Ravens hope minicamp provides some answers to offseason questions

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was so pleased with the Ravens' effort and commitment level during three weeks of organized team activities that he canceled the final scheduled day of workouts and took his players and staff members to play paintball.

The fun and games, however, won't extend into this week. The intensity and sense of urgency will be ramped up a bit as Ravens players will be on the field together for the final time before training camp starts next month.

Running from Tuesday through Thursday, the mandatory minicamp will give players another opportunity to build on what was accomplished during the OTAs and offseason program, plus a better idea of what they need to work on individually over the next six weeks.

"We had great OTAs," Ravens safety Tony Jefferson said Sunday before he and about 40 teammates took part in Lardarius Webb's charity softball game at Ripken Stadium. "Everybody was trying hard. It's the best, as far as [how] a team has looked, since I've been in the league during this time. Everybody is glued together. Everybody is hungry to win. It's very exciting."

Jefferson is one of several additions to a new-look defense that team officials hope will be one of the league's best. Most of the Ravens' preseason questions reside on the offensive side of the ball. This week's minicamp might provide a few answers:

Who won't be able participate? The Ravens had about a dozen players not participating in the OTAs. Almost all of them were either dealing with recent injuries or still recovering from surgeries.

The Ravens will obviously be cautious with right guard Marshal Yanda and middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who both had offseason shoulder surgeries. It's still too early for Benjamin Watson (Achilles) and Maxx Williams (knee) to return to the field, and fellow tight ends Darren Waller and Crockett Gillmore have been banged up as well.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (toe) and defensive lineman Carl Davis (pectoral) are also dealing with issues that could lead to them being sidelined until training camp as well.

How will the offense look? In the three OTAs open to reporters, the defense was ahead of the offense, which isn't surprising given the number of unsettled spots on the offensive side of the ball. For every Joe Flacco long completion to either Mike Wallace or Breshad Perriman, there was an errant pass, batted ball or interception.

Flacco, who was still rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee at this time last year, is moving around well and his arm looks strong. His quest to recapture his 2014 form and open up the down-field passing game, while limiting the poor decisions that have plagued him, will be a prevailing topic this week and all season.

Meanwhile, there is uncertainty around him. The Ravens have given three different centers first-team repetitions at OTAs, and their current starter at right tackle, James Hurst, has mostly struggled when pressed into action. The only tight end projected to be on the team's 53-man roster who is currently healthy is Nick Boyle. Monday's two-year agreement with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin adds a much-needed, accomplished pass catcher to the mix, but eight of the Ravens' 14 receivers have never caught a pass in a regular-season game.

Will Maclin participate and how will he look? There will be a new player at the Under Armour Performance Center on Tuesday, but it's unclear whether he'll take the field and participate at this week's minicamp. Maclin is scheduled to arrive back in Baltimore on Tuesday morning to officially sign his two-year contract. Because practice starts just after 9 a.m., there might not be enough time to get him on the field that same day.

He'll also have to start the process of learning the playbook. However, he'll undoubtedly spend some time on the field this week and in the meeting rooms, getting to know his new team.

Maclin is coming off a groin injury that sidelined him for four games last year and limited his effectiveness. The Kansas City Chiefs, who released him, were reportedly concerned that Maclin had lost a step. The Ravens obviously believe he has good football left and they'll get a first-hand look this week.

What will Terrell Suggs have to say? Harbaugh has been effusive in his praise of Suggs' offseason commitment and leadership. He held the team's longest-tenured player out of OTAs, but Suggs has been at the team facility for several weeks, participating in the workout program, and he looks to be in very good shape. His presence at non-mandatory workouts has not been a regular occurrence in past offseasons.

Suggs, who will turn 35 in October and is entering his 15th NFL season, is rarely nostalgic, but he's self aware and he certainly knows his time is running short. He has two years remaining on his contract and the Ravens could conceivably get out of the final year without too damaging of a cap hit.

The drafting of two rookie edge rushers, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, is a nod to where Suggs is in his career. The Ravens, though, still need Suggs for his ability to get to the quarterback, stop the run, diagnose plays and provide leadership to an otherwise young linebackers corps. It will be interesting to hear what the always quotable Suggs has to say about his future plans and his current role. With a lot of changes around him, Suggs remains both the face and voice of the Ravens' defense.

What position battles will take shape? The competitions for starting spots won't really heat up until training camp, but the depth chart should gain some clarity this week.

On offense, Kenneth Dixon's four-game suspension has taken the drama out of any starting running back battle with Terrance West and the number of injuries at tight end has prevented that competition from materializing to this point. The uncertainty at wide receiver is well documented. Along the offensive line, John Urschel and Ryan Jensen are locked in a competition to start at center although 2016 undrafted rookie Matt Skura will get a look. Barring an addition, Hurst appears to have the edge over De'Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot and Jermaine Eluemunor for the right tackle job.

Defensively, the Ravens have to decide on a replacement for five-technique defensive lineman Lawrence Guy among Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi and rookie Chris Wormley. Kamalei Correa remains the likely starter at weak-side linebacker. Tavon Young's knee injury means the Ravens need to find a nickel cornerback, with Webb and Maurice Canady among the candidates for that role.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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