As the Baltimore Ravens prepare for training camp, their goals remain unchanged.
Upgrade the passing game, rebuild the running game, protect quarterback Joe Flacco and identify a starting right offensive tackle.
The Ravens allowed 48 sacks last season, ranked 30th in rushing offense and Rick Wagner is the front-runner to start at right tackle.
The defense needs to determine who will be the nickel back among a competition between Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson and newly-signed veteran corners Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks.
The Ravens also want to improve their deep passing game.
One year after throwing 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions on passes 20 yards or greater, Flacco had one touchdown and nine interceptions on those type of passes last season.
And they hired offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who doesn't have a huge reputation for deep throws.
"Don't sleep on that, but the way he is, he's going to take what you give us," Jones said. "If you're going to sit there and play (underneath) all game - you're going to give it to us - why not? Just chip away and throw it down the field. It's football. It's a chess match."
Rookies, injured veterans report: July 17
Veterans report: July 23
First practice: July 24
Camp ends: Aug. 14
--Ravens Pro-Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is back to 100 percent after dealing with shoulder pain last season following rotator cuff surgery last year.
"Injuries are part of the NFL," Yanda said. "They're just a part of it. So, you take it one day at a time, and you definitely do as best you can that day. Last year at this time I wasn't even lifting yet, and this year now I've been lifting for a long time and feeling good. You can't change that, so you just take it one day at a time. You approach it as a pro and you get after it."
Yanda, 28, is entering his eighth NFL season and has two years remaining on his five-year, $32 million contract with $5.5 million base salaries due this year and in 2015.
The gritty Iowa native was named to the NFL Network top 100 players list for the first time, ranked 55th overall in voting by NFL players.
"Marshal is your typical Iowa lineman, a really tough kid with his technique down to a science," former Chicago Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel told The Baltimore Sun last year. "He's got that farm-boy strength, and you could run a clinic by watching his technique. He's considered an overachiever because he's undersized, but he's as good at what he does as anyone in the league."
-- Despite a quiet second half of the season last year, Ravens Pro-Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was voted the 26th-ranked player on the NFL Network top 100 list.
Suggs was ranked 56th last year, and 11th in 2011 when he was named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, Suggs had 80 tackles and 10 sacks.
--The Ravens cut three undrafted rookies: safety Dexter Moody (Albany State), linebacker Xavius Boyd (Western Kentucky) and cornerback Avery Patterson (Oregon).
Boyd was waived-injured with a hamstring injury and later released from injured reserve.
Moody had drawn praise from Ravens coach John Harbaugh during the final day of a mandatory minicamp, but the team is crowded at safety.
"Dexter is a very good athlete," Harbaugh said. "He has size, speed. He's a tough guy with good hand-eye coordination. Coming from a smaller school, he's had more to learn. He's done a pretty good job with it, but that's always a challenge with a young guy like that."
--The Ravens signed four veteran players and one undrafted rookie late in the offseason.
The Ravens signed former New York Giants cornerbacks Aaron Ross and former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dominique Franks, undrafted rookie linebacker Nick DiMarco, former Dolphins linebacker Austin Spitler and former San Diego Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie.
Ross and Franks are the headliners of the group and were brought in to add depth to one of the team's thinnest positions and to provide competition for Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson at the third cornerback spot.
--Team strength: Outside linebacker.
This is a strength for the Ravens, with bookend Pro Bowl outside linebackers in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. They combined for 19.5 sacks last season. Healthy this season, both Suggs and Dumervil appear ready for bigger things this season.
Breakout player: Tight end Dennis Pitta.
Primed for a big season, Pitta is healthy again after missing time last year with a fractured, dislocated right hip. He signed a five-year $32 million contract in March to stay with the Ravens. Pitta appears tailor-made for offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's tight-end friendly offense.
--Fantasy football reality check: Wide receiver Marlon Brown.
Keep an eye on Brown. He caught seven touchdowns as an undrafted rookie to lead the team in touchdowns. He could be a red-zone threat again this year.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Joe Flacco, Backups -- Tyrod Taylor, Keith Wenning.
