Question: Various folks in the organization have stated that it was a mistake to start Boller right away in 2003. Is it your sense that the organization is committed to sit Joe Flacco for at least half a season? Or are Harbaugh and Cameron not just spouting the "competition" rhetoric and truly open to starting Flacco against Cincy if he outperforms Boller/Smith during training camp and the preseason?
Answer: Honestly, I think they would prefer the luxury of sitting Joe Flacco for at least a little while. I don't think it's rhetoric. I think if Flacco clearly displays he's ready and can physically and mentally handle the starting assignment, then he'll be the guy. I think it will be hard to keep him off the field for long. We won't be able to truly gauge how ready Flacco is until a couple of preseason games have transpired. Everything I've heard leads me to think that he will absorb the offense fairly quickly. How he'll adjust to the increased speed of the game is unclear presently.
Question: Aaron, this might not be what you are looking for, but if appropriate, what are your AFCN counterparts' views on their respective teams off-season maneuvering (both draft and FA) as well as their outlooks at this point.
Answer: Consider this to be a quick-hitting answer about the AFC North. Pittsburgh looks strong again and has made some improvements on offense with Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed's arrival. I wonder about their cornerbacks, though, and pass rush. Cincinnati is having a chaotic offseason. Again. And I think it will affect their prospects and land them in last place. Cleveland could challenge the Steelers after a strong offseason spearheaded by Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers' acquisitions. They are still weak at linebacker relatively.
Question: At which positions and what players do you expect the biggest battles in training camp? Who do you think will come out on top?
Answer: At cornerback, Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington will compete and I predict Washington will be the eventual starter. Jared Gaither and Adam Terry will duke it out at left tackle, and I think Gaither may nose out Terry if he maintains his concentration and maturity. Terry needs to get healthy following ankle surgery to catch up with Gaither in the offseason program. Demetrius Williams could push Mark Clayton for playing time behind Derrick Mason in the receiver pecking order. I think Marshal Yanda will only be able to move inside to right guard if Oniel Cousins or David Hale are ready to play right tackle. In my opinion, Terry and Gaither aren't suited to play that position. If someone can take Yanda's place, then Jason Brown could play center and Ben Grubbs could move back to his natural left guard spot. Watch for competition for roster spots in the secondary and at linebacker as Gary Stills, Dan Cody and Prescott Burgess are on the bubble. The return game could heat up, too, as incumbent Yamon Figurs tries to hold off Ray Rice and Tom Zbikowski.
Question: In the limited time you have seen the players during mini camp who has looked the most impressive and most improved? Least Impressive and most rusty?
Answer: Antwan Barnes is up to 255 pounds and hasn't lost any speed. He's moving around very well and I think he'll have an increased role. Barnes has improved in pass coverage markedly. Yamon Figurs has dropped a ton of passes. He's not suited to play wide receiver and needs to concentrate on his return skills to keep his job.
Question: I keep hearing about all of the all of the great special teams players we are signing through free agency (Ayanbedejo and Leonhard) and the draft (Gooden, Zbikowski, Nakamura) in additional to all of the special teams players we already had on the roster. Do you think that Harbaugh, being a special teams guy, may have his blinders on a bit and bringing on players in his wheelhouse and potentially neglecting other more pressing needs on the team?
Answer: I think Harbaugh legitimately has concerns about the kick coverage he saw on film and wants to inject the team with his personality through the kicking game. This is a natural inclination given his background and a good way to transform the attitude on the team. Not surprising that he would concentrate on this area at all.
Question: How do you think the offensive line will perform this year given a healthy Terry on the left side?
Answer: I think the line could struggle as it undergoes some growing pains in the post Jonathan Ogden era. Terry needs to establish himself on the left side and get over his ankle surgery. He's done a good job of bulking up, but needs to regain his footwork as he gets back on the field.
Question: I hope you don't mind 2 questions 1. Ozzie sounded like his job was on the line before the draft. With Billick out, Harbaugh in, & Bischotti still fairly new as an owner, do you think Ozzie will adjust and work well with them in the next few years? 2. If Sypniewski is out for the year and Wilcox is not 100% ready, is there any chance that the Ravens will pickup a veteran free agent TE before the season starts?
Answer: I don't think Ozzie Newsome's job security is an issue. At One Winning Drive, he's viewed as an asset considering he's the one who brings in the multiple Pro Bowl selections. As for the tight end spot, I think they will explore tight end possibilities as far as veterans. However, the market is really thin.
Question: Aaron, I am trying to assimilate a couple of the questions above and go from there. With the emphasis on special teamers and with the questions on the OL for this year, is it your sense that : Harbaugh thinks that we sadly neglected our special teams and failed to get more critical kicking turnovers and gave teams excellent field position far too often;
Is Cameron going to emphasize multiple sets in the running attack and allow the younger linemen to "grade block" more for multiple backs? That seems to be a simpler scheme for young guys to learn. I am clearly implying this is a rebuilding year and everyone on the staff knows it. Thanks
Answer: I think Harbaugh wanted to inject some new blood in the kicking game and after watching film of last year, he realized it was an issue he needed to address in terms of coaching, personnnel, scheme, etc.. As far as Cam Cameron goes, he's going to emphasize more complicated schemes to try to keep opposing defenses off guard. As far as whether this will be a rebuilding year, I believe they are prepared for this to be a rebuilding season throughout the organization. However, they also want to give it a shot to see if Harbs can win with Brian Billick's players.
Question: If you had to guess what "big" names are on the bubble with this years current roster, who might you say?
Answer: Gary Stills, Dan Cody, David Pittman, Derrick Martin, Dan Wilcox, Mike Kracalik, Ronnie Prude, Prescott Burgess, Edgar Jones, Samari Rolle, depending on his health, could be in tough fights to make the roster. It will depend on the numbers game, competitions, other players' performance, so it's fairly premature at this stage of the offseason to say who's definitely making the final roster or not.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
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