By Matt Vensel
The Baltimore Sun
1:06 PM EDT, July 9, 2013
The Baltimore sports scene is blessed with a bunch of talented bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. Each week, I hope to chat with one of them in a regular feature called Blogger on Blogger. This week, I exchanged emails with Phil Gentile, who blogs and podcasts about the Ravens for Purple Reign.
MV: Now that the offseason is nearly over and training camp is just a couple of weeks away, what are your thoughts about where the Ravens stand? Are they in better shape than they were a year ago?
PG: I loved the Ravens’ offseason immensely. They got younger and faster in multiple defensive positions and found veteran talent like Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty to fill holes. Statistically, I think they will have a better 2013 regular season than they did in 2012. Will that translate into 12 to 14 wins? That's almost impossible to predict in today's NFL. Watch out for Brandon Williams. One of my favorite prospects before the draft. He's going to be special.
MV: What concerns you most about them heading into training camp?
PG: Wide receiver is my biggest concern. I love Jacoby Jones as a returner but he's inconsistent for me as an every-down starting receiver in the NFL. He'll make a huge catch like he did in the AFC divisional round and then drop a simple first-down conversion. Deonte Thompson is my pick for Anquan Boldin's workload. The coaching staff loves Tandon Doss and I'm not sure why. I have a feeling the Ravens will rely on multiple guys to fill the production left behind from Anquan Boldin.
MV: What do you expect from Joe Flacco after a whirlwind year in which the quarterback had an up-and-down regular season, played lights-out in the playoffs and became one of the NFL’s highest-paid players?
PG: Cue the angry mob... I feel like Flacco will continue his up-and-down play in the regular season in 2013. Sorry. Does this make me a Flacco "hater?” I don't really care. He's been an up-and-down quarterback in every regular season of his career. Why would that change now? Of course, if he continues to excel in the playoffs (and I think he will) then who really cares what he does in the regular season?
MV: Do you foresee Bernard Pierce significantly cutting into Pro Bowler Ray Rice’s snaps this year, or is the possibility of a timeshare at the running back position being overblown a bit?
PG: I'd look for Bernard Pierce to get around 150 carries this season so it will be a bit of a timeshare but Ray Rice is still the lead dog. He'll have the majority of the carries, even if it's only around 200 in order to keep him fresh down the stretch. People want to say Rice will be more involved in the passing game but he had 61 catches last year. Any more involved and you might as well consider him a wide receiver. I love Pierce's skill set but would he have been able to convert that 4th and 29 against the Chargers last season? Afraid not.
MV: After an offseason full of turnover, are the Ravens still the team to beat in the AFC North? And who will be their biggest challengers? The Bengals? The Steelers? The Browns?!?
PG: They are clearly the team to beat. The Steelers have a rookie running back, an injured tight end and their best receiver is in Miami now. Their defense is rebuilding and their offensive line is Swiss cheese. The Bengals scare me a bit. They are filled with young talent and I think Andy Dalton has more potential in this league than most people. The Browns? They have improved but they're still the Browns. Bottom line is, barring injuries, the Ravens should win another AFC North title in 2013. What they do after that is up to the football gods.If you are a blogger who is interested in participating in this feature, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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