Skip to main content

National Opinion: ESPN's James Walker


*Training camp is underway, and with so many interesting storylines regarding Baltimore football, the Ravens will welcome an array of national football media this year. *

** caught up with's AFC North reporter James Walker, who attended Tuesday and Wednesday's practices.

** James, we all know quarterback is a position of interest with the Ravens, but what is another story that fans should follow closely through training camp?

JW: "I would say that the offensive line is huge. Jared Gaither's development is really going to be tied into the quarterback. Those two positions are always 1A and 1B on the offense, so whoever they put in there at quarterback is going to need their blindside protected.

"I think Gaither can do that, and if he succeeds, it will make Kyle Boller, Troy Smith or Joe Flacco better in the long run. That's the one thing that sticks out most to me.

"The line as a whole is interesting. They have a lot of versatile guys with some experience early in their careers playing different positions. You have to protect the quarterback from the start, which makes the line so important."

Having previously covered other AFC North teams, you've seen the Ravens of old. Do you see a difference in John Harbaugh's version of the team?

"You can see a different program right off the bat. The great thing about John Harbaugh is that he's his own man. He's not trying to come in and do things the Brian Billick way, or even be the anti-Billick. He's just trying to be himself, and it just so happens that being himself is different than the way things were run before.

"I think Ozzie Newsome and the upper management were cognizant of that when they hired their coach, trying to get some different energy and a different point of view. If you're going to get rid of a coach, you don't want to bring in a guy that is similar to the previous guy, because then you might as well just keep the first one.

"Overall, the program is different. Keep in mind that you can win either way. Brian Billick won and lost when he was here. At this point in time, it was a great move to bring in Harbuagh's energy, and you can see it early in training camp."

It is early in training camp, but that being said, do you think the Ravens can compete in their division this year, or are they a few years away?

"I need to see a few more practices and some preseason games, but I'm actually leaning to making the Ravens one of my sleeper picks for this year. I like the Browns and what they've done in the offseason, especially after last year. The Steelers are always consistent, too.

"But, I think the injuries that happened to the Ravens last year make that 5-11 record deceiving. If they can stay healthy, and if they pick a quarterback that doesn't turn the ball over, they could do well. The Ravens and the Raiders are two teams that I'm really looking at closely. Either of them could make a jump."**


Walkerjoined in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Cavaliers at the Dispatch.  Walker's blog can be found byclicking here.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content