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Ravens Q&A with the Sun's Jamison Hensley

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department we bring you a Q&A with the reporters and writers who are in the field, chasing the news. This week The Baltimore Sun's Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley took time to answer some of our questions. Jamison has been covering the Ravens for The Sun since 2000. They've won just one Super Bowl during his tenure as beat writer. Coincidence?

Question: Given the vast amount of lies, smokescreens and subterfuge that usually clouds each team's draft, how surprised were you by Saturday's and Sunday's picks? Did you have many hints that their draft would unfold the way it did?

Hensley: Like most of the Ravens officials, I was surprised that Michael Oher would last into the 20s. He was rated by the Ravens as the fifth-best offensive player in the draft. This was just another year where a top talent fell down to them. Don’t get me wrong -- the Ravens are good. But they’ll even admit they’re lucky at times.

After the first round, I wasn’t surprised how the draft unfolded. I felt they would get a pass rusher (to be groomed behind Trevor Pryce), a cornerback (to add some youth to the secondary) and a tight end (Todd Heap and L.J. Smith are getting older). The only complaint -- no surprise -- is the fact that the Ravens didn’t get a wide receiver.

Question: When you look at the Ravens roster right now compared to the end of the last season, how does it compare? Better? Worse?

Hensley: On paper, I think the Ravens are somewhere in the middle. Michael Oher is an improvement over Willie Anderson at right tackle. Matt Birk is on the same level as Jason Brown at center. Chris Carr isn’t as flashy as Yamon Figurs as a returner, but he is tougher. I’m not sold on the Ravens’ biggest free-agent signing, cornerback Domonique Foxworth. It seems like they overpaid for him.

But all of this is negated by the Flacco Factor. If Joe Flacco continues to improve at quarterback, he makes the entire team better. This is a quarterback-driven league. So, the roster might not be as good as last year, but Flacco can negate that.

Question: The Ravens clearly seem excited that Michael Oher landed in their laps. How likely is it that Oher is starting as a rookie?

Hensley: I would say that it’s 50-50 that Oher beats out Willie Anderson at right tackle, but I would put it at 90 percent that he finishes as the starter. The Ravens could follow the same plan as Ben Grubbs, who was the first-round pick in 2007. Grubbs didn’t start immediately, but he split time with Chris Chester at guard. Midway through the season, Grubbs became the full-time starter. This is how the Ravens should proceed with Oher.

Question: A lot of other teams seemed to have some concerns about Oher. Why do you think that might have been, and why didn't the Ravens share in those concerns?

Hensley: A league insider told me that Oher’s interviews didn’t go well at the combine. Teams wondered if he would be able to make the transition to this level and pick up NFL offenses. The Ravens placed a lot of value in Oher’s size and disposition. He could be the young, mauling right tackle that the Ravens have wanted for years. Plus, the Ravens have a great support system on the offensive line with Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda and Matt Birk. They will certainly look after Oher.

Question: Let's visit hypothetical-world for a little bit. What if the Raiders pretended they were a sane football team on Saturday and didn't jump at Darrius Heyward-Bey with the No. 7 pick. How does that change the course of the first round, and is there any way that Oher slips down to No. 23?

Hensley: I don’t think so, The key was the Raiders passing on receiver Michael Crabtree, who fell to the San Francisco 49ers (11th overall pick). The Ravens thought Oher would never make it past the 49ers. Oher then did a free-fall. The Ravens traded up to No. 23 because they thought the Buffalo Bills would leapfrog them from No. 28.

Question: Are you surprised the Ravens didn't aim for a bigger upgrade at wide receiver last weekend?

Hensley: Once the top receivers went in the first round, I thought the Ravens would go for a wide receiver in the second round. Ramses Barden from Cal-Poly would have been a good fit here. Instead, the Ravens picked defensive end-linebacker Paul Kruger, and Barden was gone before the Ravens’ third-round selection.

Question: Is Anquan Boldin still a possibility, or are they likely to go into next season with the same crew of receivers?

Hensley: I wouldn’t rule out Boldin. It’s difficult for me to imagine that the Cardinals could bring him back after essentially putting him on the trading block. The Cardinals’ asking price could even drop to a third-round pick. The key is whether Boldin’s asking price on a new contract will drop. Teams seem wary to pay him $9 million to $10 million a season.

Question: Prior to the draft, the Ravens publicly said they really like the receivers they have on the roster. Do they not agree with the fan perception that Joe Flacco needs a deep threat to reach his full potential?

Hensley: The Ravens understand that their receivers are average at best, but they can’t say that publicly. By not drafting a receiver or trading for Boldin, the Ravens are banking that Demetrius Williams is healthy and can become that deep threat. Also, Mark Clayton averaged 17 yards per catch last season. He needs to be more consistent.

Question: People say the Ravens are a piece or two from the Super Bowl, but isn't it just as easy to say they're an injury or two from a 7-9 record?

Hensley: I would even say they are one injury away. If Flacco gets injured, there is no way the Ravens make the playoffs with Troy Smith. The Ravens would have trouble rebounding from an injury to receiver Derrick Mason, center Matt Birk and safety Ed Reed.

Question: The Ravens held true to their word and didn't try to fill needs early in the draft. Was this a mistake at all? Where are they vulnerable right now?

Hensley: First, it’s hard to argue with Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta. Their track record gives them a pass. But you have to wonder about their decision to pass on a receiver in the second round. The Ravens need to capitalize on finally finding a franchise quarterback. They have to give him weapons to develop.

Question: What is the biggest question still to be answered before this team takes the field?

