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Eisenberg: Ravens Issue Or Non-Issue?


OK, sports fans, it's time for another round of the always-popular game show, Issue or Non-Issue, in which I take subjects circulating in Baltimore's football conversation and decide whether they're relevant and important ... or not! 

This always gets a debate going, so let's get started!

  • The relationship between quarterback Joe Flacco and Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak 

The Ravens have handed their offense over to Kubiak, but Flacco has to make it work on the field, so one would assume they need to get along. But do they? It's a professional arrangement; the goal is for them to function well, not become bros. In any case, I don't think it's going to be an issue. On WNST earlier this week, Flacco sounded impressed by Kubiak and said they had shared a beer, a good sign; sounds like "all in" to me. Kubiak, a savvy former head coach, certainly understands that he needs his franchise quarterback on board and in lockstep with him. The test would come if and when a tough day arises, but neither guy is a hothead and I'm thinking they'll handle it.


  • Ray Rice's availability early in the season

Kubiak's offense relies on a solid running game, and the Ravens are counting on their embattled back to provide it. But he won't play at the start of the season if he is suspended for violating the league's personal conduct policy, which means Bernard Pierce and/or Lorenzo Taliaferro and/or veteran Justin Forsett would have to carry the load. Meanwhile, the Ravens open with huge home games against the Bengals and Steelers. They're counting on Kubiak's zone blocking scheme working regardless of who carries the ball, but Pierce is coming off shoulder surgery, Taliaferro is a rookie and Forsett is a career reserve. 


  • Right tackle 

As Rick Wagner ran with the starters through OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, Kubiak praised him and the team even gave him a turn on the interview podium, a custom reserved for prominent players. So is this situation settled? I'm not ready to say so. Sure, it could be Wagner is a piece of the puzzle and the Ravens are able to replace a former first-round pick (Michael Oher) with a fifth-round pick (Wagner in 2013), but let's let the situation percolate a bit longer before making any pronouncement, i.e., let's see how training camp and the preseason go. As Head Coach John Harbaugh said, things can change "once the pads are on."


  • Backup quarterback

Tyrod Taylor has held the job for three years and is under contract for 2014, so he's the leading candidate, but there have been whispers about Kubiak wanting someone more familiar with his system. Alarms blared recently when a false report sounded about the Texans releasing T.J. Yates. (Oops, they traded him.) The issue receives a lot of attention because it involves quarterbacks, but Flacco is strong and durable and has never missed a start. It's going to take a serious injury to sideline him. 


  • No. 3 cornerback 

As noted in Kevin Byrne's column this week, the Ravens really wanted to re-sign Corey Graham to fill this role. The No. 3 corner got a ton of playing time and it's crucial that he play well, as Graham did. But Graham bolted to Buffalo. The fact that the Ravens tried out a bunch of corners at their minicamp and signed two veterans would seem to indicate they aren't comfortable with just handing the job to Chykie Brown, the logical "next man up." There will be plenty of candidates in camp, but it takes quality, not quantity, to fill this key hole.


  • Missing the playoffs in 2013

When the Ravens reported for work a year ago, they said they were turning the page from the Super Bowl and Harbaugh was determined to avoid a hangover. We can debate what caused them to fall short, but they did. Now, a year later, a reversal of sorts is in play. Are the Ravens (at least those who were here in 2013) motivated by the disappointment of missing the playoffs? I think they are. Listening to them in their podium sessions and watching them work collectively, they seem on-point and earnest about getting back on the track. They didn't like losing. 

Issue (and it's a positive one).

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