Eisenberg: Differentiating Actual Issues From Non-Issues as Ravens Head Into Training Camp


As training camp begins, it's time for another edition of that popular game show, Issue or Non-Issue, in which I judge whether various Ravens topics are crucial or, well, not so crucial. My list is long so let's get to it!

Topic: The quality of the new receiver group.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: This one is obvious, right? After the Ravens' passing game fell to No. 29 in the league last year, GM Ozzie Newsome pledged to completely reinvent Joe Flacco's set of targets. He signed three free-agent wide receivers, selected tight ends in the first and third rounds of the draft and added wide receivers in the fourth and fifth rounds. The new faces offer plenty of reason for optimism, but rookie tight ends aren't always immediate contributors and salary-cap constraints forced Newsome to sign free agents who, while surely talented, are coming off subpar seasons by their standards. Can they provide an upgrade? Few questions about this team are more important.

Topic: The quality of the offensive line.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: This deserves an asterisk because O-line quality is always an issue for every team, and with the Ravens having subtracted two starters from last year's surprisingly solid unit, uncertainty is a given. But here's my asterisk thought: While it's an issue, I feel pretty good about the possibility of things working out. Although Marshal Yanda is starting camp on the physically unable to perform list, the Ravens expect him to be ready for the season. Alex Lewis is also back from an injury, and Ronnie Stanley is a year older, as are a handful of guys who logged a lot of snaps last year. Pro Football Focus gave the unit a low projection (No. 24) that, I think, could easily be surpassed. There are a lot of useful pieces here.

Topic: The emergence of young pass rushers.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: Benefiting from two straight years in the team's offseason program, Terrell Suggs looks fit and ready to go on forever. He and Matthew Judon combined for 19 sacks last season, a healthy total. But that was still less than half of the Ravens' overall total, which means they'll need production from numerous other sources. The Ravens would like to see Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, a pair of 2017 second-day draft picks, become more primary contributors of edge pressure while Willie Henry brings it inside.

Topic: Joe Flacco getting together with his receivers for throwing practice before camp.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-Issue.

Why: Flacco said last month that he planned to do it, but we won't know if he did until he addresses the media this week. (Lack of social media evidence has some wondering.) The front office wanted it to happen, and working to develop chemistry wouldn't be the worst thing given the receiver overhaul. But I've never viewed this as anything more than something to talk about during the offseason, as opposed to something that actually makes a difference. I mean, if the Ravens lose a game in November, are we really going to attribute it to a lack of off-site pitch-and-catch in June?

Topic: Jimmy Smith's availability.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: I'm tempted to call it a Non-Issue because the Ravens might be deeper at cornerback than at any other position and thus could field a quality pairing even if Smith isn't ready after suffering an Achilles tear last season. (It was great news that he was NOT on Monday's reported PUP list.) But I'm calling it an Issue because a healthy Smith and Marlon Humphrey would make a formidable pairing. No one slows the Steelers' Antonio Brown better than Smith. That's potentially a difference-maker.

Topic: C.J. Mosley hasn't signed a long-term contract extension as camp begins.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: There's no immediate rush with Mosley still on a contract that runs through this season, but the Ravens want to lock up their defensive centerpiece for 2019 and beyond. An agreement could come at any time in the next eight months so it's on a back burner of sorts, but the longer it burns, the more unnerving the situation gets.

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