Saturday, August 1, 2015, 6:59pm
Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken made a sound adjustment to the football Saturday afternoon, twisting his body underneath coverage to position himself for a difficult catch in traffic over the middle.
Aiken later duplicated that feat during the Ravens' first day of contact drills of training camp.
Competing for a starting job with rookie first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman and Marlon Brown, Aiken reinforced why the coaching staff is confident in his ability to handle a pivotal role in the offense.
"He had a strong day," Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. "He made an adjusted catch in tough coverage. Then, we had to run it again and he made the same catch. We all saw the same things, right?"
Aiken hadn't caught a pass in an NFL regular-season game prior to last year when he finished with 24 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Aiken emerged last season as a valuable reserve wide receiver and special-teams contributor and has continued to put distance between his new status and his old journeyman days in which he became a fixture on the NFL waiver wire as he was cut six times during his first three seasons. Perriman remains the favorite to win the job opposite Steve L Smith.
Marc Trestman is known for his pass-happy playbook, and the Baltimore Ravens are defined by a rugged running game under coach John Harbaugh.
So, what will the Ravens' offense look like in 2015? Three days into training camp, Trestman insists there will be no change in the offense's personality even though there is a change at play-caller.
"Ravens football starts with the running game, and that doesn't mean you're not going to throw the ball," Trestman said. "But the emphasis here is we want to be a great running football team and we have the players to do that. So that's where we start."
This would differ from Trestman's track record. He's known as the "quarterback whisperer" who turned Josh McCown into an effective passer in Chicago. His offenses feature quick, efficient passes and lots of throws to running backs. Playing power football hasn't been his reputation, the story pointed out. In Trestman's 12 years as a head coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL, his offenses have ranked in the top half of rushing attempts per game only twice. He's only had one season where his running game has finished higher than 16th. Either way, Justin Forsett is an interesting fantasy RB option after a great season last year running the ball. The speculation is Forsett will be a big part of the passing game, much like Matt Forte was in Chicago last year under Trestman. Forsett is shaping up to be a very solid RB2 option and is projected for 62 receptions.
Saturday, August 1, 2015, 3:42pm
Perriman landed on his knee while making a catch during the opening practice of training camp.
He's considered day-to-day, according to a source.
Cutting the amount of time Steve L Smith is on the field makes sense in theory, but ...
"I think it's going to be hard for both of us to do that," Smith said Friday.
"Because we're both competitors and we both want to win," Smith added.
"Steve and I have talked about how many reps he's going to play," Harbaugh said. "We'll probably know by the end of preseason how we feel about that, but sometimes you get to a game and you kind of need a guy in the end to make a play. I'm really hoping that we have enough guys who we like who we can roll receivers through there and play all those guys. I think we're deep, and if we turn out to be deep -- like we hope we are -- then all those guys will play.”
Smith was the #20 WR in standard formats and #18 in PPR, but he did most of his damage in the first six weeks of the season when he was #3 and #4, respectively. He was a fantasy WR4 the rest of the way, though he did have his moments. The Ravens can’t afford to put Smith out to pasture because they let Torrey Smith walk in free agency and the team’s receiver corps is severely lacking experience. Smith has some upside given his ADP (8th/9th round) and the arrival of pass-happy OC Marc Trestman, who should be able to figure out how to best utilize Smith’s skill set.
Down to 221 pounds, roughly eight pounds lighter than last season with 4 percent less body fat, Ravens RB Lorenzo Taliaferro has transformed his body this offseason as he competes with rookie Javorious Allen to be the primary backup to starter Justin Forsett.
Taliaferro also appears to be more decisive in his cuts.
"I’ve been impressed with Lorenzo," offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. "He’s fluid, he does everything right, he’s in the right places, he understands our protection package. I feel really confident when he’s behind Joe [Flacco] in the running game and in our pass protection scheme. He has been very consistent."
