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Ravens training camp on the immediate horizon; 12 questions

The Baltimore Ravens will start their training camp in Westminster on July 27th. As the Ravens prepare to build off their appearance in the AFC Championship Game, here are 12 questions facing the franchise:

Question:
Ozzie Newsome was quoted this off-season as saying he will be coming-back to the University of Alabama at some point. As Mason’s retirement announcement showed this past-week, things can change quickly. If Newsome announced at the end of the 2009 season he was leaving the organization, is the organization prepared?

Answer:
I would imagine that the Ravens would answer this question by stating they feel comfortable with their potential internal options Eric DeCosta (Director of Player Personnel) and Joe Hortiz (Director of CollegeScouting).
I think both are held in solid regard around the league and are certainly viable candidates. However, I think the team should reach out to Phil Savage. Savage obviously has a familiarity with the organization, and has already had the experience (for good and bad) ofbeing a first-time GM. Why not bring him back to the organization with the deal that he will be named GM whenever Newsome where to leave? If you would argue that Savage struggled in Cleveland, I would answer this reason to hire him. Savage was held in just as much, if not higher regard than DeCosta, and did go through a learning process in Cleveland. I would rather have Savage using that experience, vs. DeCosta going through things for the first-time.

Question:
If Mason does not return, and a Franchise WR (Boldin, or Marshall) is not obtained, who do you sign?

Answer:
Even if you do not obtain a game-changing WR, you will have to obtain another option at a minimum. A Marvin Harrison or a A. Toomer are ontheir last-legs, but could probably help move the chains. Matt Jones continues to battle his addictions, but would give the team an imposing physical talent coming off of his best year. I would have to believe the Ravens would obtain one of them. P. Burress as a Free Agent is an option, but a signing could only take place if you were comfortable with his legal situation.

Harrison 2008
60 catches, 634 yards, 5 TD’s

Jones 2008
65 catches, 761 yards, 2 TD’s

Toomer 2008
48 catches, 580 yards, 4 TD’s

Frankly, if feasible with the cap, I would sign Jones and one of Harrison and Toomer.

Question:
Let us assume the worst, and state that Mason does not return, and the Ravens can only sign Harrison, how do you adjust the offense?

Answer:
You would not have to worry about Harrison’s route-running, but would have to worry about how well his legs would hold-up. I would think the Ravens would use Harrison as more of a 3rd receiver, especially to start the year, in an attempt to protect his legs through-out the season.

If Oher can handle RT without help being needed on his side, than the TE’s Heap, and Smith can be out in pass-patterns more frequently than last-year.

Clayton came on late last year when he was allowed to run the deep pattern and take advantage of Flacco’s arm-strength. Can Clayton handle all the underneath routes and move the chains? Can D. Williams stay healthy and attack down the field?

I would imagine the Ravens would commit even further to ball-control, and really attempt to control the clock. With Beck signed as the backup QB, it should allow the Ravens to use Troy Smith even more with the Suggs package.

I could see Cam Cameron splitting Ray Rice or Willis McGahee wide at-times and taking advantage of their pass-catching abilities.

Question:
What shape will Le’Ron McClain be in when camp starts?

Answer:
The Ravens were not happy with the extra-weight McClain was carrying when he arrived for mini-camp. If the Ravens are going to be forced to be a ball control offense, you will need McClain’s ability between the tackles.

Seeing the weight and shape he arrives with at camp is an interesting question to watch.

Question:
Who is going to win the starting RG position? Chester or Yanda?

Answer:
I think most people believe Yanda will regain the starting position, but I believe Chester will be the Opening Day starter vs. Kansas City.

Question:
The D-line has Ngata, Gregg, Pryce, Bannan, Edwards, and McKinney, how good are they collectively?

Answer:
My optimism for the Ravens 2009 season is the depth of talent on the offensive and defensive-lines. With the d-line getting Gregg, and Edwards back, this group should be able to rotate bodies, and overwhelm the opposition during games.

However, if Gregg and Edwards put the full-pads on and are not ready to play, or if Pryce shows any additional wear-and-tear, this could change quickly.

Question:
Can the team really afford to have a rookie kicker in a year with the current-level of aspirations?

Answer:
Gano did everything at FSU, and comes in with a ton of deserved press-clippings. Hauschka has a very strong leg. Both will allow you to not carry a kick-off specialist.
That said, kicking in the NFL is different than College. With Mason, the Ravens had a mediocre offense. Without Mason, points maybe difficult to achieve. You know Stover would be automatic when called upon from 40 and in. If these kickers leave any points on the board, that could be the difference from the playoffs, and sitting at home in January.

Question:
Landry appears physically ready to play, can he be more of a ball-hawk this year?

Answer:
Landry had 5 picks in his rookie year, and has always been good against the run. Nobody wanted to see him sustain the injury he did last year, but the defense was elevated with Leonard making plays. Teams will continue to attempt to avoid Ed Reed, so the other safety has to take advantage of that knowledge. Watch for comments from the coaches about the play of Landry, but also the backups Zbikowski, and Nakamura.

Question:
Is Tavares Gooden as good as he believes he is?

Answer:
The University of Miami product does not have to be as good as he thinks he is, to make an impact. His fresh legs will help the LB core. I think you will see him making plays all over the field. I think the thing to watch is does his enthusiasm cause him to over-pursue and occasionally cost the Ravens the big-play?

Question:
Besides the Offensive and Defensive Lines, what is another reason to be optimistic about the Ravens?

Answer:
I think there are a couple of obvious answers to this. You could mention Oher at RT, and how that will help the TE’s. You could mention Flacco going into his 2nd season. You could mention the fresh legs of Gooden at LB.

My choice would be the addition of Chris Carr. His ability to return kicks, and punts should provide better field position for the Ravens on a regular basis.

Question:
What will be the most over-rated story of the Ravens training camp?

Answer:
The most over-rated story will be how are the Ravens adjusting to life without Rex Ryan.

Ryan was a good Defensive Coordinator, that had a scheme that allowed for a lot of offensive confusion, and un-blocked hits. Ryan deserves credit for that. I personally believe he was vastly over-rated though.He was named the Ravens Defensive Coordinator prior to the 2005 season. During the 2005-8 seasons, his defense included players like Hall of Famers Lewis and Reed…. All-Pro talent like Cmac, Suggs, Ngata (know he has not yet been named as such), and Pryce… solid players such as Scott, Gregg, Johnson and Rolle.Regularly finishing in the Top 5 in defense is an accomplishment, but also expected with that assortment of talent.

Question:
What will be the most under-rated story of the Ravens training camp?

Answer:
On a fairly regular basis there are rumors coming out of Owings Mills of players not being fond of Harbaugh. Having advanced to the AFC Championship game, will make this a non-issue in camp. This should be a story now, but it will get zero-attention. It will become a story if the Ravens fall-back during the season.

Quick Hits:

1) Antwan Barnes has an abundance of physical skills, is he ready to make plays opposite of Suggs?

2) Do they have Kruger bulking up for the D-line, or do they use him as the hybrid? Some teams would not medically clearly him, due to having one kidney, and fears of playing in humidity. Does he show any ill-effects in Westminster?

3) 6th round pick Cedric Peerman had a great 40 time at the draft, can he make the team as the 4th RB?

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Written by Chris Stoner
9 years ago
Baltimore Ravens,

Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].

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