here are three burning questions facing the Ravens going into training camp.
1. Is Bernard Pierce healthy and ready to be a workhorse?
Training camp has always been the target for Bernard Pierce to make his return from January’s shoulder surgery. The team has not wavered from this timeline and it looks all but certain that we will see Pierce taking handoffs soon. But as we have learned in the past, simply getting back on the field doesn’t ensure effectiveness.
In addition to recovering from surgery, Pierce is coming off a tough year. He undoubtedly will need to get back into football shape before he can even start to work on regaining past form. His progression through training camp and the preseason will have a huge impact on how carries will be split between himself, Justin Forsett, and impressive rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro.
2. How will weight changes affect Haloti Ngata, Elvis Dumervil, and Terrell Suggs?
All three have at least partially blamed their weight for a drop in production last season. Dumervil felt like he needed to gain weight to add durability in a “rugged” AFC North, while Ngata and Suggs worked to lose weight and improve conditioning. Weight changes are a dicey proposition in the NFL and have mixed results.
Better conditioning can improve durability, but will it affect performance? Sometimes it pays to have some extra weight when going up against massive offensive linemen. Sometimes that extra weight negatively affects speed. There is no scientific answer as to the ideal weight for these guys, so whether or not they did the right thing will show up on the field.
3. How will the new offensive system affect Torrey Smith’s production?
Torrey Smith has been a player on the rise, steadily increasing his numbers each season and learning to become a more complete receiver in that time. Add to that the motivation of a contract season, and it is fair to expect a total breakout year in 2014. The only thing that can stop him (barring injury) is a new scheme.
Gary Kubiak’s offense features the run heavily, only sprinkling in deep passes in small doses. Intermediate pass catchers like Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta figure to benefit more. Guys that run precise routes, have good timing with the quarterback, and aren’t afraid to take a hit.
This isn’t to say that Smith can’t be effective. We only need to look to Andre Johnson to see what type of numbers a top receiver in a Kubiak offense can produce. What remains to be seen is how Smith adapts to the scheme, and if he can continue to improve his route running to compensate for lack of deep targets.
What are your burning questions for the Ravens entering training camp?