The search for the Ravens No. 2 wide receiver may have ended before it even started. If recent OTA’s are any indication that player fox-trotted on to the field for the first time this spring just last week.
His name – Jacoby Jones.
Most will probably think that Jones doesn’t show consistency as a ball catcher and that making him a bigger part of the offense will diminish his effectiveness as a return specialist. Last year he led the league with a 30.7 average on kick returns, scored 4 TD’s on special teams including the electrifying 108-yard kickoff return in the Super Bowl, and he was named All-Pro as a specialist.
When asked recently about the Ravens offense, coordinator Jim Caldwell repeatedly mentioned the team’s desire to “take the top off the defense.”
Essentially what he means is that with downfield speed courtesy of Jones and Torrey Smith and Joe Flacco’s big arm, opponents will be forced to commit resources to protect against the deep passing game and in doing so stretch them to the point that they are vulnerable underneath.
That then allows the Ravens to dissect the middle of the field and force opposing linebackers to cover the likes of Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson and Ray Rice amongst others.
Perhaps the first hint that the Ravens planned to utilize Jones more in 2013 can be found in his contract. He is due to be paid $4M this season, which includes a $1M bonus. That’s a lot of cake to pay a man who caught only 30 passes last season, particularly when taking into consideration that the Ravens parted ways with Anquan Boldin who caught 65 balls in 2012 and another 22 in the postseason. Boldin was due $6M in 2013.
The plan in theory makes sense. The Ravens don’t really need Jones to match Boldin’s catch total although when given the chance he can post respectable numbers like he did in 2010 when he snagged 51 balls as a member of the Texans.
But taking the top off the defense will allow Pitta to find those soft spots in coverage as he so adeptly does when attacking short zones. Or if opponents are in man coverage Caldwell can call upon the speed of Dickson on crossing routes. Dickson is a matchup nightmare and could force defensive coordinators to use more nickel packages, which then opens things up for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
Deonte Thompson is receiving praise from the coaching staff and if he can translate that into productivity on Sundays, his combination of speed, route running precision and change of direction skills can also place pressure on nickel and dime backs.
It’s a work in progress but one with potential, guided by the capable steering of Caldwell. Maybe Ozzie Newsome does find a veteran receiver who can help. Maybe he doesn’t but until such time Caldwell will “coach who shows up”.
With the proper ball distribution the Ravens can develop a more precise passing game that can keep defenses on their heels.
And then maybe, while they are taking the top off defenses, they can pop the top off more champagne bottles in New York come February.
It’s going to be a fun and interesting season.
NOTES: We would like to extend our heartfelt get-well wishes to young members of Ravens Nation who are ailing. On Saturday 5 year old Jalyn Shaw was struck by a motorist during the Ravens Beach Bash in Ocean City, MD and is recovering at Children’s Hospital in Baltimore… A speedy recovery is also our hope for Ashton Dean who was born with arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and is currently hospitalized while fighting complications caused by this condition. Please cheer Ashton on by liking his page on Facebook. Our condolences to the family of Ken Phillips and all of Ravens Nest 1 of Harford County. Ken who passed on June 1 was a long time member of Ravens Nest 1 and passionate Ravens fan. He is survived by his wife Ann, son Doug, and daughters Karen Decker and Lauren Gray, and grandchildren, great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.