Offense’s Future Looks Bright

The Ravens gained confidence from their AFC championship performance versus Pats.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, January 27th, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

The Ravens’ season ended with quarterback Joe Flacco driving 65 yards in the final minutes in Foxborough, seeing him out-duel quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC championship.

So despite the loss, that sight gave Baltimore’s offense positive vibes to hold onto this offseason.

As players cleaned out their lockers on the day after defeat, several young offensive weapons looked optimistically into the future.

“It’s a very positive feeling,” tight end Ed Dickson said. “The way Joe finished up playing, I’m excited to be back working with him in the offseason and developing chemistry. With him, me, Dennis Pitta, Torrey [Smith] and all the young guys, sky’s the limit for this offense.”

Baltimore made a significant shift towards youth this past offseason, ushering in a rookie wide receiver in Smith to replace longtime veteran Derrick Mason, and two second-year tight ends to step up for departed Todd Heap.

It paid big dividends.

Smith, 22, provided the deep threat, as expected, and finished with 50 catches, 841 yards and a Ravens rookie franchise record seven touchdowns. He finished with a pretty 29-yard touchdown in Foxborough.

“I’m very excited,” Smith said. “I feel like we’re going to have a chance every single year – especially with our coaching staff and the guys in this locker room and the guy leading us, Joe Flacco. He’s a great quarterback, and we were all really excited to see him go out and kind of shut a bunch of people up yesterday with his play.”

Added together, Dickson and Pitta caught 94 passes for 933 yards and eight touchdowns. Those are bigger numbers than any of Heap’s 10 seasons in Baltimore – in all three categories. Pitta hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass against the Patriots.

“I think it was a big year for me, personally, to be able to show what I was capable of,” Pitta said.

“But more importantly, this offense was able to grow and to gain some chemistry together. I feel like we finished, although we didn’t win the game, I feel like we have a lot to take away from this last game, especially offensively, and things to build on.”

The Ravens’ two keystones on offense are Flacco, 27, and running back Ray Rice, 25. Rice is an unrestricted free agent who expects to be back in Baltimore.

They each are perhaps entering their prime.

Flacco had his best postseason yet, and in the eyes of those inside the building, took another step in his development this season – although some of his regular-season numbers dipped.

Rice had his best year, rushing for a career-high 1,364 yards and compiling an NFL-leading 2,068 total yards. He had 15 total touchdowns, seven more than he posted in his other Pro Bowl year in 2009.

On Monday, Flacco was asked if there is a lot of room to grow.

“Definitely,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys, and I think we’ve got to come back and get in shape in the offseason and come back ready to go. I think we’ve got an explosive team, and we’re going to do nothing but get better.”

The Ravens maintained Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, meaning there will be consistency with the system as well. The young players will have another year to grow in that scheme.

“I think it’s all summed up in Torrey’s development,” Cameron said. “Torrey is really what we’re trying to do with all our players. Get them opportunities and let them grow.

“We’ve got some unfinished business. I think we’re making progress. We’ve got to get this offense, in conjunction with our defense and special teams, one step further.”

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