I was able to preview the Baltimore Ravens with Ebony Bird writer Tynan Patrick. I sent him some questions and here is his responses to them.
1.Which player(s) on roster need to step up in order for the season to be successful?
Jimmy Smith. Smith has played some really nice football in the playoffs in his first two seasons, but he has struggled to stay healthy. On his first professional play he had his ankle rolled up and missed about half of his rookie year, and then last year he underwent sports hernia surgery costing him much of his second year. When healthy, he has flashed the potential that made the Ravens overlook character issues and draft him 27th overall, but a player that can’t stay in the field isn’t much of a player no matter how good he is. Smith lost 10lbs. In the offseason and is healthier than ever, but with the Ravens losing Cary Williams and likely to bring Lardarius Webb back slowly, Smith needs to play like a starter this year.
2. What position battle(s) will you be paying attention to during training camp?
There is plenty of talk about the WR and ILB spots, but I think I am most interested in watching how the defensive line comes together. Last year the Ravens were mediocre as a run defense and much of that stemmed from poor DL play by Terrence Cody and the nagging injuries to Haloti Ngata. In the offseason the Ravens stocked up on defensive line talent acquiring Chris Canty, Marcus Spears and Elvis Dumervil in free agency and then drafting Brandon Williams, John Simon and Kapron Lewis-Moore (Simon and Dunervil are OLBs bet they will both see time at DE). The Ravens now have a tone of pieces to work with on the DL and the only question is how they will line them up.
The buzz is that Ngata wants to move back to nose tackle which would leave Chris Canty and Arthur Jones as the likely DEs, but if Brandon Williams has a strong enough camp, he could take over the nose and push Ngata back outside to end. It will be very interesting to see how this all shakes out.