Ravens' Q&A with Aaron Wilson

A regular feature on Ravens Insider this season will be the weekly Q&A with Ravens Insider/Carroll County Times writer Aaron Wilson. This is where members of the RavensInsider message board get to ask pertinent questions about our Baltimore Ravens and Aaron gets to provides the correct answers. Look for the Q&As to be starting around the time of Training Camp. Until then, here are a few post-minicamp questions collected in the past week.

Question I would very much like an injury update on all of the players.

Aaron Wilson: It's likely that running back Jamal Lewis (ankle), tight end Todd Heap (ankle, shoulder), running back Musa Smith (leg) and nickel back Deion Sanders (toe) will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. That doesn't mean they would be unavailable for later work in the preseason/regular-season opener. Cornerbacks Dale Carter (leg) and Samari Rolle (hamstring) weren't seriously hurt at the final minicamp and should be fully recovered by the time players report July 31 at McDaniel College in Westminster. Tight end Trent Smith (leg) is coming along well after missing the last two seasons, but the coaching staff wants to see how he holds up in full-contact drills.

Question Thanks for your time Aaron. What is the latest on Todd Heap's ankle and shoulder injury? When is Heap expected to be back at 100%? Will we see him running deep routes over defensive backs in training camp, or will he be limited in what he does? Will he start opening day? I sure hope he is at 100% before training camp finishes. Thank you Aaron again for your time, I really appreciate it

Aaron Wilson: Todd Heap is likely to be 100 percent recovered from off-season surgeries and completely healthy toward the end of training camp. The Ravens break camp on Aug. 19, so he would likely be back by the final preseason contest. Heap will be limited during training camp as far as contact work because of the surgical procedures. Keep in mind neither surgery was deemed serious and Heap said his rehab process is progressing well. I would expect, yes, that he would start Sept. 11 against the Indianapolis Colts, but keep in mind there could be some rust.
Question Hi Aaron I have a question. With all the changes made to this team from last season (Fassel, Ryan and all the new players brought it) What difference do you see this year mainly in regards to how the team is operating under Fassel and Ryans system? How do you see the team doing and the players running into the new schemes, Better or Worse.

Aaron Wilson: The players seem to like both coordinators a lot along with their revamped schemes. The idea is to suit the plays to the players' strengths. I'm not sure if the defense did enough in terms of creating pressure and featuring Ray Lewis a year ago. Also, the offense was so conservative under Matt Cavanaugh that any type of scheme-change would be a major improvement. I think both units will perform better than a year ago, barring injuries. Bottom line: the offense and defense should be improved markedly.

Question Aaron, It has been stated that a few of our players may start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. How does that work with Training Camp? Will they have to miss time during the regular season?

Aaron Wilson: It's an administrative process intended to keep them off the field from contact drills until they are literally physically able to perform. It allows the team also to carry extra players on the roster, too. I doubt any of the players listed above are going to be on the list when the season begin unless they have a setback.

Question Hello Aaron, thank you for taking the time to do this. my question is, how did our new acquisitions Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton look in mini camp? Did Kyle seem to be comfortable passing to them? Any elaboration would be greatly appreciated.

Aaron Wilson: I thought both players had their moments, particularly Derrick Mason. Mark Clayton demonstrated flashes, but his nagging hamstring problem limited his repetitions. Kyle Boller appeared to be comfortable throwing to them, actually he appeared to be thrilled to be working with an above-average receiver tandem for the first time since he was drafted by the Ravens.

Question Aaron, How did our o-line do during the mini-camps? Did it seem to be holding up better than last year? I realize they were defending against the 46 which would be a difficult but do they seem on track and are they focusing on the pass protection more so than the running schemes etc. How did Adam Terry, Jason Brown, and Kendrick Vincent look?

