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The 15: Ravens Training Camp Storylines

July 16, 2015

On one hand, local and national observers seem to think the Baltimore Ravens will have yet another successful season, one that could culminate in the franchise's 11th playoff berth during a 16-season span.

On the other, the Ravens are no different than any one of the other 31 NFL franchises, as they are loaded with the kinds of nagging questions and issues that are common this time of year.

With the team's 20th training camp approaching, here are some of the biggest on- and off-field storylines.

1. Wideout Shutout?

It's a given that veteran Steve Smith Sr. and first-round pick Breshad Perriman are going to play. But, given the myriad of pass-catching options at running back and tight end in offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's system, will a familiar name from last year -- such as Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown or the oft-injured Michael Campanaro -- be left off the roster? This year, it's not a given the Ravens will again carry six at the position.

2. Tough Unit, Tough Choices

Ravens 2014: Brent Urban (training camp)
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

With 10 stalwart defensive linemen on the training camp roster, the Ravens have some tough decisions to make, as they look to keep no more than seven. That could spell doom for veteran defensive end Chris Canty, who is tentatively penciled in as a starter, or the little-used but promising Casey Walker. If injured defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban stay healthy this year, it will make the roster crunch even more pronounced.

3. A Running Dilemma

Reserve running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has streamlined his body and his game as he attempts to make more of an impact this year behind starter Justin Forsett. But what does that mean for holdover Fitzgerald Toussaint, who did well in limited preseason duty, or fourth-round pick Buck Allen, who is an accomplished pass-catcher? Plus, can the team make room to carry Cardinal Gibbons-bred fullback Kiero Small to back up Kyle Juszczyk?

4. Secondary Is Primary

A top priority this year will be the health and effectiveness of a defensive backfield that ranked among the league's worst in 2014. One of the most under-the-radar signings in the league, nickelback Kyle Arrington, could prove to be huge, giving the unit the flexibility and depth it hasn't had recently. Plus, safeties Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill could be a good tandem as far as coverage, range and tackling ability are concerned.

5. Mosley's Next Step

Issue 200: Ravens 2014: C.J. Mosley (training camp)
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley made a big splash during his rookie season, leading the team in tackles and playing like someone who should have won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. On one hand, the so-called "sophomore slump" could creep into Mosley's game, but on the other, the greatest development in any player's career is, supposedly, the leap from his first to his second year. Can Mosley emerge as a true defensive leader?

6. Pushing The Pocket

Last year, the Ravens' 49 quarterback sacks ranked second in the NFL, and it also served as one of the highest single-season totals in team history. But, with linebacker Terrell Suggs turning 33 Oct. 11 and Elvis Dumervil turning 32 Jan. 19, 2016, can the Ravens get pass-rush production from another source with fellow linebacker Pernell McPhee having left for Chicago? Mid-round draft pick Za'Darius Smith is a McPhee look- and play-alike, so he can be one viable candidate.

7. Pickup At Backup?

Given the Ravens' propensity for carrying only two quarterbacks on the active roster, it's essential the backup is someone who won't be seen as a falloff if Joe Flacco gets injured. Flacco has been nearly indestructible throughout his career, but it remains to be seen if veteran Matt Schaub -- a productive player in the past who wasn't particularly impressive in spring practices -- can keep the Ravens afloat if he is needed.

8. Dennis' Menacing Hip

Ravens 2015: Dennis Pitta (OTAs)
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

During organized team activities, tight end Dennis Pitta appeared on the field and participated more than expected. But he wasn't cleared to practice in the mandatory minicamp, and he hasn't yet been given the go-ahead to take part in training camp. Because of that, the Ravens buttressed their tight end corps with draft picks Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, and holdover Crockett Gillmore is still around.

9. Safety In Numbers

The team's safety depth could be helped tremendously if second-year player Terrence Brooks can recover from a knee injury. But this ailment, one of the most underrated injury issues facing the team, could keep Brooks off the field for the season's first six weeks if he is placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Brooks did do some running during OTAs, and his physical recovery and playbook learning curve could help raise his stock among the coaches.

10. No Deposit, No Return

The vexing problem of filling the return specialist role manned so spectacularly by Jacoby Jones the past three years will not be solved until, at least, midway through the four-game preseason schedule. It's quite the balancing act: Do the Ravens use a starter, such as cornerback Lardarius Webb, whom they will need for at least 60 snaps a week, or do they entrust the job to a young, raw speedster, such as undrafted wide receiver DeAndre Carter?

11. A Solid Front Wall?

In 2014, the offensive line not only got better, but it also got deeper with the additions and stellar play of tackle James Hurst and guard/center John Urschel. Backup swing tackle Jah Reid is also back, as is reserve guard Ryan Jensen. That quartet, along with the well-known starting five, could make up the league's best offensive line, one that could have ripple effects throughout the whole team by sustaining drives on offense and providing rest for an aggressive defense. Can last year's momentum continue?

12. Not-So-Special Plays

As solid as the Ravens' special teams play has been -- it is the only team to have earned a top-five Gosselin ranking the last three years -- it has been hampered by the occasional punt- and kick-coverage penalty, as well as a few infractions on return units as well. These are units that use players at the bottom of the roster who are fighting for jobs, so the lack of continuity can lead to some youthful mistakes that have to be addressed.

13. Finding His Place

Ravens 2015: Marc Trestman (minicamp, press conference)
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

It may seem like a small detail, but one issue that hasn't yet been resolved is whether Trestman will call plays from the press box or be on the sidelines. With defensive coordinator Dean Pees firmly entrenched in the booth since midway through the 2012 championship year, would it serve the Ravens well to have both men away from the sidelines?

14. The Dotted Line

The Ravens like to address the future in the present, and they have several big-name players entering the final years of their contracts. Will they be able to sign kicker Justin Tucker and guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda to long-term deals, or will the annual salary cap crunch make it next to impossible? Once the season starts, it's unlikely that many, if any, negotiating sessions will take place.

15. Elbow Room

With more fans than ever before expected to be allowed on the Under Armour Performance Center grounds to watch training camp practices, what will that do to the organization from a logistical standpoint? Will there be enough room for fans to easily access the grounds and see everything they want to see? Plus, will those Ravens who weren't around during the team's 1996-2010 Westminster, Md., era get used to having so many people around, especially those players who came from smaller college programs?

PressBox in print is available every month on the 15th.

Issue 211: July 2015