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Vensel's Mailbag: An almost-O's-free installment

Admit it, you've been clamoring for a mailbag column. After all, it's been two months. I've got an excuse, though. I was waiting for questions that didn't deal with the Orioles' latest summer suckfest. I know I'm not the only one around here who's sick of talking about that.

@TheEbonyBird on Twitter asks "How do you see the WR position turning out for the Ravens? Specifically the fringe players."
Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason will be the starters. We know that much.

Donte' Stallworth (right, making a one-handed catch, photo by the Baltimore Sun) literally turned heads during OTAs with his track-star speed. If he can stay healthy, he'll play a big role in the offense. And as much as Mark Clayton haters would like to see him get a pink slip, Clayton is not going anywhere. No, he isn't a first-round talent. Get over it. He is still versatile and valuable to the Ravens.

That means we'll see Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith, Justin Harper, Eron Riley and fifth-round pick David Reed battling it out in Westminster for one or two roster spots. Smith and Reed can contribute on special teams, too, so consider them the frontrunners — for now. 

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@VeraBlue on Twitter asks "Should the O's hire Betty White to manage the team? I think it's a valid question."
Let me put out some feelers, but I doubt Ms. White is interested. At least she would have an excuse for not knowing how to manufacture runs. Bobby Valentine, a strong backup plan, is probably out of the Orioles' league, too. I guess they're going to have to settle for the grandma from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

@bmorecareful on Twitter asks "You think Bryce Harper's JuCo skills will translate to success in the [major leagues]?"
Yes. This kid is a stud, another can't-miss prodigy a la Sidney Crosby and LeBron James. And now the Nationals have two of them in Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Gross.

Graig Sauer on Facebook asks "What will the Capitals do in the offseason to improve their chances of winning the Stanley Cup?"
The Capitals, the NHL's highest-scoring team in the regular season, got knocked out of the playoffs way too early because they couldn't bury the biscuit when it mattered. Sure, it was flukey, but that sort of thing happens in the NHL playoffs. That's why the Capitals have to learn how to win low-scoring games, too.

With Bruce Boudreau still behind the bench, personnel changes are more likely than philosophical ones. Signing hard-nosed free agent defenseman Anton Volchenkov should be priority No 1. Bringing in a reliable veteran goalie to pair with Semyon Varlamov is also paramount. Free agent Evgeni Nabokov (right) is intriguing. But if a better option is available via trade, I'd ship out Alexander Semin without hesitation — especially since he is due for a hefty raise.

@JohnLeeRoyLinde on Twitter wants me to predict the Ravens' 2010 record — in June.
I try to avoid premature prognostication, but after watching the Orioles for the past two months, I'm cool with talking football already. Keeping in mind we still have to get through training camp and the preseason so anything (read: injuries) can happen, I think the Ravens are the clear favorites in the AFC North.

Gun to my head, I say the Ravens finish 11-5. Ask me again in August before etching it in stone.

Got a question for Matt's next mailbag? E-mail matt@bthesite.com, text 70701 (keyword BSPORTS) or message him on Twitter: @mattvensel.

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