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News » Baltimore Ravens Strategy and Personnel 2008-07-12


Baltimore Ravens Strategy and Personnel 2008-07-12


Baltimore Ravens Strategy and Personnel 2008-07-12
The Ravens will need to find a third tight end, but they probably will wait to see who is available after final cuts are made before the season opener. There is also a concern over lack of experience at the backup spots along the offensive line.


Baltimore has yet to sign any of its draft choices but team officials have been working on first-round pick Joe Flacco. The quarterback's agent, Joe Linta, has met with the Ravens in Baltimore twice. A holdout is not expected.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

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

This is the biggest question mark for the Ravens. If Steve McNair hadn't abruptly retired, the Ravens might have been able to rebound back into the playoffs. Now, the options are: Smith, who has a lack of experience and size; Boller, who has struggled often as a starter in the past; and Flacco, who is a season removed from playing at the University of Delaware. The early favorite is Smith because he has the most poise. In two solid starts last season as a rookie, he gained a lot of support in the locker room. Boller has a shot to become a starter again if he can make better decisions. Flacco, the team's first-round pick, could assume the starting job during the midseason bye.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Willis McGahee, FB Le'Ron McClain. Backups -- RB Ray Rice, RB P.J. Daniels, RB Cory Ross, FB Justin Green.

McGahee was a mild disappointment last season because he never developed into an every-down back. There were questions about his conditioning after he asked to get spelled in several games. But McGahee still skipped most of the offseason workouts, even though coach John Harbaugh took a shot at McGahee not being in football shape. The Ravens drafted Rice in the second round, and the rookie out of Rutgers seems to be a better fit in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system. He could be this year's Maurice Jones-Drew. The Ravens are set at fullback with McClain, who was a physical lead blocker as a rookie last season.

TIGHT END: Starter -- Todd Heap. Backups -- Daniel Wilcox, Quinn Sypniewski (injured)

If Heap can remain healthy, he could have a career season. He missed most of last season with hamstring injuries, but he seems fully recovered. Heap could put up numbers similar to San Diego's Antonio Gates, who benefited greatly from Cameron's play calling. Just like Heap, Wilcox is coming off an injury-filled season. He was limited this offseason because he was recovering from toe surgery. Wilcox is a solid No. 2 pass-catching option behind Heap. The Ravens will need to find another tight end after Quinn Sypniewski suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first minicamp. Baltimore will likely add a third tight end after teams make the final cuts.

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

Mason is the only reliable receiver in this group, but he is no longer considered a playmaker. He is a possession-type receiver at this stage of his career and won't scare many defenses going deep. The Ravens are unsure about their second starting receiver. Williams and Clayton both disappeared last season and combined for no touchdowns. Because Cameron likes bigger receivers, Williams likely will unseat Clayton as a starter. But Clayton, a former first-round pick, will have a presence in the offense. The Ravens added size by drafting Smith and Harper. Figurs is purely a return specialist.

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.

This group underwent the most change during the offseason, losing two long-time starters. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden, a future Hall of Fame player, retired and center Mike Flynn was cut. Gaither, a second-year player, has the size of Ogden but not the same commitment. Grubbs, a former first-round pick, moves from right guard to left. Brown shifts to center after starting the past two seasons at left guard. Yanda slides from right tackle to right guard. And Terry, who was unseated by Yanda last season, gets his starting job back at right tackle. It could take the entire first half of the season before this group finds its rhythm.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Trevor Pryce, NT Kelly Gregg, RT Haloti Ngata. Backups -- DT Justin Bannan, DT Dwan Edwards.

Much of the success of this year's defense will depend on Pryce. Injuries forced him out of the lineup last season, and 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 Edwards.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- ROLB Jarret Johnson, RILB Ray Lewis, LILB Bart Scott, LOLB Terrell Suggs. Backups -- OLB Antwan Barnes, ILB Brendon Ayanbadejo, OLB Gary Stills, ILB Prescott Burgess, OLB Edgar Jones.

It'll be interesting to see how this underachieving group bounces back from last season. Lewis is still strong against the run but isn't the same dominating playmaker from years ago. New coach John Harbaugh mentioned that Lewis could be taken off the field in obvious passing situations. If the Ravens want to get back to their high-pressure defense, they need for Scott and Suggs to get to the quarterback this season. They disappeared as a tandem last season. Johnson, who replaced Adalius Thomas last season, isn't a spectacular player but he doesn't make too many mistakes.

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 Lenny Walls, CB David Pittman, CB/S Ronnie Prude, CB Corey Ivy, CB Derrick Martin.

McAlister and Rolle both were sidelined with medical problems for most of the season and have begun to show their age. Fabian Washington, who was traded from the Oakland Raiders, will press Rolle for his starting job in training camp. Walker and Walls provide much-needed veteran depth. Reed is still one of the best safeties in the league, and Landry is one of the most physical defensive backs in the NFL.

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

Stover won't convert many kicks beyond 50 yards, but he remains one of the most accurate within 40. Because of Stover's lack of leg strength, the Ravens might consider a kickoff specialist. 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.


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Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: July 12, 2008

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