Ravens Training Camp

July 20, 2008|By Jamison Hensley

Top story lines

*John Harbaugh's first training camp: Questions will surround Harbaugh because he has neither been a head coach nor a coordinator. This is the time when he'll need to place his stamp on the team with a no-nonsense style. It will be interesting to see how the players respond going from "Club Billick" to "Camp Harbaugh." The veterans will have to adjust to more hitting at practice and bed checks at the team hotel.

*Quarterback competition: This will be the most scrutinized subject over the 23 days of training camp. Is Troy Smith showing the same poise? Is Kyle Boller learning from mistakes? Is Joe Flacco looking like he can start right away? The Ravens might not know the answer when they break camp, but they will probably have to decide on a starter by the third preseason game (Aug. 23).

*Revamped offensive line: The Ravens shuffled their starting lineup midway through offseason minicamps. None of the linemen is starting where he finished last season. The interior of the line (left guard Ben Grubbs, center Jason Brown and right guard Marshal Yanda) is solid. The question marks are on the edges, where left tackle Jared Gaither (Maryland) and right tackle Adam Terry are unproven.

*Willis McGahee's conditioning: McGahee was not an every-down running back last season, and he asked for breathers during games. Then, he skipped most of this year's offseason minicamps. It didn't go unnoticed - Harbaugh pointed out that the team needs to get McGahee in "football shape." If the Ravens want their offense to improve this season, they'll need McGahee to be in top form.

*Ray Lewis' contract: Lewis, the longtime face of the Ravens' franchise, didn't want to talk about his contract this offseason, but it will be a topic of conversation from training camp to the end of the season. The Pro Bowl middle linebacker is the closest he has been to free agency, entering the final year of his contract. How he plays this season could determine his market value.

Position battles (other than QB)

*Cornerback: Samari Rolle vs. Fabian Washington. Rolle missed most of last season after being diagnosed with epilepsy and injuring a shoulder. His health makes his status uncertain, which prompted the Ravens to add veteran depth at cornerback. Fabian Washington, a former first-round pick traded from the Oakland Raiders, is a pure cover corner like Rolle. After being benched last season, Washington wants to prove he can be an NFL starter again.

*Receiver: Demetrius Williams vs. Mark Clayton. Both receivers flopped last season, combining for no touchdowns. Williams could have the edge because new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron likes big receivers. Clayton is looking to regain his explosiveness from 2006, when he had 67 catches for 939 yards and five touchdowns.

*Backup tight end: Daniel Wilcox vs. a cast of unknowns. This is more of a concern than a battle. Wilcox was limited this offseason after having toe surgery. With Quinn Sypniewski out for the season with a knee injury, the Ravens need Wilcox to come back healthy or they will be hurting. The Ravens could wait until teams make their final cuts before addressing their No. 3 tight end.

Newcomers to watch

*RB Ray Rice: The second-round pick could have a bigger impact than what many expect. Some have compared him to the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew.

*LB Brendon Ayanbadejo: The Ravens' first free-agent signing this year will provide a much-needed boost to special teams. He will also be a top backup at inside linebacker.

*LB Tavares Gooden: The Ravens made out all right when they last drafted a linebacker out of Miami. The speedy third-round pick will get on the field on special teams and possibly as a dime back.

Veterans to watch

*TE Todd Heap: Hamstring injuries sidelined Heap for two-thirds of last season. If healthy, he could put up some career numbers in Cameron's offense.

*DT Trevor Pryce: The Ravens didn't truly realize the impact of Pryce until injuries cut his season short. Without Pryce, the Ravens' pass rush dried up.

*OT Adam Terry: The former second-round pick lost the right tackle job last season to Yanda, a rookie at the time. He has a chance once again to prove he can be a full-time starter.

Departures

*OT Jonathan Ogden: The retirement of the future Hall of Famer leaves a tremendous void. This will be the biggest transition the Ravens have had to make at one position. Replacement: Gaither.

*QB Steve McNair: The Ravens had wanted to squeeze another season out of the former Pro Bowl performer. With McNair's abrupt retirement, the door is opened wider for Flacco to come in and start immediately. Replacement: Unknown.

*C Mike Flynn: The eight-year starter was criticized for getting pushed around at times. But the Ravens will miss the emotional leader of the offensive line. Replacement: Jason Brown.

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