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 Kris Jones, who blogs about the Ravens for Russell Street Report.
MV: Two weeks into training camp, how would you handicap the competition at wide receiver?
KJ: Torrey Smith has taken major strides to become a top-tier receiver in this league. While Smith has looked great thus far, the Ravens lack a true complement that will command the attention of an opposing secondary. The underlying theme, and for that matter the undesirable theme of training camp, has been inconsistency among the members of the Ravens receiving corps. Even though Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss have provided some highlight-reel catches, they don’t strike me as the right combination of receivers to validate the $120 million investment made in quarterback Joe Flacco during the offseason.
KJ: Haloti at nose tackle is absolutely the best fit for him, and after hearing him speak following mandatory minicamp, it appears that he agrees. During the pre-draft luncheon, general manager Ozzie Newsome made it known that he would address the middle of the defense and he followed through on that commitment during the draft and free agency. The additions of veterans Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, along with rookie Brandon Williams, should make life easier for Ngata. So far, Canty appears to be a steal and Art Jones’ progression is exciting to watch. Despite a Super Bowl win, it wasn’t a banner year for the defensive line. This season, it should be a completely different story.
MV: With Dennis Pitta out for the season and Ed Dickson out until who knows when, Visanthe Shiancoe is suddenly the team's top tight end. What have you seen from him since he arrived in Baltimore a week ago?
KJ: Visanthe Shiancoe is a bandage to a wounded group of tight ends. It would be unfair to expect a major contribution from Shiancoe, but he’ll certainly have the chance to prove himself within the next month. Starting off, Shiancoe had plenty of rust to knock off. He was unfamiliar with the playbook and thrown onto the field shortly after signing his contract. While he’s still getting acclimated, Shiancoe has been putting in extra work following practice with Flacco and tight ends coach Wade Harman and the fruits of that labor have begun to surface, particularly after the past two practices.
MV: From your perspective, which position group is the deepest? And do any positions have a concerning lack of depth?
KJ: Without a doubt, the Ravens have a ton of depth at outside linebacker. In March, the concern was focused on how the Ravens could replace Paul Kruger -- until Elvis Dumervil fell into their laps. Also, Terrell Suggs reported to camp in the best shape of his life, poised for another run at Defensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, the depth has its downside for some. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will be hard-pressed to get rookie John Simon on the field on Sundays this fall. Simon was a steal as the 129th overall pick in the fourth round and he probably won’t get the playing time he deserves. That said, it’s not a bad problem to have. However, as I stated before, I do think there is a lack of depth at wide receiver.
MV: What would you like to see from the Ravens on Thursday night in their first preseason game?
KJ: Fundamentals. Each player brings something to the table, but forgetting what got you to the NFL in the first place is the easiest way to find yourself looking for another job. Far too often, players have great training camps but forget the basics when the lights come on. There are too many jobs on the line and with so many quality players competing for limited spots on the Ravens roster, it’s imperative to play sound, fundamental football, at this point in the preseason.
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