The Ravens finished a strong four-day passing camp this week, which offered an even more in-depth look into how the 2009 squad will shape up.
Just like Baltimore's recent mandatory minicamp, definitive answers may not have come out of the sessions, but there are definitely some important lessons learned.
Here are five things BaltimoreRavens.com took from passing camp.
1) Joe Flacco is fully in control of the offense.
Entering his second professional campaign, questions arose about Flacco suffering a sophomore slump, but judging by his performance that likely won't happen. It wasn't in the laser beam-throws he made all over the field or the deep balls he accurately delivered to his receivers.
Flacco showed that he has taken the reins of the offense by his assertive demeanor and command of the playbook.
At this time last year, he was a wide-eyed rookie that had trouble adjusting to the heightened pace of and NFL practice. This year, there was not one moment when the play clock ran out. When a rookie wideout was out of position, Flacco put them in their place. The Ravens' defense regularly tried to confuse him with various blitzes, but the Delaware product wasn't fazed once.
2) It will be very difficult to run against the Ravens' defensive line.
Defensive tackle is on of the deepest position on the team.
The Ravens did not have starter Haloti Ngata in town for camp because he was taking classes to finish his degree, but the group that remained was still dominant.
It starts up front with Kelly Gregg, Justin Bannan and Trevor Pryce. Gregg and Bannan, both over 310 pounds, routinely pushed the point of attack at the front of the line, while Pryce was able to slice in the backfield from the edge. Along with the 6-foot-4, 345-pound Ngata, that collection of talent was a major reason the Ravens finished with the league's third-stingiest run defense last year.
The Ravens are also expecting the successful return of Dwan Edwards, who missed all of 2008 with a back injury. Edwards had a career year in 2007 when he 58 tackles and a sack filling in for an injured Pryce.
Behind them, the Ravens are high on 340-pound mountain Brandon McKinney, while rookie free agent Will Johnson is an intriguing prospect. Johnson broke the NFL record with 47 continuous reps on the 225-pound bench press at the University of Michigan's Pro Day.
3) It will be a battle for the final cornerback spot on the roster.
Coaches got a good look at some less-heralded cornerbacks because Fabian Washington (neck), Chris Carr (shoulder), Samari Rolle (groin) all sat out the practices. Even backup Frank Walker (shoulder) was limited and played with a red jersey that warned anybody of contact with him in traffic.
That left probable starter Domonique Foxworth and sub Derrick Martin as the first-team corners. Foxworth was brilliant all week, keeping up with his marks and breaking up multiple passes. Martin received praise because of his tough demeanor and nose for the ball.
Phillips logged two interceptions during the camp, while Gerard made a superb one-handed pick in the end zone on Thursday.
The Ravens ended the 2008 season with only five true corners on the roster, and with Washington, Foxworth, Rolle and Carr leading the pack, that means Walker, Martin, Phillips and possibly Gerard face a logjam at the position. At this point, Walker and Martin are probably in the lead.
4) Third receiver isn't clear-cut.
After that, the third receiver was thought to be Demetrius Williams. Williams did play mostly with the starters because Mason was held out with a shoulder injury, but as the week progressed, Marcus Smith and recent free agent signee Kelley Washington emerged as legitimate threats to that designation.
Smith displayed sure hands that showed he really worked hard since the AFC Championship. He caught two bombs from Flacco and looked solid over the middle.
Washington's veteran skills were evident. He ran sharp routes and drew cheers Wednesday when he made a diving first-down grab.
"I think we have a bunch of guys that are doing a great job, and they have to step up and make plays to see if they can be a part of this offense," Flacco said. "That's the great thing about a couple of positions, because that competition makes everybody better. I think everybody did a great job this camp, and hopefully we can continue getting better."
5) Michael Oher is ready for the NFL.
The Ravens rejoiced when Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher dropped in their laps with the 26th-overall draft pick, and they wasted no time plugging him in as the first-string right tackle, a move that was aided by injuries to Willie Anderson and Adam Terry.
Oher will not give up his starting spot without a fight, and it seems that it is his to lose.
Coaches especially love Oher's athletic ability and mauler attitude, which makes the 6-foot-4, 309-pounder a perfect fit on the run-oriented right side.
Already, Oher has demonstrated that he is coachable, as he improved with every practice.