Five Questions For Ravens

Pro football

July 31, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN STAFF

Who is primed for a breakout year?

The easy pick would be receiver Clarence Moore, who had 22 catches and four touchdowns in his last 10 games of 2004. But first-year starter Maake Kemoeatu could have a bigger impact in a much lower-profile position.

The 350-pound nose tackle can clog up the middle in the same fashion as Tony Siragusa. The Ravens gave a strong vote of confidence when they promoted Kemoeatu instead of former second-round pick Dwan Edwards into the starting lineup. The only question surrounding Kemoeatu has been his work ethic.

What unit improved the most this offseason? Without question, it was the wide receiver group. The Ravens addressed this long-standing weakness on the first day of free agency (Derrick Mason) and with their first pick in the draft (Mark Clayton).

Mason is the first legitimate wide-out in the Brian Billick era, catching 61 more passes than the leading Ravens receiver last season. Nearly as valuable is Mason's veteran leadership. On a young receiving corps, he can point the way.

Mason's prime understudy is Clayton, the 22nd overall pick. But Clayton has to convince the team that he can stay healthy after missing nearly half of the offseason workouts with a hamstring injury. When he did suit up, Clayton made several spectacular catches, bolstering his reputation as the most polished receiver of this draft class.

What unit causes the most concern?

It's the offensive line, based on the volatile combination of age and injuries. Besides newcomer Keydrick Vincent, the other four starters (Jonathan Ogden, Edwin Mulitalo, Mike Flynn and Orlando Brown) are in their 30s and have all dealt with medical issues within the past year.

All will be ready to start camp, but the key will be their health at the end of camp. None of the top backups - guard Brian Rimpf, center Jason Brown and tackles Adam Terry and Tony Pashos - has started an NFL game.

What can be expected from Ray Lewis this year?

The Pro Bowl middle linebacker is coming off one of his most forgettable seasons. Lewis had trouble shaking off blockers and appeared to miss more tackles than in the previous four seasons combined. The biggest reason for the Ravens' switch to the 46 defense is to keep linemen off Lewis and allow him to use his speed to chase down running backs. This is a situation tailored for Lewis to silence those critics who say his skills are declining at the age of 30.

Are there any health issues?

Tops on a short list is Todd Heap, who had shoulder and ankle surgery this offseason. The two-time Pro Bowl tight end is expected to begin camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list but is scheduled to be ready to play in the second preseason game Aug. 20. Note to Heap: no leaping catches until September.

Running backs Jamal Lewis (ankle) and Musa Smith (leg) also could be placed on the PUP list when camp opens as precautionary measures. Unlike last season with Peter Boulware and Anthony Wright, there are no players in danger of missing the start of the regular season.

Derrick Mason is the first legitimate wide-out in the Brian Billick era, catching 61 more passes than the leading Ravens receiver last season.

ROOKIES TO WATCH

The rookies and first-year players to track during Ravens training camp:

Player, pos. Draft rd. School Jamison Hensley's skinny

Mark Clayton, WR 1st Oklahoma Just second receiver taken in the first round in team history (the other was Travis Taylor).

Dan Cody, OLB 2nd Oklahoma Could record eight to 10 sacks with double teams shifted to Terrell Suggs' side.

Adam Terry, OT 2nd Syracuse Has great agility for his size but needs to develop more of a nasty streak.

Jason Brown, C 4th North Carolina The primary backup to Mike Flynn has excellent strength and intelligence.

Justin Green, FB 5th Montana Will compete against Ovie Mughelli for the backup fullback job.

Derek Anderson, QB 6th Oregon State Favorite to win the No. 3 quarterback job had one of the strongest arms in the draft.

Mike Smith, LB 7th Texas Tech Only chance to make the team is to have an impact on special teams.

Keith Burnell, RB Free agent Delaware Could be this camp's sleeper after playing on two practice squads last season.

Rhys Lloyd, K Free agent Minnesota Will be given first crack to become the team's kickoff specialist.

DEPTH CHART

Offense

Pos. Starter 2nd string Third string

WR Derrick Mason Devard Darling Randy Hymes

LT Jonathan Ogden Adam Terry

LG Edwin Mulitalo Brian Rimpf

C Mike Flynn Jason Brown

RG Keydrick Vincent Brian Rimpf

RT Orlando Brown Tony Pashos

TE Todd Heap-x Darnell Dinkins T.Jones/Wilcox/T.Smith

WR Clarence Moore Mark Clayton-x

QB Kyle Boller Anthony Wright Derek Anderson

RB Jamal Lewis-x Chester Taylor M. Smith-x/Keith Burnell

FB Alan Ricard Ovie Mughelli Justin Green

Defense

LDE Kelly Gregg Dwan Edwards

NT Maake Kemoeatu Aubrayo Franklin

RDT Tony Weaver Jarret Johnson

RDE Terrell Suggs Roderick Green

OLB Adalius Thomas Dan Cody

MLB Ray Lewis Bart Scott

OLB Tommy Polley Jim Nelson

LCB Chris McAlister Dale Carter

RCB Samari Rolle Deion Sanders

FS Ed Reed Chad Williams

SS Will Demps Chad Williams

Special teams

Punter: Dave Zastudil Kicker: Matt Stover

Kickoff specialist: Rhys Lloyd Long snapper: Joe Maese

Return specialist: B.J. Sams

x-Could start camp on physically-unable-to-perform list

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