Camp Stories

From Cody to Chester to Clayton, here's what to look for in Westminster

Ravens Preview

July 27, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

3 GOALS

Get Steve McNair comfortable in the offensive system

The Ravens will be walking a fine line throughout camp. They want McNair to absorb the offensive scheme as quickly as possible, but they don't want to wear out the 33-year-old quarterback. The clock is ticking: 45 days until the season opener.

Make sure Ray Lewis is fully recovered from a hamstring injury

Even though he is no longer the most dominant defensive player in the NFL, Lewis remains the most important player on the Ravens' defense. How important? The last two years Lewis went on injured reserve (2002 and 2005) were the Ravens' only losing seasons since 1999.

Find the last starter on defense

The Ravens are one solid starter away from being an elite group. It could end up being an inexperienced safety on this team (Gerome Sapp or Dawan Landry) or a veteran currently on another one. It could even be another linebacker such as Jarret Johnson or Dan Cody if the Ravens chose to go with an unconventional lineup of four linebackers and three defensive backs.

3 POSITION BATTLES

PUNTER

Leo Araguz vs. Sam Koch / / Who needs a quarterback competition to liven up a training camp when you have dueling punters? It appears to be Koch's job to lose. The rookie has a bigger upside and is less expensive than Araguz, who has played in nine games since 1999.

NICKEL BACK

David Pittman vs. Ronnie Prude vs. Corey Ivy / / The Ravens might have lost some style with Deion Sanders' retirement, but they gain more substance at this position. Pittman is the leading contender to replace Sanders after being drafted in the third round. Prude, the best undrafted rookie of the spring workouts, could press for playing time. Ivy, a free-agent pickup from the St. Louis Rams, also should figure into the mix because he has the most NFL experience.

THIRD RECEIVER

Demetrius Williams vs. Clarence Moore vs. Devard Darling / / The Ravens need someone to step up ... without hurting himself in the process. Moore is still recovering from hernia surgery. Darling is being slowed by a heel injury. Williams, a promising fourth-round pick, is playing catch-up after an NFL rule barred him from a majority of the offseason camps.

3 RETURNING PLAYERS TO WATCH

Running back Jamal Lewis / / Free of injuries and legal issues, Lewis is looking to end two years of declining rushing totals. If not, the Ravens can turn to Mike Anderson, the leading rusher for last season's AFC runner-up, the Denver Broncos.

Linebacker Dan Cody / / The Ravens believe Cody, whose 2005 season ended with a knee injury in training camp, is going to be worth the wait. Fifteen months after the Ravens drafted him in the second round, Cody is expected to significantly boost the team's pass rush.

Receiver Mark Clayton / / If he can carry the momentum over from last year, Clayton is primed for a breakout season. He made 24 of his 44 catches last season in the final five games.

3 NEWCOMERS TO WATCH

Defensive end Trevor Pryce / / The Ravens have regularly ranked the former Denver Bronco among the best defensive ends in the game. Still, a herniated disc and declining statistics have caused some to wonder whether he has lost his burst.

Offensive lineman Chris Chester / / Although he never worked with the starters during offseason camps, the Ravens envision him pushing for playing time this year or next. A second-round pick, Chester was the only addition to the line, which was considered the weak spot of the offense.

Running back Cory Ross / / The 5-foot-6, undrafted rookie out of Nebraska could be the sleeper in this year's camp. He has caught the eye of coach Brian Billick but still needs to do some work to catch B.J. Sams for the return specialist job.

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