Baltimore Ravens 2014 Training Camp Preview
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
REPORT DATES: July 16 (rookies), July 23 (veterans)
SITE: Under Armour Performance Center, Owings Mills, MD
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: This hasn't been the easiest offseason in the Charm City.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith became the fifth Ravens player to be arrested since the 2013 season ended when he was picked up disorderly conduct charges in mid- July. Smith joined an ignominious group which includes running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who was arrested for destruction of property and public intoxication, offensive lineman Jah Reid, who was charged with two counts of battery, and receiver Deonte Thompson, who was popped for marijuana.
The worst case, though, was star running back Ray Rice and his ugly domestic abuse issues with his now-wife Janay, stemming from a violent confrontation on an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. Rice met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in June and is almost surely facing a multi-game suspension.
"It's always the same high standard," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun when talking about the troubles. "We will always have the same high standard for our guys, and it's the same message. And we've emphasized what we need to with our guys. We have good, really good guys. Football matters to them. The more it matters to you, the less inclined you are to do anything to jeopardize that."
From a purely football standpoint, the loss of Rice might not be the worst thing in the world for the Ravens. The former All-Pro is clearly on the downside of a brilliant career and averaged a dismal 3.1 yards per rush last season. Of course, his prospective replacement, third-year man Bernard Pierce, was even worse, managing just 2.9 yards per rush.
KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: The biggest problem for the Ravens last season was the play of the offensive line, particularly at center where Gino Gradkowski was a disaster as the replacement for the retired Matt Birk. Baltimore sent a fifth-round pick to Tampa Bay for Jeremy Zuttah back in March and he's expected to solidify things.
"Jeremy Zuttah is doing a great job," Harbaugh said. "He's smart, really smart, really mature, goes about his business in a mature way. I'm just very impressed with how smart he is. He's very quick. He looks good physically in there, but he can move."
KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is regarded
as one of the best pure talent evaluators in football and he shined again this year, bolstering the interior of the front seven by snaring Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley at No. 17 overall.
The Ravens have been lacking a bit in the middle since losing Ray Lewis to retirement and Dannell Ellerbe to free agency after winning Super Bowl XLVII. Mosley, an instinctive read-and-react linebacker, should hit the ground running next to veteran Daryl Smith.
"He's such a solid football player," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said when discussing Mosley. "There are some concerns about his shoulder, but he was medically cleared by just about every team. He's a plug-and-play linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He pursues sideline to sideline. This is a typical Baltimore Ravens solid football player."
PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):
Aug 7 - vs. San Francisco, 7:30 PM Aug 16 - at Dallas, 7:00 PM Aug 23 - vs. Washington, 7:30 PM Aug 28 - at New Orleans, 8:00 PM
07/17 15:03:50 ET