It’s tough to read too much into OTAs. With no pads and a lack of physicality, you can only take away so much from the the first couple weeks of preparation. Despite this, there will obviously be some early opinions and first impressions made by both the coaching staff and media.
Generally speaking, most of the things you are hearing out of Ravens camp have been positive after an offseason that was filled with mostly negative news.
Steve Smith looks more like he just turned 25 rather than 35. Kelechi Osemele seems to be fully recovered from back surgery, and Dennis Pitta looks like Dennis Pitta from 2012.
But perhaps the most common sentiment among everything you read, is how impressive Justin Forsett has looked. As RSR’s Tony Lombardi pointed out in his early OTA takeaways, Forsett is the fastest player on the field. His quickness and ability to change direction hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff, and he has a familiarity with Gary Kubiak’s offense.
Most importantly, he is the only running back on the Ravens roster who isn’t either injured or found trouble off the field this offseason.
With Bernard Pierce recovering from shoulder surgery, and Ray Rice and Lorenzo Taliaferro possibly missing time early in the season because of suspensions, Forsett is likely to not just make the team, but play a significant role early in the season.
So perhaps the biggest question is, what will the Ravens do if he plays well?
Despite their struggles last season, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce will be given the opportunity to redeem themselves. A lot of people think Rice’s best years are behind him, and they may be right, but the Ravens will give him the opportunity to prove them wrong.
Pierce was a third-round pick in 2012, and flashed great potential in his rookie campaign. While his sophomore season left much to be desired, he gets a pass considering the overall state of last year’s offense and more specifically the offensive line.
The Ravens invested a fourth round pick in Lorenzo Taliaferro. He is the big bodied, goal line bruiser who fills a team need. His arrest was poorly timed and disappointing, but considering where he was drafted and the many question marks that linger in coach Thomas Hammock’s unit, he’s all but a lock to make the team.
Add it up and it represents a golden opportunity for journeyman Justin Forsett?
What if he makes the most of his opportunities early on?
If he’s the Ravens number one running back in weeks 1 and 2 and has back to back 100 yard games to start the season, what does John Harbaugh do if Rice returns from his suspension in week 3?
One can certainly make the argument that despite his down year in 2013, Rice deserves the opportunity to redeem himself and prove his critics wrong. Considering how important he’s been to the Ravens offense the last six years, he’s earned it.
But if Forsett seizes his opportunities, and his success in practice transitions to production on the field, John Harbaugh and the coaching staff will have to find a way to work him into the game plan, even if that takes touches away from Rice or Pierce.
Considering he’s only made headlines so far for the right reasons, he’s earned it too.