Top 10 Training Camp Sleepers, Pitta’s Versatile Role


Sep 15, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee (90) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to lunchtime links, where we round up all the latest Ravens news from around the web for your convenient consumption.  Today we have a slew of links including the top 10 training camp sleepers, Dennis Pitta’s versatile role in 2014, and how Pernell McPhee wants to lead the Ravens in sacks.

Shehan Peiris is pointing out 10 sleepers to watch in camp.  From the backup quarterback competition to the battle for the fifth wide receiver spot, it’s all here.  We are closely watching the running back competition, for one.  Bernard Pierce will need to quickly prove his health and effectiveness or he risks losing significant snaps to Justin Forsett or Lorenzo Taliaferro.

Speaking of the running back competition, Nick Kostos feels like the Ravens did not acquire a viable running back to push Rice or Pierce.  Kostos thinks the Ravens should have added a more established veteran via free agency.  I respectfully disagree, for a number of reasons.

Kostos lays partial blame on the offensive line, which is true.  But the zone blocking scheme Gary Kubiak is installing has made superstars out of lesser names than Rice, Pierce, Forsett, or Taliaferro.  You don’t have to be an elite back to succeed in this system, and how many elite backs are there in today’s NFL anyway?

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The Ravens moves (and lack thereof) suggest that they still have great confidence in both Rice and Pierce.  One bad season doesn’t mean that two guys who have had very effective careers are suddenly ineffective (at the same time, no doubt).  It points to a greater problem, which was a dysfunctional offense.

Aaron Wilson tells us that the Ravens envision a versatile role for Dennis Pitta.  Pitta has been lining up all over the formation in practice, working as a wide receiver and even lining up in the backfield.  All of which is music to fantasy football owner’s ears.  Pretty much everyone is predicting a huge breakout year for Pitta, and at this point anything less would be a disappointment.

Pernell McPhee doesn’t just want to regain his rookie season form (when he racked up six sacks), he wants to be the Raven’s sack leader in 2014.  It’s a lofty goal when you play behind guys like Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil.  Especially for a guy who has had exactly 3.5 sacks the past two seasons. But McPhee has struggled to get healthy to this point, and it’s good to see him motivated.

The Ravens and 49ers share more than just brother coaches – they share an identity, explains John Harbaugh.  All the more reason to have joint practices between the teams.  The elder Harbaugh has a point, as both teams rely on a stout defense and running game to win.  Both have also experienced great success under their respective coaches.

ESPN has the odds on several NFL players winning the MVP in 2014.  Not surprisingly, Joe Flacco comes in as a 100 to 1 long shot.  It’s well known that MVP’s typically put up huge numbers, and that isn’t Flacco’s game.  What is hilarious about this poll is Flacco has the same odds as Johnny Manziel.

Finally, Aaron Wilson tells us that the Ravens are happy with what they have seen out of Crockett Gillmore so far.  The rookie has proven to be a punishing and willing blocker in camp, which is exactly what he needs to be to earn snaps. Gillmore has great potential as an all around tight end, and could play a potentially much larger role next year if Owen Daniels moves on.