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News » Baltimore Ravens Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28

Baltimore Ravens Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28

Baltimore Ravens Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28
The Ravens traded for Tampa Bay defensive lineman Marques Douglas to improve their depth.

The Ravens will send the Buccaneers a late-round draft choice in 2009 and a conditional pick in 2010 for Douglas, who has had two previous stints in Baltimore. Douglas will fill the void left in the rotation by Dwan Edwards, who was placed on injured reserve.

The Ravens will also pick up the contract for Douglas, who recently signed a four-year, $10.1 million contract with Tampa Bay. Douglas, 31, had 133 tackles and 10 sacks while starting for the Ravens in 2003 and 2004.

PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Marcus Smith -- The fourth-round pick from New Mexico was quiet in preseason games but surpassed expectations in training camp. He could figure into the Ravens' passing game this season. If Demetrius Williams remains hurt and Yamon Figurs struggles, Smith could end up as the Ravens' No. 3 receiver.


Rd. 1/18, QB Joe Flacco, Delaware -- With Troy Smith and Kyle Boller sidelined, Flacco has re-emerged in the Ravens' quarterback battle. If he doesn't start the opener, he should take over the job at some point in the season.

Rd. 2/55, RB Ray Rice, Rutgers -- Rice will be an excellent change-of-pace back to Willis McGahee. He should see his opportunities increase throughout the season. With McGahee out most of the preseason, Rice has impressed the coaches with his hard running.

Round 3/71, LB Tavares Gooden, Miami -- He is one of the fastest linebackers on the team. Gooden should find a role as a dime back and on special teams.

Round 3/86, SS Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame -- Zbikowski will make an immediate impact on special teams. He has potential as a starter down the line.

Round 3/99, OT Oniel Cousins, UTEP -- He is a raw prospect but he showed a nasty side in training camp. He could be the starting right tackle next season.

Round 4/106, WR Marcus Smith, New Mexico -- He had a solid training camp and moved up the depth chart. He could play his way to being the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver.

Round 4/133, G David Hale, Weber State -- He adds depth to the interior of the line.

Round 6/206, S Haruki Nakamura, Cincinnati -- He was one of the surprises of training camp. A solid special teams player, Nakamura could develop into a starter in a couple of seasons.


QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Undecided. Backups -- Troy Smith, Kyle Boller, Joe Flacco, Casey Bramlet.

The question at quarterback could make for a long season. Smith is the front-runner if he can overcome swollen tonsils. Boller is dealing with a serious shoulder injury that could sideline him for the entire season. If Smith and Boller can't play, Flacco will win the job by default. This is far from an ideal situation because the Ravens are trying to determine a starter out of a group of backups. Smith might be the best fit at this point. His athleticism will buy time behind a shaky offensive line. But this will be Flacco's job at some point this season. Even if he doesn't start the season opener, Flacco will likely take over by the midseason bye.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Willis McGahee, FB Le'Ron McClain. Backups -- RB Ray Rice, FB Lorenzo Neal, RB Cory Ross.

With no legitimate quarterback, the Ravens will rely on McGahee to carry the offense. But that could be a major problem, too. The Ravens want him to become an every-down back, it's uncertain whether he knows the offense. Like he did for years in Buffalo, McGahee decided to skip most of the offseason minicamps. He then missed a majority of training camp because he needed arthroscopic knee surgery. The only alternative is Rice, the second-round pick out of Rutgers. The undersized back runs with toughness in between the tackles and is dangerous catching passes in the flats. Le'Ron McClain has the potential to be one of the NFL's top fullbacks but lacks work ethic. The Ravens signed hard-nosed Lorenzo Neal near the end of training camp to become a role model for these young backs.

TIGHT END: Starter -- Todd Heap. Backups -- Daniel Wilcox, Edgar Jones.

Heap has been sidelined most of the preseason with a calf injury. If he can get healthy -- which was a problem last season -- he could have a career season. It wouldn't be a surprise if Heap put up numbers similar to San Diego's Antonio Gates, who benefited greatly from Cam Cameron's play calling. Beyond Heap, the Ravens lack depth. Wilcox is solid but he has struggled all offseason with a toe injury. He continues to play with pain. The third tight end is Jones, who was playing linebacker for the first two preseason games. Jones has potential to be an above average tight end. But don't rule out the Ravens bringing in another tight end after the final cutdown.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- FL Mark Clayton, SE Derrick Mason. Backups -- Demetrius Williams, Yamon Figurs, Marcus Smith, Justin Harper.

