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News » Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2008-08-28


Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2008-08-28


Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2008-08-28
The Ravens are entering the season with more questions than when they began training camp.


Who is going to be the starting quarterback? Can the Ravens rely on running back Willis McGahee? How are the offensive tackles going to play? Is safety Ed Reed going to be ready for the regular season?

This is shaping up as a challenging season for first-year coach John Harbaugh, who has replaced Brian Billick after nine seasons.

The biggest concern is their quarterback situation, which has increased with drama throughout the preseason.

With Troy Smith out with an illness and Kyle Boller dealing with a shoulder injury, first-year coach John Harbaugh might have the most important preseason decision taken out of his hands.

The first quarterback to recover - Smith or Boller - could win the job. If neither is healthy, the Ravens would have no choice but to start rookie Joe Flacco, their first-round draft pick.

"It's weird how things work," tight end Todd Heap said. "But we still have a couple weeks before we really need to go."

It appears that if Smith and Boller are out for an extended period, that increases the chances of Flacco starting the season.

Just two weeks ago, Harbaugh said Flacco was a long shot to win the job because he had been outplayed by Smith and Boller.

Now, Flacco could be playing himself back into the Ravens' quarterback race.

"I think he's in the mix because we have two quarterbacks who aren't able to practice," Harbaugh said. "The big picture hasn't changed dramatically in the sense that he's a rookie and we've got two guys who were ahead of him going into this situation that came up right before the game. That's kind of where we're at."

The Ravens did not want to rush Flacco into the starting job because of Boller's struggles as a rookie starter in 2003. But the Ravens were impressed by the way Flacco responded in his first start Saturday, when he went 18-for-37 for 152 yards and a touchdown.

The only NFL team that has decided to start a rookie this season is the Atlanta Falcons, who recently anointed Matt Ryan, the No. 1 quarterback chosen in the draft.

Asked where he stood in the Ravens' quarterback battle, Flacco said: "I really don't know what they're thinking, but all I know is that I got to prepare myself like a starter."

Besides the quarterback situation, the Ravens have other issues to deal with before the season.

McGahee, who had arthroscopic knee surgery during training camp, said he =

intends on playing in the season opener. But he missed most of the offseason camps as well as training camp, which has caused some concerns.

The Ravens intended for McGahee be a three-down back, but they are unsure whether he'll know the system at the start of the season.

The other question on offense is the line, especially on the edges. The Ravens are looking to start Jared Gaither and Adam Terry as their offensive tackles, but both missed most of training camp with ankle injuries.

Both needed time to prove they could be full-time starters in this league. By being sidelined, the Ravens wonder if they'll be able to hold up for a full season.

The Ravens usually have been able to rely on their defense. But their best playmaker might not be ready to start the season.

Reed has not taken contact in practice yet because of shoulder injury, and he said that he is uncertain about his availability for the opener. If Reed can't play, the Ravens would have a big hole on their defense.

Until the Ravens can figure out some of these answers, they could end up with more questions than wins this season.

COACHING: John Harbaugh, first year, 1st Ravens.

REMEMBERING: 2007 record: 5-11 (4th in AFC North).

PREDICTING: 2008 regular season record 6-10 (3rd in AFC North).



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 28, 2008

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