Ravens Insider VIP Q&A

As the clock ticks down to the Baltimore Ravens' arrival at training camp in Westminster in a few weeks, our mailbag is filled to the brim with fans' burning questions. And without any further adieu or testing of your collective patience, here are your long-awaited answers:

Question: In your opinion, is Demetrius Williams competing for the 3rd WR spot or does he pretty much have it if he's healthy? If he's not healthy, is there any chance the Ravens offer him an injury settlement?

Answer: If Demetrius Williams can fully recuperate from his surgery last year to repair his Achilles' tendon and bone spurs in his ankle, then he's, without question, the Ravens' third wide receiver. If not for the durability concerns that have plagued him, then Williams would have probably emerged as a starter and the primary deep threat by now.

However, he's continually been injured as he enters this one-year, restricted free agent contract. The prospects of the Ravens dumping Williams with an injury settlement are virtually nil. They're going to need him. Based on what I witnessed during offseason minicamps, there were strong signs of him regaining his old form and being able to run and cut the way he needs to be able to perform optimally. He has also gained some weight, bulking up to try to become less prone to injuries.

Question: The wide receiver and the tight end positions are anything but a strength right now with the fluid injury issues with both positions. I believe the Ravens have failed to properly address this area. Too many unproven young WR's and the TE area is filled with injuries. Heap, LJ and Quinn are all coin flips. We will not beat Pittsburgh with this issue the way it currently exists. Why?

Answer: I feel the pessimism, and it's not entirely unwarranted. Since this is more of a vent than a formal question, here goes. I agree with your basic premise that the injury problems are a cause for concern. I wouldn't panic, though. You still have two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Derrick Mason under contract, and he's recovering fairly well from surgery to repair his labrum and scapula.

He's still a reliable possession wide receiver. Mark Clayton has been inconsistent, but can make plays when he's healthy and has improved his chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco. Marcus Smith is like "night and day," compared to last year, according to Ravens coach John Harbaugh. And the Ravens acquired veteran Kelley Washington to bolster the special teams and provide a potential red-zone threat.

At tight end, Todd Heap was beginning to come around at the end of the minicamps from a lower back injury and L.J. Smith is starting to move around better after sports hernia surgery. You're right that the Ravens will need more dynamic play in the passing game to overtake the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers. As far as the why, it's been well-documented why the Ravens were unable to acquire Anquan Boldin: salary demands, trade compensation, injury concerns. Add those reasons plus a history of domestic violence, and that's why the Ravens didn't go after Brandon Marshall.

Question: The cornerbacks that we have now might be fast, but are not very physical. In your opinion how will this play out, their strengths vs. their weakness's. We play some pretty good wide receivers this year, will we be able to cover without getting burnt? Thanks

Answer: It's true that the Ravens' emphasis on speed at cornerback has left them without a real physical presence outside. That said, Domonique Foxworth is known as a fundamentally sound tackler.

Also, Fabian Washington should be a better tackler this year now that his neck and shoulder have been surgically repaired. These guys should be able to run with most receivers and have cover skills. As for the tackling, if the Ravens really need to bring someone down they can always call upon safeties Ed Reed and Dawan Landry. It's not ideal in terms of the size-speed ratio you want at cornerback, but big, strong, fast cornerbacks are rare commodities.

Question: What player do you think will surprise everyone on the upside?

Answer: I'm not sure if it will qualify as a surprise, but running back Ray Rice is emerging as a more physical runner this year. Rice has gained some noticeable muscle in his upper body and should be better suited to run between the tackles. He took the majority of the first-string carries during the minicamps with Willis McGahee sidelined following arthroscopic knee surgery. I thought Rice looked strong, quick and ready to shoulder a bigger workload this fall.

Question: We've heard a lot regarding the tremendous progress Marcus Smith has made since last season, but will it translate to Sunday's this season? Or are we looking at another training camp legend?

Answer: Last year, Marcus Smith made some eye-catching receptions during training camp. However, during games, he disappeared. Several catchable slant passes bounced off his outstretched hands. He seemed unsure of himself, raw and inexperienced. As a converted running back, a learning curve was anticipated.

During this offseason, Smith has rebuilt his confidence and is looking sure-handed during practices. It's impossible to predict whether he'll regress again when it counts, but my educated hunch is that he'll be at least a minor contributor this season.

Question: What are some things you like about Cedric Peerman from an on field perspective so far? What RB would you compare his style to? Thanks.

Answer: Good hands out of the backfield, runs with good body lean and he seems to be picking up the playbook quickly. Very intelligent and hard-working. He kind of reminds me of a younger Patrick Pass, the former New England Patriots running back. Peerman is faster, though.

Question: Two part question. What significant strides do you see in Joe Flacco? I know it is probably difficult to gauge at this point, but do you see the OL as providing strong run blocking or strong pass protection or being equally good at both? Thanks again.

Answer: I've seen better mechanics and fundamentals out of Joe Flacco this year and stronger command of the entire offense. He seems more confident and relaxed and willing to push the envelope with the deep ball. I think this is a better run-blocking outfit than pass-blocking at this point, but I think that Michael Oher's arrival will eventually upgrade both areas after he gets acclimated to the NFL level.

Question: We have a lot cornerbacks on the roster this year who are NFL quality, in your opinion, what do you think the pecking order of the CB's is (i.e. ranked 1-8)? Specifically, how has Lardarius Webb looked?

Answer: 1. Domonique Foxworth, 2. Fabian Washngton, 3. Samari Rolle, 4. Lardarius Webb, 5. Frank Walker, 6. Derrick Martin, 7. Evan Oglesby, 8. I guess Chris Carr, but I think he's mostly going to return kicks. Don't count out K.J. Gerard, a really promising undrafted rookie free agent who can also play safety. Now that Webb is recovered from a hamstring injury, he has really impressed the coaching staff with his versatility and athleticism.

Question: Is Ray Lewis still an every-down player? How resistant is he to moving to a part time role?

Answer: I think the Ravens are better served with limiting Ray Lewis to first and second downs primarily, especially late in games. I haven't heard anything about him being extremely resistant to being off the field, but he's so competitive that I doubt he would want to miss any plays whatsoever.

Question: How's Willis McGahee doing? Since he put himself in Harbs' doghouse last year, is he close to getting out anytime soon with a change of work ethic and attitude?

Is he a lock to be the lead running back this year with McClain moving back to the primary fullback, or can Cedric Peerman pose a serious challenge after having an impressive minicamp

Answer: Willis McGahee could still stand for some improvement in his conditioning and practice habits. I think the relationship has improved with the coaching staff, but there's a chance that Ray Rice could take away some of McGahee's playing time. I don't expect Cedric Peerman to make a major push for a lot of significant playing time, barring injuries to other players. I'm impressed with him, though, in general.

Question: Is Steve Hauschka settling in or is Matt Stover still on Ozzie Newsome's speed dial..

Answer: It's going to be a close battle between Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano with Hauschka holding a slight edge heading into camp. I expect one of those two candidates to win the job. If they falter, then they can always call Matt Stover up to save the day.

Question: Is our roster pretty much pat, or do you see us picking up any player of significance before training camp starts? What position do you think it will be?

Answer: I don't foresee any major changes or additions prior to training camp. I would say this is pretty much your team. If injuries persist at wide receiver and tight end, then some players will undoubtedly be brought in to bolster depth at camp.


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