It sounds as if Taliaferro is well prepared for a camp battle with Allen. Forsett owners should pay close attention to see who will serve as his primary backup this season.
Perriman fell on his knee after making a sideline catch and walked off the field with a trainer with about 15 minutes left in practice. He seemed to favor his right leg, but he went into the team facility on his own power.
"It's not serious. It's all sound," coach John Harbaugh said. "He'll be back as soon as his knee feels a little bit better. It could be as early as tomorrow or a couple of days at the most."
Per Harbaugh, this is probably nothing to worry about. Hopefully Perriman will be back on the field within a few days. He needs all the practice reps he can get as he tries to win the starting job opposite Steve Smith.
Perriman has the physical tools (6’2, 4.24 40-yard dash), to replace Torrey Smith in the Ravens’ lineup from the start, but he has to learn Marc Trestman’s offense and prove that he can catch the ball consistently. His 8th round ADP seems about right given his upside in Trestman's offense.
Flip the calendar three months forward and Perriman enters training camp as a drastically better player, and he’s put himself in position to contend for a starting position (or at least a lot of snaps) right away.
The aspect of Perriman’s game that critics have harped on most is his hands. Perriman showed solid hands throughout most of Organized Team Activities and minicamp, but he did have one practice with about four drops, which has continued the narrative.
The Ravens placed tight end Dennis Pitta and free safety Terrence Brooks on the physically unable to perform list, an unsurprising development considering the severity and timing of their respective injuries.
Pitta has rehabilitated his surgically repaired right hip after fracturing and dislocating it for a second time last September. However, it remains unclear if he'll be medically cleared to play again. Pitta is likely to begin the regular season on the reserve list and would be required under NFL rules to miss at least the first six games of the regular season.
With Pitta out, Crocket Gillmore and Maxx Williams are vying for snaps as the team's starter, and Gillmore (a former third-round pick) reportedly has the edge on the rookie Williams.
Perriman has the physical tools (6’2, 4.24 40-yard dash), to replace Torrey Smith in the Ravens’ lineup from the start, but he has to learn Marc Trestman’s offense and prove that he can catch the ball consistently. If Gillmore wins the starting job, he'll be a deep sleeper in Trestman's TE-friendly offense.
Shorter passes, including ones aimed at running backs, are also prevalent in Browns OC John DeFilippo’s West Coast system. As a result, rookie Duke Johnson, the University of Miami’s all-time leading rusher whom the Browns drafted in the third round, will be counted on to fill a prominent role from the beginning.
Johnson poses the greatest receiving threat among this group, so he’ll have a lot on his plate in his first professional season. The coaching staff plans to move him into different spots, including receiver, in hopes of creating mismatches.
The Browns, though, are not relying on Johnson to become their starter right away. They would like him to eventually develop into the role, but they realize it might not happen immediately.
So at this point, Isaiah Crowell, who entered the league undrafted last year, is the favorite to start. A third-round draft pick in 2014, Terrance West will receive chances to earn carries as well, but his job security is more vulnerable after being benched twice last season because the coaches weren’t pleased with his preparation.
Crowell out-touched Terrance West 90 to 68 over the final seven games, but West had the last laugh, turning 20 touches into 106 yards and a TD against the Ravens in Week 17. (A seemingly healthy Crowell touched the ball five times for 22 yards.) In PPR formats, Johnson is the only running back in Cleveland that interests us. At this point, there is just too much uncertainty with Crowell/West in terms of who will get the carries in any given week.
Ravens TE Dennis Pitta is likely to begin training camp and the regular season on the physically unable to perform list, according to NFL sources. If Pitta began the season on the reserve list, he would be required to miss at least the first six games of the season.
Pitta hasn't been medically to practice since his second serious hip injury in as many years. He has rehabilitated the hip to the point where he's able to do some route running and individual drills, but wasn't allowed to fully participate during the Ravens' offseason practices.
Crockett Gilmore and Maxx Williams are vying for snaps at tight end, a position that was heavily involved in Marc Trestman's offense during his days in Chicago.
