Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
While Organized Team Activity, or the “OTA’s”, are not mandatory for professional football players, the coaching staff and personnel find it to be a great time to evaluate the players as well as the upcoming season. The Baltimore Ravens, who are just a few months fresh off of a Super Bowl victory, began OTA’s on May 21st, which last for three weekends, ending on June 7, 2013. For the Ravens, the main goals for these three weekends is to install the basic style of play for the coming season and gauge the players’ current physical fitness. But the only catch about OTA’s is that the athletes are not required to be there. So are the OTA’s a valuable opportunity for the Ravens to scope out how the upcoming season will play out?
Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees believes it is a great opportunity. As the Ravens defense approaches the 2013 season, there are major adjustments to be made to the line up. With the retirement of linebacker Ray Lewis and the departure of free safety Ed Reed, Pees is looking for strong replacements. According to Pees at a post-OTA press conference, the Ravens defense changes every year and when one person leaves, he looks for the next man to come forward. “No matter who it is, someone always ends up stepping up and has to step up to be the next guy in that situation,” Pees said about what the Ravens need for victory. “We have to be better than we were a year ago.”
In anticipation for training camp, the Ravens’ defense has to focus on the specifics in order to be better than they were a year ago. With an influx of new defenders, that could take a little more work than it has in previous years. The greatest way to be the best is for healthy competition among the players. Starters need to fight to keep their position and second and third stringers need to fight to take that position away from the starters.
The Ravens’ offense is a different story. The offense’s key to victory is consistency. Being consistent with last year’s team and maintaining that same equilibrium is crucial for success.
Similar to the defense, the offense has taken a major hit with the loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers. Boldin’s departure opens the doors for returning wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Jones will be exposed to more opportunities as a receiver on offense as well as his role on special teams with his fast feet and ability to catch what seems like almost any ball that comes at him.
Joe Flacco is the most critical component to the Ravens’ need for consistency this upcoming season. Appropriately nicknamed “Joe Cool”, Flacco has the ability to remain focused and calm in virtually any situation. When asked about Flacco in a post-OTA press conference, Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell says that his quarterback has one of the strongest arms in the league and a consistency that cannot be rivaled. “What I think is a great benefit is when you do have a guy with a strong arm and you have guys that can really run; we have a couple of guys that can really stretch the field,” Caldwell states. “Often times you may find guys that can stretch the field, but guys can’t get it to them consistently. Joe [Flacco] can.” A Super Bowl ring has not changed Flacco’s mentality and approach to the game. According to Caldwell, Flacco loves the game more than ever.
While Dean Pees and Jim Caldwell have opposite tasks at hand for the upcoming season, they both have to tailor their game plan around their players. Pees is the returning Defensive Coordinator with a practically brand new group of defenders to work with. Caldwell, on the other hand, is entering his first full year as Offensive Coordinator with the same returning offense. As long as Pees can make the best of his “clean slate” on defense and Caldwell can maintain consistency on offense, there is only room for improvement and the Super Bowl XLVII Champion Baltimore Ravens will be even better than they were last year.