Aaron Wilson: The offensive line looked all right, considering it's non-contact and they can't cut the defensive linemen to prevent batted passes. They seemed somewhat vulnerable, as usual, to speed rushers. Keep in mind that Orlando Brown's knee still flares up sometimes and Jonathan Ogden tends to turn it on in games. I thought rookies Adam Terry and Jason Brown shoed promise. Keydrick Vincent is a definite upgrade over Bennie Anderson athletically. I think Vincent has leadership qualities, too. He's a tough guy with a good attitude. The 46 did affect matters. They've never seen a scheme remotely close to this one.

Question Aaron, Who has been the most surprising player on offense and defense, someone you did not expect to perform as well as they have? Also what position seems to be the most competitive?

Aaron Wilson: Most surprising on offense: Daniel Wilcox. Most surprising on defense: Dale Carter. Most competitive position: Wide receiver.

Question Aaron, thanks for doing these Q&A's. Once again our roster seems deep at the TE position. However, I suspect that in the new Fassel offense we may only carry 3 instead of 4. Do you feel the same way and which 3 do you expect to make the final roster?
Oh and how is Musa Smith doing?

Aaron Wilson: If they only carry three, I believe it will be obviously Todd Heap and Terry Jones followed by Daniel Wilcox. The fourth spot, if they keep a fourth tight end, is down to Darnell Dinkins and Trent Smith. I think there's a chance they will keep four tight ends because Jim Fassel likes to use tight ends as extra fullbacks. Also, Dinkins is a really good special-teams performer.

Question Aaron does Will Demps still appear to be the weakest link? or has the move to the 46 made him more effective.

Aaron Wilson: Weakest link in the Ravens' defensive chain? Based on past performance, I would be more likely to pin that label on the defensive tackle spot (Maake Kemoeatu/Dwan Edwards) than Will Demps. He's solid, albeit unspectacular. He's a pretty good tackler, not great in coverage, does his best to not give up the deep pass. He doesn't make many plays in coverage, but is a good run support player and open-field tackler. I think he'll do a good job as an extra linebacker in the 46.

Question Aaron, I've seen conflicting reports about our new "47" defense. Some versions have Adalius Thomas and Will Demps up on the line of scrimmage to provide the six-man front. Others show Adalius Thomas and Tommy Polley on the line, with Demps actually moving up from his safety position to play like a linebacker next to Ray Lewis. Can you elaborate on where everyone really is when the Ravens line up in the "47"? And, if possible, what each player's usual responsibilities will be

Aaron Wilson: I understand the premise you're operating on based on Will Demps' jersey number and featured role in some sets of the 46 defense. Demps would line up at times at inside linebacker next to Ray Lewis. The way Rex Ryan explains the 46 scheme is Tommy Polley would have more pass coverage duties than Ray Lewis/Will Demps/Adalius Thomas and Dan Cody. Lewis and Demps are in effect designated hitters and should make the lion's share of the tackles.

Question Aaron: other than our first 3 choices, do you see any of the rookies making the team? If so, which ones seem to have the best chance?

Aaron Wilson: In my opinion, center Jason Brown is a lock to make the team. Fulback Justin Green and quarterback Derek Anderson should make the team, too. Brown has long-range starting potential. Linebacker Mike Smith isn't much of an athlete, but the scouts and coaches like his heart. Don't rule him out for special-teams, but he's really not very fluid at anything. He's a hitter, so he'll be in the mix.

Question Thanks for your time Mr. Wilson: How many WR's do you see making this team. Based on years past I'd assume that we're carrying 4 this season only. I'm guessing that Moore, Clayton and Mason are locks for the roster, and the battle would be for the last spot between Devard and Hymes. Is that the case or will Billick look to keep 5 WR's this season in an effort to retool the offense?

Aaron Wilson: If they keep four, which I think is likely, I would handicap it this way currently: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Clarence Moore as the first three wideouts followed by Randy Hymes or Devard Darling with Hymes currently in the lead for the fourth spot. If they keep five, it will include these names and unlikely Patrick Johnson. Hymes seems to make a lot more plays than Darling and is much more experienced. He also has an uncoachable quality: height and size.

Question Aaron, It seems as though everyone has pretty much inked in Masson and Clayton as our staring receivers. However I was very high on Devard Darling before he went down.