Flacco didn't live up to the expectations that accompany a blockbuster $120.6 million contract as he threw a franchise-record 22 interceptions. It was an uncharacteristic season for the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player. Some of the biggest priorities for the Ravens are providing Flacco with more time to throw and getting him into a comfort zone. He was sacked 48 times last season and clearly didn't look comfortable. He has looked sharp during offseason minicamps and organized team activities. "It's a new year, a new beginning and a chance to do new things," Flacco said. "I think we've got a good team and an offense that can put up some numbers." Taylor remains the backup heading into the final year of his rookie contract. He provides an athletic change of pace as insurance behind Flacco. Wenning didn't look ready to be the backup during offseason practice sessions.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Dennis Pitta. Backups - Owen Daniels, Crockett Gillmore, Phillip Supernaw, Nathan Overbay.
Pitta has regained his old explosiveness after fully recovering from a fractured, dislocated hip that sidelined him for all but four games last season. He was signed to a five-year, $32 million contract in March. The Ravens also signed Daniels to work in tandem with him. Daniels has looked good in offseason practices and the Ravens are likely to use plenty of double tight-end sets. Gillmore figures into the equation as a blocking tight end.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Steve Smith, Torrey Smith. Backups - Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Kamar Aiken, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams, Gerrard Sheppard, Jeremy Butler, Jace Davis, Mike Willie.
The addition of Steve Smith should give the Ravens an injection of toughness and experience the team has missed since trading Anquan Boldin. Torrey Smith should have more room to operate with Steve Smith working underneath. Brown is a red-zone threat who led the team in touchdown catches as a rookie. Jones has speed and size working in his favor, but isn't the most well-rounded receiver. Campanaro is an option out of the slot.
The running game remains an area of concern because a heavier, hobbled Rice stumbled to a 660-yard season where he lacked tackle-breaking capabilities and his trademark elusiveness. He played as heavy as 225 pounds. He is now down to 210 pounds, which should help him regain his Pro-Bowl form. Rice had a serious off-field issue this offseason where he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault for a domestic violence incident involving his wife. If Rice isn't suspended under the NFL personal-conduct policy, he should be set for a resurgent season. He should be extremely motivated to rebuild his reputation after a season he's acknowledged was awful. Pierce wasn't any better than Rice and is coming off rotator cuff surgery. The Ravens are going to give rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, a 230-pound small-school standout, a long look during training camp. Juszczyk is a versatile, pass-catching fullback. His blocking remains unproven. Forsett is a potential third-down back.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Eugene Monroe, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Rick Wagner. Backups -- LT James Hurst, LT David Mims, LG John Urschel, C Gino Gradkowski, C Reggie Stephens, RG A.Q. Shipley, RG Will Rackley, RT Ryan Jensen, RT Jah Reid, RT Parker Graham, RT Brett Van Sloten.
The Ravens re-signed Monroe as the cornerstone of their line to a $37.5 million contract. Osemele looked good during the spring after undergoing back surgery last fall. Zuttah should be an upgrade at center after arriving via an offseason trade. Yanda is the lone Pro-Bowl selection and is the mainstay of the line. Wagner is the biggest question mark as a first-time starter at right tackle. Gradkowski is the primary backup inside after starting every game at center last season.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- DT Brandon Williams, NT Haloti Ngata, DE Chris Canty. Backups -- DE Brent Urban, DE DeAngelo Tyson, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, DT A.J. Pataiali'i, DT Timmy Jernigan, DT Derrick Hopkins, DT Levi Brown, DT Jamie Meder.
The defensive line is in transition, with Arthur Jones leaving in free agency to join the Indianapolis Colts. Jernigan is competing with Williams, Tyson and Lewis-Moore to take over Jones' versatile role. The Ravens will need Ngata to be even more disruptive inside. Canty was far too quiet in his first season in Baltimore and could be pressed for playing time by Urban.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Terrell Suggs, OLB Courtney Upshaw, ILB Daryl Smith, ILB C.J. Mosley. Backups -- OLB Elvis Dumervil, ILB Arthur Brown, ILB Josh Bynes, OLB Nick DiMarco, ILB Albert McClellan, ILB Zach Orr, OLB Pernell McPhee, OLB John Simon, ILB Austin Spitler, OLB D.J. Roberts.
Although he's been in the NFL for a decade, Smith is one of the most underrated all-around defenders in the NFL. Smith remains fast in pursuit, sharp in pass coverage and is a good blitzer, contributing 123 tackles, three interceptions and five sacks last year as he proved he has plenty of good football left in him. Mosley is the front-runner to start next to Smith at inside linebacker. Suggs made the Pro Bowl for the sixth time, but the Ravens want to see him become more productive for the entire season after watching him wear down last year with just two sacks in the final nine games. In a situational pass-rusher role, Dumervil delivered 9.5 sacks before an ankle injury slowed him down. Upshaw unselfishly stuffs blockers and sets the edge at strong-side outside linebacker.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Lardarius Webb, CB Jimmy Smith, FS Darian Stewart, SS Matt Elam. Backups -- CB Aaron Ross, CB Dominique Franks, CB Chykie Brown, CB Asa Jackson, CB Deji Olatoye, CB Sammy Seamster, CB Tramain Jacobs, FS Terrence Brooks, FS Omar Brown, SS Anthony Levine, SS Brynden Trawick.