The Ravens' passing game will suffer because there are no playmakers at receiver. Mason has the best hands on the team but he lacks speed to beat cornerbacks deep. So, he'll catch between 70 to 80 passes but he won't be breaking too many 20-yard plays. The hope is that Clayton and Williams will rebound from a season in which they combined for no touchdowns. Clayton, who had family issues last season, has taken hold of the starting job because Williams has been hurt. It is unknown how much Williams will play after missing most of the preseason with a lower leg injury. Figurs, a return specialist, has been the team's No. 3 receiver in Williams' absence. He is the fastest player on the team but doesn't have solid hands.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Jared Gaither, LG Ben Grubbs, C Jason Brown, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Adam Terry. Backups -- C/G Chris Chester, OT Mike Kracalik, OT Oniel Cousins, G David Hale.

Heading into training camp, the biggest concerns were at tackle with Gaither and Terry. Now, heading into the regular season, they are even bigger question marks. Gaither and Terry were sidelined for most of the preseason with ankle injuries. It's unknown whether either one is a legitimate, full-time starter in this league. The interior of the line is really solid. Grubbs has a strong punch off the line. Brown is stout at center. Yanda is a fighter in the trenches. The depth is marginal with Chester and Kracalik.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LDE Trevor Pryce, NT Kelly Gregg, RDE Haloti Ngata. Backups -- Justin Bannan, Marques Douglas.

This group has the potential to be the best defensive front in the league. The x-factor on defense is Pryce. When he was sidelined for a huge chunk of the season, the Ravens never had the same pass rush without him. Pryce changes games with his ability to penetrate up the middle. The Ravens were still strong at stopping the run because of Gregg and Ngata, two linemen who had Pro Bowl-type seasons. Gregg controls the line with leverage, and Ngata is one of the more agile linemen in the NFL. The Ravens have solid backups in Bannan and Douglas, who was acquired from Tampa Bay before the final preseason game.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- ROLB Jarret Johnson, RILB Ray Lewis, LILB Bart Scott, LOLB Terrell Suggs. Backups -- OLB Tavares Gooden, ILB Nick Greisen, OLB Antwan Barnes, ILB Brendon Ayanbadejo.

It's uncertain how this group will respond after underachieving last season. Lewis is still strong against the run but isn't the same dominating playmaker from years ago. If the Ravens want to get back to their aggressive and attacking defense, they need Scott and Suggs to get to the quarterback this season. They disappeared as a tandem last season, totaling six sacks after combining for 19 in 2006. Johnson, who replaced Adalius Thomas last season, isn't a spectacular player but he doesn't make too many mistakes. Ayanbadejo, a two-time Pro Bowl player, will upgrade the Ravens' special teams.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Chris McAlister, RCB Samari Rolle, SS Dawan Landry, FS Ed Reed. Backups -- CB Fabian Washington, CB Frank Walker, S Tom Zbikowski, S Haruki Nakamura, CB Derrick Martin, CB Corey Ivy.

The Ravens get McAlister and Rolle back from injury this season, but they could suffer a bigger loss in Reed. The four-time Pro Bowl player is uncertain whether he'll start the season because of a shoulder injury. Without Reed, quarterbacks won't fear going deep against the Ravens. Landry, the other starting safety, is one of the most physical players in the NFL. The Ravens are hoping that McAlister and Rolle rebound from injury-marred seasons. They have to hold up because their backups have gotten ripped apart in the preseason. Washington is the best of the reserves and he could push Rolle for a starting spot throughout the season. Walker and Ivy have had gotten picked several times in the preseason.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Matt Stover, P Sam Koch, LS Matt Katula, KOR
Yamon Figurs.

Stover won't convert many kicks beyond 50 yards, but he remains one of the most accurate within 40 at the age of 40. Koch is a solid punter who needs to improve his touch inside the 20-yard line. Figurs is a boom-or-bust type returner. He has the ability to return kicks for a touchdown, but he often struggles at fielding them.

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

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Matt Stover Name: Matt Stover
Position: PK
Age: 40
Experience: 19 years
College: Louisiana Tech
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