Tall, Fast WR Streeter Could Be Big Red-Zone Help
FIVE TRYOUT PLAYERS SIGNED; OGDEN, WOOTEN TO COLLEGE HALL
By Joe Platania
When a team comes as close to the Super Bowl as the 2011 Ravens did, you can point to more than a few reasons why. But red-zone offensive failures come to mind immediately.
Last season, the Ravens ranked 17th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on just 51 percent of their opportunities inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
That figure was good enough to lead all four AFC North Division teams, but with last year's Super Bowl teams -- the New England Patriots and New York Giants -- both ranking in the top 10, it can be argued that the lack of a red-zone receiving threat was as big a reason as any that Baltimore was not playing in Indianapolis last February.
In fact, inconsistency in both red-zone play and wide-receiver effectiveness have hampered the Ravens for more years than fans care to remember. The usually smallish Baltimore receivers and the small area with which they could work near the goal line have often led to field-goal attempts.
Wide receiver Tommy Streeter, the Ravens' 6-foot-5, 220-pound sixth-round draft pick, could be the key to unlocking that mystery.
Blessed with speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds) and having grown up in the speed-rich Florida high school system, the former University of Miami standout -- known for his downfield straight-line speed -- said his build and athleticism could help whenever the Ravens approached the goal line.
“That’s what I thrive at, I feel," Streeter said at last weekend's rookie minicamp at the team's Owings Mills training facility. "I feel I create a mismatch down there on jump-ball situations. Not just in the red zone, but anywhere on the field, being of my stature and my size. It’s rare that you find a guy who can run the way I can.
"That's one thing that I'm looking to bring, [those] mismatch and jump-ball situations in the red zone. Me being a receiver, I feel like you don't always have to run the ball down there. It's OK to throw a fade. I'm hoping they incorporate that in the game plan.”
It's probably a given that the Ravens will do just that, given head coach John Harbaugh's propensity to give himself as many options as he can all over the depth chart and in any given situation.
Plus, finding someone with Streeter's speed and build with the 198th overall pick -- one slot ahead of where future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady was taken in 2000 -- could be a major break for the team.
"Tommy was the best player on our board," player personnel director Eric DeCosta said. "We were excited about him. It's unusual to get a receiver with that kind of size who can run like that. (General manager) Ozzie (Newsome) alluded to another size/speed guy that we developed a long time ago -- Michael Jackson.
"These kinds of guys are rare at times, the measurable. If you have a chance to get a guy like that and you are in the right position in the draft, it’s probably a good thing, and he was the guy."
Newsome has often spoken about taking the top off a defense -- exploiting a team's downfield weaknesses with speed on the outside. More than any wideout draftee in Ravens history, 2011 second-rounder Torrey Smith (Maryland) gave the Ravens such a dimension.
Streeter can certainly do the same, having played the same "X" (split end) position with the Hurricanes and gathering in eight touchdowns during his final collegiate season. He also averaged 18 yards per reception and was named the Hurricanes' Most Improved Player of the Year.
"We had a coaching staff change, and everything was basically open from there," Streeter said. "I just tried to go out there and work hard in the offseason, challenge myself and perform to the level that I felt I could, and everything just worked out.”
Streeter had a virus during the Ravens' rookie minicamp, which led to him looking much slower than advertised and much more sluggish in his route-running, a complex enterprise that he will need to learn, as Smith did throughout last season, to diversify his game.
"I try to be technique-sound and work on the little things," Streeter said. "Not so much let the moment overwhelm me or try to go out of my way and do something fantastic, but let it come to me, and just correct the small things -- my steps coming out of my breaks, and the way I look the ball in, hand placement, little things like that."
It is often said that from small things, big things one day come. If Streeter does master those little things, the Ravens can, and should, expect big things near the goal line.
ROSTER MOVES: Following last weekend's rookie minicamp, the Ravens ditched four members of their undrafted free-agent class and got signed contracts from five of the 14 tryout players that took part in the drills.
The four departees played positions at which the Ravens are already quite deep, so their releases came as no surprise: fullback Jamison Berryhill, defensive back Charles Brown, linebacker Eltoro Freeman and tight end Nick Provo.
The five newest Ravens showed quite well over the weekend, and their addition is -- at least for the moment -- meant to take repetitions away from starters at their positions and keep them fresh during organized team activities, which begin next week.
They are listed here, with their new Baltimore jersey numbers:
1 -- QB Chester Stewart (Temple)
89 -- TE Matt Balasavage (Temple)
87 -- TE Bruce Figgins (Georgia)
42 -- LB Nigel Carr (Alabama State)
41 -- CB Jordin Mabin (Northwestern)
ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO: Former Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden was one of 14 players announced as part of the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.
Ogden will be inducted during a September ceremony. The College Hall is located in South Bend, Ind.
An Outland Trophy winner at UCLA and a unanimous All-America pick, Ogden played left guard during his first year as a Raven before sliding over to left tackle after the departure of veteran Tony Jones.
With his long wingspan, quick feet and tenacious work ethic, Ogden eventually proved himself to be one of the best left tackles to ever play the game. He was named to 11 AFC Pro Bowl squads.
Ogden is also a first-time eligible candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, along with three other ex-Ravens: quarterbacks Steve McNair and Vinny Testaverde, and running back Priest Holmes.
Another notable College Hall inductee this year is Colorado guard John Wooten, an ex-Cleveland Browns lineman who used to work in the Ravens' front office.
Posted May 16, 2012