Friday Flock Mailbag

BaltimoreRavens.com took your questions about the team. Now, here are some answers.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Friday, July 16th, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Categories: Mike Duffy

As we near training camp – less than 10 days! – football fever is ramping up.

At least that’s the feeling I get when I see the amount of questions that poured in on Twitter and Facebook from the Ravens’ faithful out there.

So, here goes another edition of the Flock Mailbag. Remember, a lot of the same topics are covered in the submissions, so even if your question didn’t get picked, I hope you still get an answer.

First, we’ll hit the tweets…

@BQFFsentinel: do you think Ray Rice will duplicate his receiving numbers from 2009?

Duffy: While I do think Rice will have a big year in the statistics department, I don’t believe he beats his receiving numbers from a year ago.  Leading the Ravens and all NFL running backs with 78 catches (for 702 yards) was no small feat, but this diminutive playmaker now has to share the targets with a full complement of receivers.  Last year, the Ravens’ passing attack was essentially the Derrick Mason and Ray Rice show, with Rice getting a lot of check downs over the middle.  If Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth can get open consistently, in addition to any one of the Ravens’ tight ends, Joe Flacco won’t have to dump it off to No. 27.

@redneckataku: What are the positives and negatives of an 18 game schedule?

Duffy: There are a lot of sides to this argument. The positives? The NFL has said it wants to improve its product. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that the league sees how fans want to see more regular-season football and decrease the preseason. More meaningful games – in terms of playoff considerations – means more packed houses and eyes on TV screens. Players think that more games mean more chances to get injured, which would fall into the negative category. I guess you could combat that by taking additional safety precautions and bumping up the size of rosters. Really, there are good points made by both parties.

@JoeyGenocide: Duffman, I love the Ravens but I live in Illinois, are there any ways for me to watch Ravens games online?

Duffy: Joey, morbid name. But, so you don’t fulfill that prophesy, I’m hoping you get some Ravens games on national television when the schedule flexes late in the year. Obviously, the Ravens open their season with a Monday Night Football tilt against the Jets and there’s a Monday-nighter in Houston on Dec. 13, but online is a little tougher. Right now, there really isn’t a way to watch them online, unless you count a Week 13 matchup with the Steelers on Sunday night, but you can pick that up at home regardless. The next closest thing is listen to it online on BaltimoreRavens.com. You’ll have that option in 2010. As for any other solutions, are you a Google expert?

Oliver Scott: Considering we are generally considered to be one of the top Super Bowl contenders, what would be a harder blow to recover from – Ed Reed not playing this year, or Ray Lewis getting hurt? I think we can cope without Ed with Hamlin and Zibby stepping up, but I think losing Ray’s leadership and game reading ability would be a bridge too far.

Duffy: I would hope a Ravens’ fan would knock on wood when thinking about either situation.  At this point, I agree with you.  The Ravens could probably weather the storm if Ed didn’t play this year. We saw in 2009 how Tom Zibikowski started and filled in admirably, while Hamlin has experience and a Pro Bowl history. Still, I do think Reed returns at some point – whether that is Week 1 or beyond is, excuse me, beyond me – but the former Hurricane will be critical towards the end of the season. As for Ray Lewis… the Ravens would lean heavily on Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe to form a linebacking tandem in the middle. They both have shown promise, they’re still green.  And No. 52′s leadership is almost irreplaceable.

Joshua Stein: I know everyone is saying there will be a battle between Dickson and Pitta for the backup TE spot, but I can see them both playing roles this year on offense. Thoughts?

Duffy: Yeah, I can see both of the rookies on the field by the end of the year, and perhaps even sooner. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron told me that he expects all rookies to be able to contribute from Day 1, and both Dickson and Pitta showed flashes in OTAs. Now, one of those guys is going to have to outpace the other to be in two-tight end sets with Todd Heap from the beginning. Dickson, the third-rounder, probably has the edge at this point. A three-tight formation is very intriguing, though.

Larry Gaigler: Which inside linebacker has the edge to play next to Ray this upcoming season?

Duffy: Right now, I’d give it to Ellerbe. He played with the ones a lot during OTAs and showed improvement in his coverage skills. Ellerbe got the job towards the end of the year because he holds up well to bigger blockers and is a beast defending the run. The motivated second-year player has done a lot this offseason to keep the job by being a mainstay at the Ravens’ program and playing well on the field.  That’s not to say Gooden won’t get on the field. He is great in passing situations.

Kurtis Surz Bitness Jackson: Will Ray Rice and Willis McGahee be used as a tandem this year? McGahee is way too talented to ride the bench like he did last year. And every defense in the NFL could predict our offense last year. Is there any chance that we shake it up this year?

Duffy: You must be a big McGahee fan because you asked the same variation of this question about six times (don’t get any ideas, everyone). But, to give you some insight, my answer right off the bat is no. Sure, Cam Cameron might put them both on the field at the same time, but I think it will be more like last year when McGahee got an early series or two to give Rice a rest. I think we will see Rice get more goal- line carries this year, too. Remember, Willis didn’t ride the bench. He tied a team record with 14 combined touchdowns and averaged 5.0 yards a carry (540 rushing yards total).  Oh, and he can still stiff-arm with the best of them.

Thanks for another round, people. Let’s do it again soon.

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