The Detroit Lions arrived in Baltimore yesterday ahead of tonight’s game with the Ravens. To get a feel for what has been going on in Ravens camp and their preseason so far, I got in touch with Riley Babcock, editor at Ebony Bird. My thanks to him for taking the time to answer the following questions.
1. Do Ravens fans feel that Joe Flacco has something to prove, even in the preseason?
Riley Babcock: I think he proved a lot of his doubters wrong in the AFC Championship game last year despite the loss. Flacco will still have critics but he is definately starting to recieve the respect he deserves. I personally think Flacco has done more than enough to prove his place on the team but he continues to struggle at random times during the season. I expect this year to be his best yet as he seems truly comfortable and poised for the first time.
2. What are the hot battles going on in Ravens camp, whether it be for a starting role or just a roster spot?
RB: The wide receiver battle has been fierce thus far and I don’t expect it to lighten up one bit. The top three spots are already locked to Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and the newly acquired Jacoby Jones but the Ravens have tons of talented, younger players who have something to prove. Second year players Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams have looked good so far and rookies Deonte Thompson and Tommy Streeter are battling vigorously to stay on the team. I’d love to keep them all but it looks like at least one but probably two will have to go.
3. How have the Raven’s rookies been performing so far in camp?
RB: Some better than others. Injuries have set back Alabama’s LB Courtney Upshaw and Temple RB Bernard Pierce, and OL Kelechi Osemele and C Gino Gradkowski haven’t impressed me thus far. I’ve heard great things about Upshaw but have yet to see him in game. I’m also really excited about Miami’s WR Tommy Streeter. He’s a really raw talent but has blazing speed. I think he can be something really special one day with proper coaching. He saw limited action last week but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. Undrafted rookie RB Bobby Rainey looked awesome last week, taking a short screen pass to the house in Ray Rice-like fashion. A lot of rookies have played very well up to this point, but many won’t make the roster unfortunately.
4. Is there anything other than emerging healthy that you need to see for Friday’s game to be a success from the Ravens’ perspective?
RB: I’d like to see some more out of the offensive line. Their performance was horrid last week so I’m hoping it was just preseason jitters at work. Pass blocking is a definite weakness and the interior line is not as strong as they need to be for power, goal line running. Additionally, the Ravens need to generate more of a pass rush. With Terrell Suggs to be out the majority, if not all, of this season, someone needs to step up and find their way to the quarterback.
5. What do you expect to see when the Ravens play the Lions on Friday night?
RB: A lot of pass friendly offense. The Lions have developed a great passing attack on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and the Ravens have been utilizing a lot of spread and shotgun formations to take advantage of Joe Flaccos big arm. The QB backups, Tyrod Taylor and Curtis Painter, also have decent arms so it should be an exciting game to watch.