Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Boldin off to fast start in Baltimore

OWINGS MILLS – Anquan Boldin accelerated past a flailing young cornerback before cutting sharply toward the middle of the field, a destination that represents familiar territory for the Pro Bowl wide receiver.

Extending his hands after gaining plenty of separation on a short post pattern, Boldin caught a Joe Flacco spiral in stride for a long completion.

It was their best connection of the day during Boldin’s first official practice with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday since joining the team through a March trade from the Arizona Cardinals and being signed to a $28.5 million contract extension.

After Flacco overthrew Boldin on a long post during their first play in team drills during the first day of the Ravens' mandatory full-team minicamp, failed to hit him in the red zone and Boldin dropped a post when he fell to the ground, the Ravens were glad to see some burgeoning chemistry between the newly-minted passing tandem.

“Everybody has those first-day jitters,” Boldin said. “For myself, I’m just trying to get out here and get familiar with my surroundings. Right now, we’re just getting into it, just to get a feel for everybody with the offense. I think the day went pretty good, considering it’s the first day.”

Of course, this wasn’t Boldin’s first actual day working with Flacco.

They have thrown together during several informal workouts as well as a series of quarterback schools ever since the Ravens acquired Boldin.

This atmosphere is the closest they’ve come to simulating what it will be like to work together during an actual game with Boldin as the Ravens’ new featured wide receiver.

The knowledge of where Flacco likes to deliver the football and Boldin’s preferred catch zone is something they’re working overtime to perfect.

“It’s growing,” Boldin said. “It’s a process. It’s a long season. Right now, we’re just trying to get a feel for one another. He throws a real catchable ball. I’m looking forward to the season."

Boldin and Kurt Warner had quite the collaboration in Arizona, but that connection didn't happen overnight.

"Kurt is a smart guy, a veteran guy," Boldin said. "I look to develop that same chemistry that I had with Kurt with Joe."

Between Boldin’s veteran presence, ability to run after the catch and imposing size and fellow newcomer wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth’s deep speed, the Ravens appear to have definitely upgraded a wide receiver corps that was arguably one of the worst in the league last season.

At 6-foot-1, 217 pounds, Boldin provides an imposing, hard-nosed downfield target.

“Anquan is a big, physical guy that makes every catch look easy,” Flacco said. “It can be two feet behind him and he’ll make it look like it hits him right in the head. And Donte’, he can just get up and go and I think he’s going to be a huge help to us.”

Stallworth had the catch of the day with his one-handed grab where he snared it with his right hand.

Besides adding Boldin and Stallworth, the Ravens also retained veteran possession receiver Derrick Mason.

“We did some good things this offseason,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Bringing in Anquan, bringing in Stallworth, re-signing Mase, picking up two great tight ends in the draft. Overall, we have a lot of pieces in a lot of places.”

The Ravens have built a rich defensive tradition and they’re known for a smash-mouth running game.

Now, they’re trying to transition into a more balanced attack.

“There are going to be times during a game where the defense has to carry the offense just because you have one of those days, and vice versa when the offense has to carry the defense,” Boldin said. “For me, I love to play with a great defense because they give you the ball.

“Whenever you have those types of weapons, it gives defenses fits. You can’t really key in on one guy or double a guy because you can spread the ball around, get the ball to different weapons. Having these guys definitely makes my job easier.”

Wearing his trademark No. 81 jersey, Boldin wore a nearly constant smile during the workout in his new environment and his new purple colors.

“Yeah, I look good in it,” Boldin said.

Boldin has been ultra-productive with the Cardinals, catching 586 career passes for 7,520 yards and 44 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons.

Now, the Ravens are looking for him to rejuvenate their offense with a strong outside presence.

So far, it’s been a smooth transition for Boldin in Baltimore as he assimilates his game into a new offense in a new city.

“I thought Anquan looked good,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He made a couple of plays, taught the young guys a little bit. With man coverage underneath, you saw he got himself open pretty clearly against some of the rookie corners. He looks like he’s kind of in midseason form right now.”

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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