1. Judging from most reports, Joe Flacco outperformed Kyle Boller and Troy Smith during the mandatory minicamp. Clearly it's very early but do you think the Ravens will be hesitant to start Flacco even if he is the best QB in camp given the team's experiences with Kyle Boller?
Answer: No, I don't think they will allow the Kyle Boller debacle to influence how they approach this decision. It's a different situation really, one where Joe Flacco is more prepared to start as a rookie. That said, they're not going to rush him. The truth is they'll play him if they think he's ready, and the offensive line is ready to protect him. I don't think they'll hold him back if he's clearly ready.
2. Jonathan Ogden has yet to announce his retirement. Is it just a matter of time or do you think that there's a possibility he will lace them up again?
Answer: Ogden has privately told friends that he plans to retire. When he announces his retirement, barring some last-minute change of heart, it shapes up as an anticlimactic announcement.
3. With the influx of young talent, some higher paid veterans could be at risk. Which vets might be in danger of losing a roster spot?
Answer: Because of the logjam at linebacker and the special-teams ability of newcomer Brendon Ayanbadejo, it could be a tight squeeze for Gary Stills and Dan Cody. Neither is exactly highly paid, but they are familiar veterans who could find themselves on the bubble.
4. The Ravens' personnel folks will defend the '06 second round selection of Chris Chester and point to his upside and athleticism. What are you hearing from the Ravens' inner circle about Chester? If he doesn't start in '08 is it safe to label him a bust?
Answer: Chris Chester has progressed at a decent rate, but has yet to establish himself as a sure-fire starter. The Ravens are considering other alternatives at center, experimenting with Jason Brown and Marshal Yanda at center during minicamps. Chester has gained some weight and worked hard, but hasn't shown as much intensity as hoped for as he completes his conversion from being recruited to Oklahoma as a tight end. This is a pivotal year for how Chester will be viewed. Not earning a starting job after three seasons is pretty safe to say the bust label is going to be attached, fairly or not.
5. Rumors have surfaced about Jared Gaither's work ethic or lack thereof. Assess his conditioning and his performance thus far during OTA's.
Answer: Jared Gaither has practiced pretty well, taking all the first-string snaps at left tackle while Adam Terry recuperates from offseason ankle surgery. Maturity issues are what hurt Gaither at Maryland, and he needs to apply himself at all times with the Ravens. He has all the ability and size necessary for the position, but consistency is what's in question.
6. Dawan Landry slipped markedly in '07 and fell far short of his productivity as a rookie in '06. Is he a lock to start the season or do you think the rookie safeties could push him for playing time?
Answer: I do think Dawan Landry is safe as far as retaining his starting status. I don't think he has anything to worry about at this point.
7. Can Trevor Pryce return to his '06 form?
Answer: It's hard to say. That defense had Adalius Thomas and a blitzing Bart Scott. I think he can approach that form again if Terrell Suggs is generating enough heat on the quarterback. Of course, his health is of paramount importance. I think he can definitely still play at a high level whether that adds up to 13 sacks or not.
8. John Harbaugh has certainly made his presence felt and he's shaken things up a bit in the Ravens locker room and on the practice field. From your observations how have the previously coddled vets taken to their new head coach?
Answer: I think Samari Rolle summed it up pretty well when he said it's a culture change and the players have to go with the flow. For the most part, I think that's what is happening with the players buying into the new regime.
9. Ed Reed was once a player who would sign autographs for an hour or so after summer camp practices. He no longer does that and appears a bit detached and aloof these days. Moreove he's been criticized for freelancing and exposing his secondary mates. What do you expect from the former DPOY in '08?
Answer: I'm not sure about the autograph practices, but I've seen him signing a lot since he got to Baltimore. As far as gambling too much, that's always been the knock on Reed: high risk, high reward. For the most part, that works for him and the Ravens. Sometimes, it backfires. As far as this season, I would expect him to excel, especially if the cornerbacks are healthy and playing well.
10. Mark Clayton hasn't performed as expected. Do you think that he could be in danger of losing his starting job?
Answer: Not based on what I've seen at minicamps. I think he'll be the second receiver in the pecking order behind Derrick Mason again. Clayton has caught the football well and run well after the catch during practice and appears to be primed to bounce back from a subpar season.
11. Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Bart Scott are all in the last year of their respective contracts. Do you think that any will receive extensions during the year or will the Ravens front office just play it out until the season is over?
Answer: I think the only prospective deal that they've done a ton of work on is Terrell Suggs. Everything else has been fairly preliminary, and the Ray Lewis contract isn't close at all. No deal appears to imminent with any of the linebackers. I could see Suggs potentially getting done at some point prior to him becoming a free agent.
I think the other two could wait until after the season as Baltimore could weigh its options and see how each player performs this season. Obviously, each negotiation is a fluid situation. I know that all three players prefer to be back with the Ravens, but the money has to be right. The only one of the three that's ever given the Ravens a discount is Scott.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
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