Hensley: Even though this team went to the AFC championship game, I have plenty of questions. In order. 1. Can the Ravens’ defense withstand the loss of Rex Ryan? 2. Who stretches the field for Flacco? 3. Who is going to be kicking field goals?

Question: So does an NFL beat writer just spend the next four months on vacation? Will you be reporting from The Sun's Bahamas' bureau?

Hensley: The first minicamp begins May 8, so I get to take a small breather. After that, I have what I call Ray-time. I go down to Miami and hang out with ol’ 52. We run on the beach in the morning, get massages in the afternoon and then play Madden all night long. I always go with the Ravens in Madden, so Ray makes me do his dance before the game starts. Good times.

Photos: Patrick Smith for the Baltimore Sun; Associated Press

Comments

Can't imagine the Cardinals giving up Boldin for a 3rd rounder. I think it'll cost a team a first or a combination of a second and third.

I really wish the Ravens made a move for Nate Washington. Former Steeler or not, he could have been the Ravens inconsistent deep threat -- to complement their inconsistent possession WR, Mark Clayton.

I think Ozzie really does believe someone will be cut or Boldin really will become available for a reasonable price.

I'm glad the Ravens didn't reach on a WR, although taking one in the six round wouldn't have hurt.

I think, and it's just my opinion, the fact that they didn't draft a receiver, tells me that they are really working on getting Boldin from the Cards. maybe that's just wishful thinking though. I also think DWill, if hecan stay healthy, will be like Chris Henry was with the bungles. Oher is going to be a BEAST The new incarnation of Orlando Brown.! We now have bookends to protect Joe Cool for the next 10 years. I can't wait to see Oher flatten Harrison, and shut him up.

Oz has something up his sleeve for WR. Just wait. On a brighter note, when the O's are not on HD, the reception via satellite is awful. I had to turn to the Rangers HD feed to watch the games, it's that bad.

Oher was a steal! That makes Joe a better QB! Personally I think with the Boldin price reduced it is a real possibility that we could see him here in the fall....provided he comes down on his insane contract demands!

Marvin Harrison is still out there. Not what he was, but he would help bridge the hole until next year's draft when they must get a receiver or 2, no ifs, ands or buts. Plexico Burress is also available, if he can stay out of jail.

Well Jamison, you are going down to Miami to spend some time will #52. Let me caution you. You say you will be getting some massages while you are there. I don't live in Baltimore, but what is advertised under "Massage" could imply a whole gamut of services. Don't be suprised if you leave there more alive, dude!

Lots of time on the WR front. I really don't understand why everyone is so bothered that they didn't use as valuable 2nd round pick to reach on a possible - not likely starting WR who is highly unlikely to become a number 1.

Without a shot at a young stud, Boldin becomes a better option and as such, we can, and just might, give up a conditional 2nd and 3rd next year or a 2nd and a player. It should be clear to Boldin that we'd pay him if we could. We might have to come up with a novel contract to get him - maybe a contract with a 2 year guarantee and the bulk of the bonus at the beginning of next year. It would be a shame not to make this happen.

I don't think it is far fetched for us to lock up (excuse the pun) Burress for 3 years to a very cap-friendly contract. Now that he can hold onto the ball and has developed some toughness, he can join our club. BTW, the press has blown his issues out of proportion b/c it was interesting and his dumness had huge consequences. But it really was about a 4 on the dumness scale and 9 on the unlucky scale (9/dumness=tokin' up b4 the combine)

I really don't like Edwards, but with good coaching, no question he could be a phenom. BTW2 - He's due for a huge year.

There is always a great player run out of somebody's camp. (Harrison!?!) With all the WRs drafted, someone good will be let go before they have a chance to get vetted. We would likely outbid just about everyone else for someone we liked to give a shot.

No too worried. Got help on the line (more time to develop routes and free up TE) and drafted a nice pass-catching TE Cam can do something with that.

How can you make the statement that Michael Oher is an improvement over Willie Anderson before the guy has even donned the pads at an OTA, much less in a game. Jonathan Ogden didn't start at tackle his rookie year, and Oher is no Ogden. There is a learning curve for rookie offensive linemen, particularly at the tackle positions, and I can't see Oher picking things up quickly enough to beat out Anderson, assuming Anderson reports in better shape this year.

Keep an eye on Eron Riley from Duke, our (to-be) signed free agent WR. Big, (6-3, 210 lb), real good hands and great speed (4.36 '40') His only negative was that he played for a poor Duke team.....could be another great find from Eric & the Wiz.

Baltimore Joe will be fine with the WR's he has. Someone will fall to them in July and he will put up even more impressive numbers in 2009/2010. I think the RB out of VA might have been the best steal of all!

niners had the tenth pick Hensley

If you look at the last 8 years or so more than half of the WRs drafted do not pan out and most of the ones who do take several years to develop. The Ravens signed two undrafted FAs with the size and speed combo to stretch the field. They are just as likely to make an immediate impact as anyone other than the first round WRs in this years draft. The players Ozzie drafted this year are much more likely to help out now than any WR he could have taken.

Furthermore if it takes three years to develop a WR as most experts say it does that means Ozzie still has the rest of this offseason and the next two to either trade for or sign a proven WR.

Also Jamison, how can you say the Ravens should proceed with Oher the same way they did with Grubbs before he ever puts on the pads? He could go out in camp and blow Willie Anderson away or he could take a full year or more to develop into a starter. He could even never pan out. I do not understand why writers pretend they know what is in the best interest of the teams. This should be left up to the coaching staff who are the true experts. The Ravens are a successful organization who when not completely depleted by injuries are always in the playoff hunt. Their football people deserve not to be second guessed all the time. We are not dealing with Matt Millen and Al Davis here.

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