As the Ravens prepare for their mandatory three-day minicamp June 12-14, all eyes will be on the continued development of the passing game.
It was clear in the previous workouts last month that coach John Harbaugh has placed an emphasis on throwing the ball downfield.
Quarterback Joe Flacco obliged his coach by continuously dropping back and throwing ball over the secondary.
So far, the results have been encouraging.
“We do have some speed,” Harbaugh said. “The quarterbacks are doing a good job of pushing the ball downfield and forcing them to go make plays on the ball deep. That’s how we like to throw deep. We want to throw it out there and go get it.”
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome signed three free-agent receivers — Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead — to help boost a passing attack that was ranked 29th in the league last season. Flacco and the receivers appear fully healthy, so they have been actively engaged in developing chemistry and refining their timing.
Harbaugh has been especially impressed with Crabtree’s work ethic, which has set a positive example to some of the younger players.
“He’s been a good leader,” Harbaugh said “Crab has done a great job. He’s a really hard worker. He has a great feel for the game, a lot of the tricks of the trade he understands, and he’s willing to share with those guys. He’s been great for our locker room, for our meeting room. He’s been good for those [younger] guys.”
Third-year wideout Chris Moore has also made some impressive catches in the offseason camps.
In addition to throwing the ball downfield, Flacco is also looking to boost the intermediate passing game and take advantage of some matchups in the middle of the field. Snead already looks like he is ready to play a key role in the slot.
“That’s the challenge – to get the passing game precise in everything we do, and we work every day to try to do it,” Harbaugh said. “Call it chemistry. [But] to me, it’s execution. That’s what we’re working for, and they’ve done a good job.”
In addition to boosting the group of wide receivers, Newsome also selected a pair of tight ends — Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews — in the first three rounds of this year’s draft. Both of those players have also played well in their first NFL camp.
The competition among the two rookies will be another interesting dynamic heading into full training camp.
“[Hurst] is just a talented guy,” Harbaugh said. “It matters to him. I’m excited about he and Mark [Andrews]. Both of those two guys … The tight ends have a lot of football on their plate. So the biggest challenge that they have is to not think their way through the play.
“That’s always going to be the toughest thing when you have so many options as a tight end, because you’re both in the run game and the pass game and the pass protection. I want to see those guys even more and more cut it loose and play fluid and smooth, and not think quite as much. They’re trying to do that.”