Let the countdown to football end.
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 the top five issues to monitor on the offensive side:
Do things go smoothly with the line?
Even Ravens coach John Harbaugh admitted in a radio interview last week that he is curious to see how this much-discussed veteran unit comes together. The questions are many. Is left tackle Bryant MckKnnie in shape? Is Bobbie Williams the answer at left guard? Is Matt Birk healthy and ready for another year? Is the depth too young? Are the starters too old?
How does Joe Flacco look?
As always, the arc of the Ravens season will depend heavily on how their quarterback plays. Flacco is coming off a lesser year statistically, but he played well in the AFC title game, had the Ravens within a dropped pass of the Super Bowl, and has spent the spring practice season in counsel with a new position coach, Jim Caldwell. Is their new association a game-changer?
Who backs up Ray Rice?
The Pro Bowl running back is locked in after signing a five-year deal last week, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron likes to give 100-plus carries a year to another back. The Ravens invested a 2012 third-round-pick in Bernard Pierce, and Anthony Allen and Damien are back from the fringes of the 2011 roster. If none of those suffice, the team might bring in a vet.
Is Jacoby Jones the No. 3 receiver?
The Ravens really want to give Flacco more downfield targets besides starting wideouts Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, and they brought in Jones to fill that role as well as returns kicks and punts. He exhibited blazing speed in practice but also dropped a few passes, a habit that troubled him in Houston. Regardless of how Jones fares, Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams will press for more snaps, and keep an eye on undrafted free agent Deonte Thompson, who turned heads in the spring.
Is Torrey Smith poised to break out?
The team's 2011 second-round pick had a strong rookie season, set some franchise records and scored a touchdown in the AFC title game. But he also dropped a few more passes than he wanted. More than a few observers believe he could develop into one of the NFL's better game-breakers in 2012. He underwent offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia and looked sharp in the spring.