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Eisenberg: OTAs Edition of Issue or Non-Issue


OK, it's time for another episode of "Issue or Non-Issue," the game show in which I tackle various Ravens talking points and decide whether they're relevant to the team's prospects or just hot air.

There's plenty to discuss after a rough week on the practice field, so let's jump right in…

Topic: Dennis Pitta's hip injury.

Issue or Non-Issue: : Issue.

Why: Obviously, it's a terrible setback for the offense. The Ravens have a multitude of tight ends, but Pitta, when healthy, is the most effective receiver. He successfully returned from prior hip injuries to become one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets last season, catching 86 passes. But if he is seriously injured again (he's being evaluated), his career almost surely is over. That's a shame for Pitta, a popular and respected locker room elder who worked incredibly hard to keep playing. The entire organization supported him through his ups and downs, and if this is the end, well, it's one bummer of an ending.

Topic: Marshal Yanda's shoulder surgery.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-issue.

Why: Easy for me to say, huh? I feel guilty rendering this judgment. The Ravens' best offensive lineman is bound to deal with physical issues in 2017 after undergoing surgery to repair an injury that plagued him all last season. That's no fun. It isn't his first shoulder surgery, and Yanda turns 33 in September, which isn't young in football years. But he was still at the top of his game in 2016 and Head Coach John Harbaugh has said he expects Yanda to be 100 percent for training camp. Sounds like one of the NFL's best linemen still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

Topic: The decision not to replace Kyle Juszczyk with another starting-caliber fullback.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-issue.

Why: Admittedly, I'm jumping the gun here, just predicting they'll go with a blend of other options at the position Juszczyk manned so capably for the past three years. It could be they end up signing someone. But I bet they don't. And that's OK. I'm intrigued by the idea of unleashing 285-pound tight end Nick Boyle as a lead blocker on running plays. That sounds like a move that could help make the running game more physical. And though Juszczyk was a capable receiver, Danny Woodhead can do more as a check-down target.

Topic: Michael Campanaro's sprained toe.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: It doesn't sound like much. Head Coach John Harbaugh labeled it a "nuisance," which doesn't sound calamitous. But the Ravens were optimistic that Campanaro finally was healthy after injuries severely limited him in his first three years, and now he's down again. His latest setback drives home the point that they still need more depth and quality targets at receiver. I continue to believe they'll end up addressing the situation with a trade.

Topic: The track record of the pass rushers other than Terrell Suggs.

Issue or Non-Issue:Issue.

Why: Realizing they needed a new generation of contributors in this key role, the Ravens have thrown a lot of assets at it. That will produce one of the more interesting battles for snaps, with Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams and Za'Darius Smith competing for the chance to get after opposing quarterbacks. There's a lot of talent there, which bodes well for the future. But right now, it's a group with limited experience, few starts. It was time to move on from Elvis Dumervil, but a period of transition could ensue.

Topic: Limited salary cap flexibility.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: GM Ozzie Newsome always insists he can find a way to add any player, and I'm sure that's true. But the Ravens have slightly under $2 million of available salary cap space, according to Spotrac, and that's less than every team except the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. (Weird typing that.) If they end up wanting to sign a veteran offensive lineman or trade for a receiver, those players' contracts might force the front office to shed salary to clear space. That might not be a screaming issue, but it does qualify as one.

Topic: Tavon Young's torn ACL.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-issue.

Why: Close call here. It was a shame to see Young go down after he outperformed expectations in 2016. Even with Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey now in the cornerback stable, Young was the most natural slot corner on the depth chart, and he played well enough last year to earn snaps this year. But I do think the Ravens have the manpower to replace him, either with Humphrey, veteran Lardarius Webb or Maurice Canady, or perhaps a combination of players and alignments. Warning: If another cornerback goes down with a major injury, I'm switching this to "issue."

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