1) why has the media written off Darling?
2) Do you see him being a major contributor to the team this year (ie #3 or #4 WR)?

Aaron Wilson: I doubt Darling will be a major contributor this season despite the physical improvements he's made (major strength gains in the upper body). I think Darling is an excellent prospect, but a tad raw because he left college early and missed all of last season with a heel injury. If he begins to make some big plays in camp, I'd obviously adjust my assessment, but going on what I've seen Randy Hymes has the initial edge. I wouldn't get too caught up in the minicamps. Training camp and preseason games are much more important obviously.

Question Aaron, Is there any chance that the offer the Ravens left on Boulware's table still exists? There has been reports that are stating that the only offers outside of Baltimore's have come from Cleveland, Seattle and Houston which are less than 1.5 million a year. Can you see him coming back as a situational player for the team that drafted him?

Aaron Wilson: To paraphrase many coaches, that ship has sailed. I bet Peter Boulware winds up with Seattle or Houston. Cleveland GM Phil Savage knows a lot about Boulware's medical history and he has decided to pass on the four-time Pro Bowl defender. I doubt he winds up back here. Keep in mind that Adalius Thomas and Dan Cody can capably replace Boulware. Why would the Ravens change their plans at this late juncture? It's time for new blood. Boulware was an excellent player and locker room presence, but the team appears to have moved on as has Boulware.

Question Aaron, thanks a lot for your time. What kind of shape did our stars (Ogden, Suggs, and Ray) report to minicamp in, especially JO, as he didn't appear to train as hard last offseason, with him getting married and all? Also, how do rookies and 2nd year players like Dan Cody, Rod Green, Mike Smith, and Dwan Edwards look shape wise and getting to know our schemes (such as the 46)?
Aaron Wilson: Ray Lewis looked like he was much leaner, perhaps 5 to 10 pounds lighter than last season. Jonathan Ogden looked like he was in good shape. I think all of the players you asked about were in good shape, although Mike Smith could get a little quicker. Dwan Edwards is in better condition and much stronger than a year ago.

Question Aaron, I remember hearing some rumblings out of minicamps that Rod Green was seeing a lot with the first team at WLB. Is this true? And has our free agent acquistions Polley and Nelson at WLB panning out, and looking good? Also, another free agent of the defensive side of the ball: Rolle. I've read Clayton and Mason have repeatedly burnt him. Are the Ravens worried, and in your opinion, does he look like a pro-bowl quality CB out there?

Aaron Wilson: Rod Green is going to play more this year, according to Rex Ryan. Contrary to some rumors published elsewhere, he isn't going to start at weakside linebacker. He merely worked in to give starter Tommy Polley a rest. People shouldn't read so much into a practice. Jim Nelson looks solid, but he's more of a special-teams guy than anything else. He's a decent backup. Samari Rolle tends to play much better in games. He's a legitimate cornerback, so I wouldn't be unduly concerned about practice reps. The coaching staff thinks he's even better than they had hoped when they signed him. I think he has a chance to regain his Pro Bowl form, although it will be hard to actually make the team with all of the other cornerbacks, including Chris McAlister, in the AFC to compete against.

Question I would like you to please clear something up for us all. What will Ed Reed's role in the 46 be? Will he be the consistent eighth man in the box, or will he play more of a centerfielder's role. I personally see Ed Reed at the SS position being the difference between success and failure for the scheme.

Aaron Wilson: Ed Reed will be a centerfielder, acting as a free safety. Even though they call him a strong safety, he's more of a free safety. He'll still get to blitz a lot in certain situations.

Question 1.Out of all the Undrafted Free Agents which ones do you think will make the Ravens 53 man Roster. 2.When will the Ravens start signing Rookies. How many Rookies do you think the Ravens will have signed before Training Camp.

Aaron Wilson: I don't expect any of the undrafted rookies to make the final roster. I do expect some to make the practice squad and would be surprised if Darian Durant isn't in the mix. They typically begin signing rookies midway through July and sign most of them, if not all of them, a few days before camp begins. First-round holdouts, if they occur, typically last about four to six days tops.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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