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Scouting the Schedule: Ravens

Posted by Albert Breer  July 17, 2010 01:00 PM

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The big camp questions: Injuries in the secondary. Star free safety Ed Reed is recovering from offseason hip surgery, and isn’t expected to do much during camp. His availability for the early portion of the season is also in doubt, Reed recently acknowledged. He said he could be back in September, October or even November. Plus, cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb are both coming off torn anterior cruciate ligaments suffered late last season. Both are ahead of schedule, but the timing of their injuries are a negative factor. Their health is a paramount concern since Chris Carr and Walt Harris are the main backups.

Who will win the kicking battle between newcomer Shayne Graham and incumbent Billy Cundiff? Graham is regarded as the favorite. Will Dannell Ellerbe hold off Tavares Gooden and remain the starting inside linebacker next to Lewis? Ellerbe is more durable and physical than Gooden.

Needs to happen to win big:
Offensively, the Ravens have to achieve a balance between the running game and the passing game. And Cameron will need to formulate some more effective, less predictable red-zone schemes. They’ll also need to keep everyone involved with enough touches for Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. Building a better deep passing game, possibly with newcomer Donte’ Stallworth, is going to be important.

Defensively, the Ravens have to be more aggressive and effective at rushing the passer. That task falls heavily on Suggs, who was out of shape last season and has vowed to report in better condition and regain his Pro Bowl form. If the cornerback play isn’t good enough, the Ravens will have trouble getting past the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs.

Where they stack up: The Ravens are emerging as a trendy Super Bowl pick, but they have to address injury concerns and improve defensively in order to make a serious run. They’re widely regarded as the favorites to win the AFC North, but have had trouble beating the Bengals lately. Cincinnati swept Baltimore last season for the third time in the past five seasons.

SCOUTING THE SCHEDULE SERIES
Wednesday: Bengals
Thursday: Jets
Yesterday: Bills
Today: Ravens
Tomorrow: Chargers

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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