Behind Enemy Lines: Baltimore Ravens

There aren't many things that bring Browns and Steeler fans together, but both have questions about their mutual rival in Baltimore.'s Aaron Wilson gives OBR and Steel City Insider subscribers the scoop on items like how much Steve McNair (pictured) has left, Terrell Suggs' contract situation, and the Ravens narrowing window of opportunity...

Japaninu: Baltimore has well-known defensive players like Ray Lewis and Ee Reed but each year you guys seem to have an unsung player who really steps it up.  In light of Adalius Thomas being gone who do you think it will be this year??

Aaron Wilson: I think that Kelly Gregg continues to be one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL, but the lineman who might really step to the forefront this season is second-year defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. He has a chance to become a physically dominant interior force.

How much is the Ravens defense going to miss a player like Adalius Thomas who could line up just about any position of their defense?

Aaron Wilson: Honestly, they'll miss him and his versatility a lot, but they plan to mitigate the damage done by his departure by inserting athletic inside linebacker Bart Scott into a lot of Thomas' third-down duties. They also have experimented with using safety Gerome Sapp as an extra linebacker in minicamp drills. Jarret Johnson is a reliable run-stopper who will operate as the starter and primarily play on first and second downs.

stillerfreak: Who is on the bubble on the offensive line now that the Ravens drafted Jason Gaither? I think he was worth the 5th round pick.

Aaron Wilson: Brian Rimpf, Chris Pino and Mike Kracalik are all fairly expendable. I agree with your assessment.

Do you think the Ravens will match the Dwight Freeney deal to extend Terrell Suggs?  If so, what would be the consequences in the overall makeup of the team?

Aaron Wilson: I think the Ravens want to pay Terrell Suggs much less than that. They were thinking about a number that exceeded the $20 million in guaranteed money that Adalius Thomas got from the Patriots, not break-the-bank dollars. This deal is likely to have a total value of between $40 million and $60 million depending on how many years and how back-loaded the contract is. Both Suggs and Freeney have something else in common besides rushing the passer adeptly. They share the same agent: Gary Wichard.

phillysteelfan: The biggest concern for the Ravens appears to be concern with Ogden's toe and lack of depth at OT.  How comfortable are they with Terry as the starting RT? Also, what are some of the bigger stories to watch for with training camp competitions?

Aaron Wilson: They seem to be all right with Adam Terry as a right tackle, especially as a pass blocker, but there are questions about his run-blocking skills. He needs to keep his pad level low and do a better job of anchoring at the line of scrimmage. Best competitions: Right guard between Chris Chester and Ben Grubbs; Center between Mike Flynn and Chester; Return specialist between B.J. Sams and Yamon Figurs; Fourth receiver between Figurs, Devard Darling and Clarence Moore.

ChipTheSteelerFan:  I was a big Willis McGahee fan when he played at Miami.  Will the Ravens use him as a three down RB or at least throw to him on first and/or second down?  I think he can be used to create mismatches against LBs.  I hate to say it, but I can see McGahee having a huge year. Thank you for your response.

Aaron Wilson: They are likely to use him a lot out of the backfield. He has really good hands and catches the ball cleanly. Musa Smith, when healthy, is another reliable receiver in the flat.

kentuckysteeler: Even with the extension, does Billick really have much job security? And will the o-line be able to adjust to the new style of RB after blocking for Jamal Lewis for so long?

Aaron Wilson: Billick is under contract through 2010 and appears to be on safe ground as long as the team continues to win. Any losing or .500 season will bring up all of the old concerns about his coaching style. I think the offensive line is actually happy that Lewis is gone. They are a more athletic unit now and the old smash-mouth approach didn't really suit them anymore. More traps and pulling and sweeps should help them out with the new-look backfield.

TheDude86: How has McGahee looked so far and how is he fitting in with the rest of the team and coaches?

Aaron Wilson: So far, it's been a honeymoon. He's in shape, happy and not complaining at all. He's been consistently praised by teammates and coaches. Let's see how he behaves when times get tough, that's when he usually starts to pout. At least that's how he operated in the past.

IanWhetstoneDotCom: Does the recent Dwight Freeney contract upping the Terrell Suggs ante put them in a precarious position at defensive end?  Do they have real options, or does Suggs now have them over a barrel?

Aaron Wilson: They have options. Remember, Suggs can be franchised. Also, Suggs wants to play here and isn't threatening to hold out. He has the upper hand in terms of leverage, but they're not without choices. They'll eventually pay him. He's too young and too good not to.

Lumpy: Just how important is Steve McNair to this team? I see him as THE reason for the turn around last year. He's the toughest QB in the league.  But how is he projecting to hold up this year?

Aaron Wilson:  He's in much better shape this season and his arm appears to be more live than it was at the end of last season when he looked tired. He's lost weight and appears to be more mobile. Bottom line: McNair is indispensable to the Ravens' title hopes.

Draftnut: How has Dan Cody recovered from his knee injury and how do they view him, as a defensive end or as an outside linebacker?

Aaron Wilson: He's a hybrid edge rusher, but he's more of a defensive end type, a small one, yes. He's still getting over the knee injury and there's a chance he'll need surgery and won't play this season. We're going to find out later this month if it's bad news again for his third season in the NFL.

OutlawJesseJ: Do you get the sense of "the window may be closing" as far as the current Ravens superstars having a chance at the SB?  All the worst to you guys.

Aaron Wilson: I think the window is definitely almost closed. This is the last hurrah for several players on this roster.

psk984: Why are the Rats the epitome of evil? And how much more of of McNair does the team figure to get?

Aaron Wilson:
McNair has about two more seasons left in him.

Tyranid: What's the corner situation like? Samari Rolle looked like a weak link the last few games I've watched. And will the Ravens use Figurs and Barnes this year outside of special teams? I was fairly excited about the possibility of the Steelers picking them up.

Aaron Wilson: Rolle is trying to regain his confidence, he really struggled last year. He needs some help over the top from Ed Reed, who left him hanging out to dry on several occasions last year. Both Figurs and Barnes are in Frank Gansz's plans on kick returns and kick coverage. Both are intriguing rookie prospects.

Dirtwinston: What are the main concerns heading into camp and the 2007 season?

Aaron Wilson: Age, injuries, lack of depth at tackle and cornerback, not enough big plays out of the offense, Willis McGahee's lack of breakaway speed, replacing Adalius Thomas. Thanks for the questions, guys.

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