The Ravens have made many big adjustments and moves this offseason, but there are certainly some issues that are flying under many fans' radars.
At the conclusion of this week's Organized Team Activity (OTA), BaltimoreRavens.com takes a look at some of those issues with the Ravens' offense.
Hot Topic: Le'Ron McClain, Baltimore's leading rusher in 2008, is returning to a full-time role at fullback, especially since the Ravens did not re-sign Lorenzo Neal.
Under the Radar:The issue here isn't necessarily McClain's switch. Perhaps a bigger question is the player he will block for. Will that be Willis McGahee or Ray Rice? Judging by the Ravens' philosophy from 2008, they will likely utilize a two-pronged attack. How effective that is depends largely on how McGahee tackles this offseason. He has been in and out of the voluntary minicamps, which seemed to cause head coach John Harbaugh to bristle when asked about McGahee's performance last week.
McGahee valiantly dealt with injuries for most of the season last year, but one wonders whether that could have been avoided by a more committed approach in the summer. Even so, McGahee has looked strong and quick in practice when he is at team headquarters, showing a good burst when he gets the ball, even if it mostly has been with the second team.
Meanwhile, Rice has taken advantage of his time with the starters. He added bulk to his diminutive frame with designs on being an every-down back instead of the third-down threat he was last year.
Hot Topic:The Ravens failed to bring in a big, high-profile wide receiver, whether through free agency, a trade or the draft.
Under the Radar:Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome is a shrewd talent evaluator, and there were obviously no prospects available at the right price in free agency or a trade scenario. And regarding the draft, the Ravens had interest in several players, but they were all snapped up by the time Baltimore's pick came around.
Newsome could have been aggressive and offered more to get a blockbuster wideout, but his reluctance to do so shows how he feels about Demetrius Williams fully recovering from his pesky ankle injury and Kelley Washington delivering on the promise he showed in minicamps. In addition, 2008 draft pick Marcus Smith has shown drastic improvement this year.
Really, though, the issue isn't about the receiver position. With quarterback Joe Flacco taking the next step in his development, he should make all the targets around him better. Mark Clayton and Williams are the perfect players to excel with Flacco's tools, namely his accurate and notoriously strong arm. He has the ability to get the ball downfield to those two speedy wideouts.
Hot Topic:The Ravens drafted Michael Oher in the first round to be their starting right tackle well into the future.
Under the Radar:In Oher and Jared Gaither, the Ravens have two young and talented bookends to grow old with Flacco, but what is behind them? Right now, Adam Terry is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, and even though he has starting talent and experience, he hasn't been able to stay healthy in recent years. Oniel Cousins is a promising former third-rounder that is battling a chest injury and has been limited in minicamps, but he is still unproven.
Basically, the Ravens absolutely need Terry and Cousins to make a full recovery heading into training camp, because depth at that position is critical. Coaches have praised Terry and Cousins' work ethic this offseason, however, and their outlook is positive.
Speaking of the offensive line, the Ravens are also closely monitoring the progress of Marshal Yanda. The former Iowa mauler actually could be a wild card in this scenario, because he started 2008 at right guard but played right tackle in 2007 as a rookie. Yanda still has not practiced because he is rehabilitating a knee injury that required surgery to repair three ligaments, but the Ravens still expect him to recover.
Future Hot Topic:The Ravens are hoping that everyone recovers at the tight end position. At this point, Todd Heap (back), L.J. Smith (groin) and Quinn Sypniewski (knee) are all dealing with varying stages of injury. Training camp looks to be the earliest return for Heap, Smith is day to day and Sypniewski will probably not be ready to play by the season opener. Edgar Jones has stepped up in practice, but this will surely be a topic to follow throughout June and July.