Burning Questions for Baltimore Ravens' Training Camp
The Super Bowl hangover is a very real threat, and the defending champion Baltimore Ravens have a lot of questions to answer to prove it won't happen to them.
Training camp is our first opportunity to see the Ravens try to answer the burning questions facing this roster. Let's take a look at just what those questions are.
Can Joe Flacco Carry over the Momentum from Last Year's Playoffs?
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Everyone knows how awesome Joe Flacco was in the playoffs. The stat line that explains it best: 11 touchdowns, no interceptions. In just four games, Flacco threw 11 touchdowns, compared to just 22 during the regular season.
Obviously, those are two very different paces. The question facing Flacco now is whether or not he can maintain that pace.
The Ravens have already proven they don't need Flacco to be amazing to win games, but to become a dynasty, they'll need Flacco at his best. With lasting confidence from his ring, Flacco should improve his consistency and build on last year.
Will Bernard Pierce Steal Carries from Ray Rice?
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Bernard Pierce was a revelation in the second half of last season, finishing the season with a 4.9 rushing average. That was higher than Ray Rice.
Now Pierce is threatening Rice's carries. Rice, being a solid teammate, won't make an issue of this, but the Ravens do need to figure out how to get the most out of their two dynamic running backs.
Is Torrey Smith a True No. 1 Receiver?
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The Ravens have never drafted a 1,000-yard receiver, though Torrey Smith has gotten close to that number twice. They are now relying on Smith to be their go-to guy, giving him the opportunity to finally break that streak.
Raw stats are only one measure to see if Smith has matured into the No. 1 guy. The most important thing won't be his yardage totals, but rather his efficiency. Joe Flacco completed less than 50 percent of his passes intended for Smith last season. That number needs to change for Smith to truly be a go-to option.
Who Will Step Up as a Starting Receiver?
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Opposite Torrey Smith is one big question mark. Jacoby Jones? Deonte Thompson? Tandon Doss? Who knows?
One of these guys will step up. Jones is the most experienced, Thompson is the fastest and Doss is the biggest. All three will get reps, but only one can be the starter.
Can Bryant McKinnie Hold on for Another Season?
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Players can only last so long into their 30s, and Bryant McKinnie is certainly on the wrong end of that number. As a guy who will turn 34 this season, McKinnie will need to work even harder to be in shape this season.
So far, McKinnie has looked solid. How he looks when he shows up to camp will be key.
Do the Ravens Have an Answer at Nose Tackle?
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The Ravens' nose tackle competition will be between Terrence Cody and Brandon Williams.
Cody has struggled in his short career, often getting pushed around. Williams has more upside, but he played his college ball at the Division II level. He has a steep learning curve.
If neither of them step up, the Ravens' could rely on Haloti Ngata to play the nose. They don't want to have to do that.
Can Terrell Suggs Regain His 2011 Form?
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Terrell Suggs went from Defensive Player of the Year to a shell of his former self. Tearing an Achilles tendon will do that, meaning Suggs had a tough offseason ahead to get himself back on track.
Suggs is in better shape than ever, but how his injury will hold up remains to be seen.
Do the Ravens Have a Playmaker at Inside Linebacker?
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Jameel McClain isn't a playmaker. He's a facilitator who takes on blockers so the other linebacker can make plays.
That means either Arthur Brown or Daryl Smith will have to be that playmaker. Both will play a role, but one needs to step up and be the main playmaker in the linebacking corps. The Ravens need a guy who can make plays all over the field, and both have that kind of ability.
How Healthy Is Lardarius Webb?
This question is pretty simple. Is Lardarius Webb ready to regain his lockdown form?
Everyone will be keeping a close eye on Webb to see how his surgically repaired knee holds up. His health is key to a solid Ravens' secondary.
Can the Ravens Force Turnovers Without Ed Reed?
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Ed Reed lost a lot of his ability, but he was still the king of playing mindgames with opposing quarterbacks. No safety has Reeds' ability to read and react to opposing passers.
The Ravens now have Michael Huff and Matt Elam at safety, but neither are as instinctive as Reed. Webb excels at forcing turnovers, though, which should make up for the loss of Reed. Keep an eye on the Ravens' secondary to see who else steps up as a ballhawk.