Ryan Mink of the Ravens' official website believes that TE Crockett Gillmore has a good chance to break out: Gillmore showed strong hands last year and they have only gotten better. He struggled with drops last training camp. So far this summer, he’s hardly let a ball touch the ground. He’s had another year in the offensive system, so he won’t be thinking as much on the field. Plus, Gillmore is massive. He was a big guy last year, but added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason. He’s still got the ability to stretch the field, which he showed by catching numerous jump balls in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp. Flacco seemed to develop a real comfort with Gillmore during the practices.
Gillmore is more of a blocker than a receiver but as the article notes, Gillmore has improved in that facet of the game. There is opportunity at the position with Dennis Pitta still sidelined and Owen Daniels in Denver, but the team drafted Maxx Williams as the long-term answer, so it's not clear how big of a receiving role Gillmore will have in 2015. Martellus Bennett shined under then-HC Marc Trestman in Chicago, so there is some upside for whoever wins the starting job in Baltimore. Fantasy-wise, rookie tight ends are notoriously disappointing, so this may be a muddled situation this season.
Ravens WR Steve L Smith will presumably lock down one of the starting spots. Despite the possibility of a lightened snap count for the veteran, Smith Sr. will play a huge role in the passing game. He’s the unquestioned leader of the group.
Smith was the #20 WR in standard formats and #18 in PPR, but he did most of his damage in the first six weeks of the season when he was #3 and #4, respectively. He was a fantasy WR4 the rest of the way, though he did have his moments. The Ravens can’t afford to put Smith out to pasture because they let Torrey Smith walk in free agency and the team’s receiver corps is severely lacking experience. Smith has some upside given his ADP (8th/9th round) and the arrival of pass-happy OC Marc Trestman, who should be able to figure out how to best utilize Smith’s skill set on a more consistent basis.
Detroit has thrown the ball more than it has rushed it every season since 2001 according to ESPN Stats & Information. The closest the Detroit Lions have come to "balance" was in 2004, when Detroit ran the ball 407 times and attempted 505 passes.
In Detroit's more successful seasons, the Lions have trended much heavier toward the pass. In 2011, one of the two seasons Detroit made the playoffs this century, the Lions rushed the ball 356 times and had 666 passing attempts, completing 423 of them.
Last season, Detroit ran the ball 396 times and threw it 604 times, completing 365 passes. So while the Lions appeared to focus their draft on improving a run game that had its worst yards per carry since 2003, don't expect to see a massive play-call shift.
"It's all quarterbacking," former NFL QB Elvis Grbac said. "I got in a league where Drew Bledsoe was starting to come in and just in the last 10 years, retired since 2001, so it's been some time. But just the league in general, it's quarterback-driven. If you don't have a quarterback, you're screwed."
The story went on to say: A 50-50 split hasn't been typical for Jim Caldwell historically. In his three seasons as head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts never rushed more than 393 times in a season. They never threw less than 534 times in a year, and that was in 2011 when Peyton Manning was injured. The only sample size in which a team coordinated or led by Caldwell has had more runs than passes came during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012, when Caldwell took over leading into Week 15. Through the final three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens ran the ball 249 times and passed it 235 times. The following season was more in line with what happened in Indianapolis, where Baltimore had 423 rushes to 619 passes.
Much of the same is expected this year, and the story mentioned how Grbac thinks QB Matthew Stafford has progressed nicely in the offense. The team lost pass-catching RB Reggie Bush, but seems to have a more than capable replacement in Ameer Abdullah, who looks like he's going to hurt the value of Theo Riddick. Both Joique Bell and Abdullah crack our top-31 backs, with Abdullah having top-25 potential in PPR leagues. Stafford is just 13th on our QB list, but if WR Calvin Johnson can stay healthy Stafford could crack the top-10 and be a nice value at QB with an ADP of the ninth round.
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