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Eisenberg: Five Biggest Questions Heading Into Ravens Training Camp


Like many teams, the Ravens have questions they would like to see answered during training camp. Here, in my view, are five of the biggest:

Are they good to go at center and right tackle?

When the offseason began, GM Ozzie Newsome pointed to the offensive line as an area that needed to be upgraded. And it's true: any hope for a more potent Baltimore offense begins with a line that is tough, consistent and, yes, better than a year ago. It's a logical goal, but right now, the Ravens are counting on in-house replacements for two former starters playing elsewhere. John Urschel, Ryan Jensen and Matt Skura are competing for Jeremy Zuttah's center job, and James Hurst is penciled in to replace Rick Wagner at right tackle. The coaches have talked up the candidates as improved and viable, but the fact remains, they couldn't beat out the now-departed starters. The front office will use camp to decide whether a veteran free agent such as center Nick Mangold is needed at either position. My guess is one at the most.

Is Benjamin Watson ready to contribute?

Between Dennis Pitta's injury, Darren Waller's suspension and the injuries that have limited Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams, the Ravens have gone from having a tight end surplus to wondering if they have anyone at the position who is healthy and able to start. But the situation is not so murky if Watson makes a full return from the Achilles injury that caused him to miss last season. He's the oldest player on the team, but he's in terrific shape and a pro's pro, with a long track record of solid play. The coaches are high on Nick Boyle, who will play a lot, and if Watson also is ready, that gives Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg at least two tight ends, which is enough. Conversely, if Watson struggles in camp, the team might need to add a veteran.

Where will the pass rush come from?

This is my choice for the Ravens' biggest under-the-radar issue. They've slipped from 49 to 37 to 31 sacks in the past three seasons, and now, Elvis Dumervil is gone, and Terrell Suggs, who led the team with eight sacks in 2016, turns 35 in October. A quality pass rush is mandatory, and the Ravens are aware of their need, having amassed a stockpile of young guys for the role. But it's time for some of them to step up, prompting many questions. Who will start opposite Suggs? Is Matt Judon ready in year two? Can Za'Darius Smith regain his rookie form in year three? Can rookies Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser make an immediate difference? Can the Ravens generate more pressure up the middle with Brandon Williams and whoever starts at tackle? Training camp practices should help provide clarity.

Is Correa the guy at inside linebacker?

Zach Orr's stunning departure opened up a starting job, and if the spring practice season was any measure, the Ravens believe Correa, their 2016 second-round draft pick, can fill it. After barely playing as a rookie, he ran with the ones and gave a frank interview best summed up as "I have my head together now." But as Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged, it's going to be hard to know for sure until he puts on pads during camp. To be clear, he's likely to play mostly on first and second downs, giving way in passing situations. But it's a crucial spot. Orr led the team in tackles in 2016.

Is the running game reboot developing on schedule?

After ranking No. 28 in the league in rushing in 2016, the Ravens have focused on fixing their ground game, which, in theory, would help achieve a more desirable run-pass balance. There's a new line coach and a run-game expert overseeing the makeover, and honestly, we won't know how it's progressing until the team plays games that count. But camp practices could provide a read on how the line is adapting to some new blocking schemes, and also, whether the running back stable is ready to deal with Kenneth Dixon's absence for at least four games due to a suspension and a knee injury. Is there another running back on the roster who can share the load with Terrance West? Is just-signed Bobby Rainey the answer? Can Buck Allen revive his career? Can Lorenzo Taliaferro play two positions? We're about to find out.

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