Here are five thoughts concerning the Ravens:
1. Why Curtis Painter could wind up on the 53-man roster
Both John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron have commended the play of Tyrod Taylor, who put in a ton of work at the Under Armour Performance Center.
Taylor is someone who could wind up as a wildcat quarterback, or work in new wrinkles to keep defenses on their heels. If Taylor is to get more snaps, another quarterback with game experience on the roster would make the coaches feel more comfortable. Enter Painter, who started eight games for Indianapolis last year. Painter went winless but did earn valuable experience.
No, he'll never be a legitimate NFL starter but he's someone who wouldn't be awestruck f he had to come in due to injuries to Joe Flacco or Taylor. Harbaugh's expressed interest in keeping a third quarterback, and a source within the team stated there's a high likelihood Painter winds up on the team. He'll make the coaches' decision easier if he continues to have games like he did against Atlanta, when he threw for three touchdowns in the second half.
2. The Ravens would be smart to keep six receivers
With the NFL becoming a passing league, you can't have enough quality receivers to keep a defense honest. Baltimore kept six wideouts in 2011 and would be wise to do that again in 2012. It's clear who the top four wideouts are and it's not even up for debate: Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and LaQuan Williams.
Tandon Doss was impressive early in training camp but he's battled a hamstring injury through camp, and was also a little banged up during the offseason workouts. Doss has a skillset similar to Boldin's and can work the slot position well.
If healthy, Doss can be a valuable asset if Baltimore goes four-wide, with Boldin and Doss manning the inside receiver spots. At the sixth receiver spot you need a well-rounded wide receiver that can also play special teams.
The sixth receiver won't get much time on offense so he has to give production in other areas. Sixth round draft pick Tommy Streeter doesn't provide much of a special team presence. Deonte Thompson and David Reed do. The problem for Reed is he's still rehabbing an ACL injury and could be a candidate for injured reserve this year.
Thompson can play on both the kickoff coverage and return teams, as well as be an emergency return specialist. He can play all three receiver positions, and has been working out of the slot a lot. That would give Baltimore three slot guys — Boldin, Doss and Thompson — and three outside guys (Smith, Jones and Williams). That's a perfect combination for the high tempo offense Baltimore's looking to get going this year.
3. Will McKinnie really lose his job?
As crazy as it sounds, left tackle Bryant McKinnie's job could be in jeopardy. The team is impressed with how Michael Oher has performed at left tackle so far and have continued to start Oher there with rookie Kelechi Osemele on the right side.
McKinnie's rotated in with the first team but has primarily stayed with the second team. It will still be surprising to see Oher start the season at left tackle but at this point anything's possible. I figured McKinnie would have gotten his job back by now but that hasn't happened yet. The only thing left is to see who the coaches start on Friday against Detroit, and when McKinnie comes into the game.
4. The Ravens don't need a veteran backup running back...yet
Think about it like this: Given that the backup running back in Baltimore's offense receives about 100 carries per season, and that Ray Rice is a three-down back who will have the ball late in each game barring injury, do the Ravens really need to go out and get another back? If Rice goes down during the season, then yes, go get a back.
But to carry someone such as Ryan Grant or Thomas Jones this early wouldn't make much sense. Grant wasn't that productive in Green Bay, even with a top 3 NFL quarterback, and Jones would be a risk given his age.
Rookie Bernard Pierce is the prototype backup for Rice in this offense. He's a big back that makes one cut and runs downhill. He's had plenty of time to learn the playbook and all he has to do is get the preseason game reps. With all of that stated, if Pierce doesn't stand out in the next two preseason games, then yes, maybe it's time to look for a veteran backup.
5. Could Pernell McPhee be poised for a big year?
McPhee had six sacks as a third down pass rush specialist a year ago. That ranked second on the team — more than Haloti Ngata, more than Paul Kruger. McPhee feels he has something to prove, that he's not just a pass rusher.
At Mississippi State, he was actually commended for his run stopping skills. He's also put on a lot more muscle this offseason and looks physically imposing without losing any speed. He had the arthroscopic knee procedure this summer and missed some practice time early.
But McPhee rehabbed hard, and was seen doing a lot of running and cutting during those first few practices he missed. With Terrell Suggs missing the majority of the season with an Achilles injury, the Ravens will need those left on the roster to pick up the slack in the pass rush. McPhee could play a big part in that this year.
Ravens Thoughts: 3 QBs, 6 WRs and McPhee
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