Last week, I chatted with Matt Williamson of ESPN's Scouts Inc., and I got plenty of mileage out of our 15-minute phone conversation. To recap, Williamson, a former scout for the Browns, thinks the Steelers are slightly superior to the Ravens, that Joe Flacco is "on track" and that the Ravens defense is no longer elite.
But another part of our chat should be of interest to Ravens fans -- well, it might be for reader Bernie19, who doesn't seem to grasp what a blog is or that there aren't football games for me to break down right now -- and that was when Williamson gave me three under-the-radar Ravens who could break out in 2011.
One of them was cornerback Lardarius Webb, whom Williamson believes can be a good cornerback. Webb played free safety in college, but Williamson said he isn't big enough or physical enough to do it in the NFL.
Another was second-year tight end Ed Dickson, who showed off his impressive athleticism in training camp and fared well when filling in for injured starter Todd Heap. Dickson had 11 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown in 15 regular-season games.
"Dickson has field-stretching abilities," Williamson said. "In Year Two, maybe he is starting to understand the speed of the game and starts to exploit those 3-4 defenses. You get him in space against a [Steelers linebacker LaMarr] Woodley or someone like that, he makes the team pay for staying in base personnel against two-tight end sets."
The third breakout candidate Williamson gave me was kind of surprising: Brandon McKinney. He thinks the six-foot-two, 350-pound man mountain is a better player than Terrence Cody, one of the team's 2010 second-round picks. McKinney, 27, has started four games and made 23 tackles the past three seasons.
"McKinney is very impressive to me. I think many people are talking about Cody -- and Cody might be a fine space eater, your next Kelly Gregg -- but I think Brandon is the better player," he said. "He has a chance to be a real difference-maker, a really solid contributor."
Your thoughts? Is there someone he missed?