The Ravens exercised a fifth-year option for 2011 first-round pick Smith, who has emerged as one of the better young cornerbacks in the game. Webb was starting to get back his quickness and trust his surgically-repaired knee by the end of last season and should be back to full strength this year. Safety is an area of concern where the Ravens are hoping to move Elam back to his natural strong safety position to capitalize on his aggressiveness. To be able to make this move, either Brooks or Stewart needs to prove they can be counted on at free safety. Stewart is atop the depth chart for now. Nickel back is being contested between Brown, Jackson, Ross and Franks after Corey Graham signed with the Buffalo Bills.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch, LS Morgan Cox, RS Jacoby Jones, P Richie Leone.
This is one of the Ravens' strongest units, led by Tucker, a Pro-Bowl selection. Tucker emerged as a budding star last season with his clutch performances, including a franchise-record 61-yarder to beat the Detroit Lions as he booted six field goals. Tucker has become a reliable scoring weapon with his ability to hit long-distance field goals. Jones remains an explosive threat as a return man, helping the Ravens beat the Minnesota Vikings in the snow with a kickoff return for a touchdown last season. Koch was rumored to be on thin ice due to his salary-cap figure, but head coach John Harbaugh has insisted that the veteran punter is safe. The Ravens value the chemistry between Tucker, Koch, their holder, and reliable long snapper Cox.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Bernard Scott (not tendered as UFA).
--WR Brandon Stokley (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--S Omar Brown (tendered at $570,000) will need a strong training camp to make the team.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--LB C.J. Mosley (1/17): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Timmy Jernigan (2/48): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Terrence Brooks (3/79): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Crockett Gillmore (3/99): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Brent Urban (4/134): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (4/138): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C/G John Urschel (5/175): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Keith Wenning (6/194): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Michael Campanaro (7/218): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Josh Bynes: ERFA; $570,000/1 yr.
--LB D.J. Bryant: ERFA; $420,000/1 yr.
--NT Terrence Cody: UFA; $730,000/1 yr.
--LB Adrian Hamilton: ERFA; $420,000/1 yr.
--S Anthony Levine: ERFA; $495,000/1 yr.
--LB Albert McClellan: Potential RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Jacoby Jones: UFA; $14M/4 yrs, $4.5M SB.
--S Jeromy Miles: UFA; terms unknown.
--T Eugene Monroe: UFA; $37.5M/5 yrs, $19M guaranteed.
--TE Dennis Pitta: Potential UFA; $32M/5 yrs, $16M guaranteed.
--LB Daryl Smith: UFA; $16.1M/4 yrs.
--S Brynden Trawick: ERFA; $495,000/1 yr.
--TE Owen Daniels: FA Texans; $1M/1 yr.
--RB Justin Forsett: FA Jaguars; $730,000/1 yr.
--CB Dominique Franks: Not tendered as UFA by Falcons; terms unknown.
--G Will Rackley: FA Jaguars; terms unknown.
--CB Aaron Ross: Not tendered as UFA by Giants; terms unknown.
--WR Steve Smith: FA Panthers; $10.5M/3 yrs, $3.5M SB.
--LB Austin Spitler: Not tendered as UFA by Dolphins; terms unknown.
--S Darian Stewart: UFA Rams; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--C/G Jeremy Zuttah (trade Buccaneers).
--TE Dallas Clark: Not tendered as UFA/retired.
--TE Ed Dickson: UFA Panthers; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--WR Tandon Doss: Not tendered as RFA/Jaguars; terms unknown.
--CB Corey Graham: UFA Bills; $16M/4 yrs.
--S James Ihedigbo: UFA Lions; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Arthur Jones: UFA Colts; $33M/5 yrs, $5.5M SB/$16M guaranteed.
--FB Vonta Leach (released).
--LB Jameel McClain (released).
--OT Michael Oher: UFA Titans; $20M/4 yrs, $4M SB/$9.35M guaranteed.
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