Hey, Jamison!


November 21, 2008|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley will answer questions about the Ravens. To submit a question, e-mail sports@baltsun.com. Give your name and phone number so we can verify the e-mail.

: HEY, JAMISON: : The Ravens have a stable of young talented linebackers in Antwan Barnes, Prescott Burgess and rookies Tavares Gooden and Jameel McClain. How has this group progressed over the season?

Jordan Tucker, Baltimore

HEY, JORDAN: : This is a group that has quietly impressed the coaching staff and could collectively make more of an impact next season. Gooden, who is on injured reserve with a hip issue, could find himself in a starting role as early as next season. The Ravens have three linebackers who are free agents at the end of the season (Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott), and Gooden could be a top replacement.

McClain, an undrafted rookie, has been the biggest surprise of the group. He fits perfectly with this defense because he is smart and physical. The Ravens' coaching staff is still high on Barnes, who could develop into a special pass rusher. But he hasn't shown top effort on special teams this season, which could be one reason he was inactive Sunday. Burgess is probably the biggest long shot of the group. He has fallen behind after being placed on injured reserve in his first two seasons.

: HEY, JAMISON: : It is obvious that the Ravens are going to be Joe Flacco's team. Why don't they convert Troy Smith to cornerback? He's the right size and has the speed to cover. Might be a work-in-progress type thing, but he could really develop into a good one, I'll bet. He's an above-average athlete.

Bob Martindale, Forest Hill, Md.

HEY, BOB: : It's an interesting concept, but it wouldn't work. The only times position changes pan out are when an athlete initiates the switch or is receptive to it. It's safe to say Smith wouldn't be. From high school to Ohio State, coaches have tinkered with the idea of moving Smith to other skill positions, but he has always wanted to play quarterback.

Even when the Ravens used Smith in their two-quarterback packages, Smith made it very clear that he wasn't quarterbacking a gadget offense. He still considers himself an NFL quarterback. The Ravens believe that as well. They envision him as the long-term answer at backup quarterback. If they move Smith out of that role, they would have to fill another void.

: HEY, JAMISON: : I would just like to have an update on Kelly Gregg. I know he's out for the season with his surgery, but does that mean he won't be there for the playoffs (if we make it)? Also, do you think he'll be around next season? With our salary cap issues I know we'll have to let go some good talent. Is Gregg one of those guys?

Ian McGuirk, Severn

HEY, IAN: : Gregg was placed on injured reserve, which means he is out for the regular season and the playoffs. He is currently rehabilitating after knee surgery at his home in Oklahoma and comes to Baltimore for regular checkups. Gregg was still on crutches the last time he was around team headquarters.

As far as next season, Gregg is in the Ravens' plans. He is signed through 2012 and will earn $3 million next season (the same he made this year). The challenge will be coming back from microfracture surgery on his left knee at age 32. But Gregg, a sixth-round pick and former Ravens practice squad player, has beaten the odds before.

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