Ravens' Heap healthy, regaining old form

OWINGS MILLS - Todd Heap leapt into the air, extending his arms high above his head to snare a Joe Flacco pass in the end zone while New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle hung on his back. Despite the obvious illegal contact penalty assessed to Rolle, Heap managed to haul in the 13-yard touchdown pass.

It was one of his six receptions for 69 yards during the Ravens' 24-10 victory Saturday night over the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium, and it represents a personal game-high for preseason production from Heap.

For Heap, it was another signal that he's fully recovered from the injuries that have plagued him in recent years and that he's rejuvenated by finally having some quality depth behind him after shouldering too big of a workload last season.

"I feel really good physically," Heap said. "My body feels good generally. I'm in a good place right now. I'm excited."

Although the two-time Pro Bowl selection started every contest last season and generated a respectable 53 receptions for 593 yards and six touchdowns for his top season statistically since 2006, he was often kept on the line on third downs as an extra blocker for pass protection. And L.J. Smith always being hurt ultimately took a toll on Heap, who logged a staggering amount of snaps.

Now that Heap is healthy and has capable reinforcements behind him in rookies Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, he's beginning to flash his old form.

"Since we've gotten here, there is no doubt this is the best that we've seen," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's been healthy. He's had a great offseason. He hasn't had to come back from any kind of injury he had the year before. He's making plays, and he's a real matchup problem for a defense right now."

Besides the touchdown, Heap caught a 21-yard pass over the middle and converted a fourth down with an 11-yard completion.

Operating the no-huddle offense, Flacco found familiar targets like Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason as well as new featured wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Mason was targeted 10 times and caught five passes for 35 yards.

"When everybody is involved on offense, it makes it very difficult on a defense," Mason said. "One week, it might be me. One week, it might be 'Quan. One week, it might be Todd or Ray Rice. It's going to vary from week to week. That's what you want as an offense."

Flacco said that he's simply going through his progressions and picking out his reads. Whoever's open is going to get the football directed toward them.

"It really is who has the matchup on him," Flacco said. "They are going to beat the guys at the line. Even if they don't, they are going to be in good position to go up and get the ball like Todd did. I'm just looking for whoever has the matchup and trying to work those guys."

Heap, 30, enters his 10th NFL season as the Ravens' all-time leader with 427 career receptions for 4,893 yards and 36 touchdowns. Heap spent part of this offseason building timing and chemistry with Flacco, who flew to Arizona for extra throwing sessions with him and Boldin. Now, it looks like that investment is going to pay dividends for Heap and the rest of the Ravens' skill players.

"When you see Joe throwing the ball the way he does and different guys getting the ball, that's what we want the offense to look like," Heap said. "I think everyone can see the talent. We're expecting a lot of guys to go out and make a lot of plays this year, a lot of guys winning their matchup.

"We're confident that Joe's going to put the ball where it needs to be. It's fun to get in that type of rhythm. You can see when he's releasing the ball, he's confident that it's going to get caught."


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