5 Key Questions for the Ravens

1. Will new running back Willis McGahee be an upgrade over Jamal Lewis? Please keep reading for further details.

The Ravens invested three draft picks and $40 million in McGahee, banking that his lack of consistent production in Buffalo was due to his offensive line and his attitude. Since McGahee seems to be extremely happy with his change of scenery and the Ravens are tailoring their offense to suit his superior versatility, the expectations are understandably high for a revamped running game. The Ravens plan to run more one-back sets, more three to four wide receiver packages and double tight end alignments.

2. How will the new-look offensive line perform?

Keep a scorecard, because change and a youth movement are afoot here. Jonathan Ogden remains the anchor of the line at left tackle as he recovers from a painful turf toe injury. Edwin Mulitalo is out, and Jason Brown is in at left guard. Mike Flynn remains the center, but the team could always shift athletic interior lineman Chris Chester there.

Chester enters camp as the new starting right guard. Former starter Keydrick Vincent was demoted and moved to left guard. First-round pick Ben Grubbs should be a factor, too. Plus, Adam Terry was installed as the new right tackle with Tony Pashos' departure. Last year, Baltimore allowed a franchise-record 17 sacks, but the run blocking must significantly improve. Especially with all of the sweeps and traps the team plans to emphasize for McGahee.

3. How much of an impact will Rick Neuheisel have on the offense now that he's the offensive coordinator?

The truth is Neuheisel will have significantly more input, especially in helpnig to formulate the game plan during the week, but game day belongs to coach Brian Billick. He assumed play-calling duties last season after firing Jim Fassel and has decided to remain in that role. Neuheisel will have a louder voice, as he and Billick have reiterated, but it's Billick's show to run. Neuheisel doubles as the quarterbacks coach and has gained a good rapport with Steve McNair.

4. What will the NFL's top-ranked defense do for an encore?

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan runs an unpredictable, aggressive unit that features Pro Bowl athletes at every unit. The key is cutting down on the deep balls the secondary allowed last season while maintaining a fierce pass rush spearheaded by Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs while replacing All-Pro linebacker Adalius Thomas.

5. Will age and a challenging schedule derail a Super Bowl run?

Nine of the team's 22 starters are 30 or older. Do they still have enough left in the tank to go the distance? Or will the window of opportunity slam shut? Stay tuned.
R Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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