Training camp goals
1. Solidify the offensive line. The Ravens are determined to replace Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs after he signed with the Saints in March, and may have solved the problem by adding veteran Bobbie Williams. Williams provides a mauling blocking presence at 6-foot-4, 345 pounds, but missed time last season due to an NFL suspension and a broken ankle. Healthy again, he was installed as the starter at a full-team minicamp. The biggest question mark with Williams is age. His 36th birthday is in September. The Ravens want to create competition for Williams with Jah Reid and rookie draft picks Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski.
The Ravens want to get more push on the left side in general after running to the right quite a bit last season behind Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Michael Oher. Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk underwent leg surgery for varicose veins in June.
2. Upgrade the special teams. Former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff flubbed a rushed field goal in the AFC championship game and will have to prove himself in camp. Veteran kickers have been reluctant to sign with Baltimore to challenge Cundiff, who's expected to retain his job as long as he has a solid preseason. Punter Sam Koch averaged a career-high 46.5 yards last season, but the kick coverage was substandard. The Ravens surrendered a total of three touchdowns on returns, ranking 31st in kickoff return average and 24th in punt returns. Pro Bowl special teams ace Corey Graham was signed and the team brought back former Pro Bowl special-teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo. By signing Jacoby Jones, the Ravens are optimistic that they've upgraded their return game.
Player to watch
Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw is an aggressive pass rusher drafted in the second round and slated to start at strong-side linebacker, a vacancy created by Jarret Johnson's departure. He's eager to prove himself after watching four Alabama teammates get selected in the first round. The Ravens need Upshaw to help make up for the loss of injured Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who could miss the majority of the season with a partially torn Achilles tendon. Upshaw recorded 9½ sacks last season for the Crimson Tide. Upshaw seemed to pick up the defense quickly during offseason practices, but the true test will come at camp.
On the hot seat
Left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. The 6-8 former Pro Bowl blocker was held out of a mandatory minicamp as he attempts to get down to 345 pounds, saying he currently weighs 350 pounds. The Ravens picked up a $500,000 roster bonus for McKinnie in March after he promised general manager Ozzie Newsome that he would participate in the offseason conditioning program and get in better shape. Prior to the Ravens' minicamp, McKinnie said he met with team officials and was told the plan was to not practice for precautionary reasons to avoid any potential injuries. McKinnie was cut by the Vikings last summer after ballooning up to 387 pounds during the NFL lockout. He was signed by Baltimore last summer and started every game, playing his way into shape. If McKinnie isn't prepared, the Ravens could shift Oher from right tackle back to the left side and then plug in Reid or Osemele at right tackle.
Strategy and personnel
The Ravens' tight salary-cap situation became even more constricted after signing guard Bobbie Williams to a two-year, $2.925 million contract that includes an $800,000 signing bonus.
They are now roughly $600,000 under the NFL salary-cap limit of $120.6 million.
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