The Ravens are opening training camp in Owings Mills this week, with the quarterbacks and rookies hitting the practice field Tuesday and the first full-squad workout scheduled for Thursday.
Although much of the lineup is set, theres still a lot on the line, a lot to be determined. Here are five issues to monitor on the defensive side:
Are Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw ready to start?
After Terrell Suggs injury and Jarret Johnsons departure, all eyes are on the teams new outside linebackers, who will need to set the edge of the run defense and get to opposing passers. Kruger, entering his fourth year, has never started, but the Ravens liked what they saw from him in 2011. And they believe Upshaw is a plug-and-play rookie. Its time to find out.
Who starts opposite Lardarius Webb?
Cary Williams is back after holding down the job in 2011, but he is coming off hip surgery that knocked him out of the teams offseason program. Meanwhile, 2011 first-round Jimmy Smith is poised to take a step forward in his second year. Their training camp battle is a bit misleading as both will see extensive playing time. But one will start.
Is it Art Jones or Pernell McPhee in the interior?
Another training camp battle, this one between former fifth-round draft picks, with the winner to replace departed veteran Cory Redding. Again, both will see extensive playing time. Jones has re-sculpted his body since turning pro and is adept at stopping the run. McPhee was a revelation as a rookie pass rusher in 2011.
How about those body changes?
Ray Lewis has slimmed down for his 17th season to give himself a chance to be more effective (and on the field) in passing situations. Haloti Ngata has bulked up because he felt he was pushed around toward the end of last season. With Suggs out, the Ravens are going need both to play well.
Is Ed Reed therehappyhealthy?
After a somewhat tumultuous offseason, all signs indicate that the safety will report on time and play out the last year of his contract in 2012. The big question now is whether he is healthy, ready and able to play better in 2012 after intercepting just three passes and struggling with his tackling at times in 2011.