RAVENS MAIL BAG: You asked, we answered

Lombardi's Way RAVENS MAIL BAG: You asked, we answered

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There’s been a lot of talk about the improvements to the defensive line and you hear the names of newcomers like Canty, Spears and Williams mentioned often. Yet you hear little about Arthur Jones. Why? ~ John in Canton

Since the Ravens selected Jones in the fifth round back in 2010 (157th overall) the team believed they found a diamond in the rough. Jones had second round talent but his work habits were questioned and he had some injuries while at Syracuse that impeded his conditioning. Both are a thing of the past.

Now that the Ravens have what promises to be one of the league’s best defensive line rotations, look for Jones to take advantage of his vastly improved supporting cast and build on his late season momentum when he posted 4 ½ sacks during the final 6 games and added another in Super Bowl XLVII.

“Play Like a Raven” is a term that seems to mean a lot to the team yet it’s likely that the two players on offense who more than any others did exactly that, namely Anquan Boldin and Vonta Leach, are gone. Should we be concerned? Bill in Perry Hall

Clearly both players brought physicality to the Ravens offense and they will be missed but that $9M in cap space that they occupied, assuming they stayed, is hard to overlook. The Ravens simply want to get the most value for those dollars and if the talent evaluators believe they can get 80% of the production for 20% of the cost, that’s what they’ll do.

Apparently they believe that with an assortment of players and new formations on offense they’ll be able to account for Boldin’s catches. With Leach, his is a dying breed in today’s NFL. He was only in on 42% of the Ravens offensive plays last season and early signs point to even less usage of the fullback in offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s offense. The Ravens would like to have Leach back but only at a price commensurate with his playing time.

The one thing that does concern me with the loss of these two is how the running game will be supported by Boldin’s replacement. Q is a great blocker and many of the team’s longer runs can be attributed to his downfield blocking. Think 4th and 29.

How will the Ravens replace the leadership lost by the departures of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed? Laura in Bel Air

You can’t replace that leadership, you just have to hope that others can step up and maintain their commitment and focus.

When you have the quintessential leader like Ray Lewis, others who have leadership skills may sit in the background. How do you usurp the General? That doesn’t mean that the leadership skills weren’t there. They just weren’t needed.

I’ve been told by team sources that the Ravens’ rookie class is rich with character and leadership. Their commitment is off the charts stemming in large part to their leadership roles in college.

I think you may be surprised by the smooth transition in leadership. My biggest concern is those few seconds pre-snap where Ray and Ed excelled by making last minute adjustments directly tied to experience and film study.

Who will make the calls on defense for the Ravens in 2013? Rick in Pasadena

Assuming he’s healthy and doesn’t lose his position at inside linebacker, that job belongs to Jameel McClain. The coaching staff loves McClain’s willingness to do the small stuff that doesn’t show up in the stats and his intelligence. He’s also one of those guys who could step up into a leadership role, assuming he nails down the starting job, which Dean Pees labeled, “Jameel’s to lose.”

If he loses the job, a dark horse is Josh Bynes. Sources close to the team say that Bynes has embraced the value of film study under the tutelage of Ed Reed.

Do you think Terrell Suggs will return to form in 2013? Jim in Catonsville

I think he will and I think that he has to. In 2014 Suggs carries a cap figure of $12.4M and the Ravens could save $7.8M by letting him go. Either way you will see a motivated Suggs who has gas left in the tank and despite this being his 11th season, he is still only 30 years old.

What will we see more of, the 2012 regular season Joe Flacco or the post season Joe Flacco? Melissa in Timonium

Flacco is far more comfortable under the watchful eye of Jim Caldwell than he was Cam Cameron and the results prove it. Flacco has a say in the offense because Caldwell wants him to do what he’s most comfortable with and he wants his quarterback to take ownership of the offense. Cameron preferred a game manager – huge difference!

But that’s not to say that some teams won’t match up well and force Joe out of his comfort zone. That said I expect a much more consistent season from the Ravens signal caller. That post-season run was no fluke, it was a coming of age journey and I think he’s going to be a difference maker from this point forward.

Do you think the Ravens were wise to cut ties with Bernard Pollard? He had a knack for making big plays. Carrie in Eldersburg

Pollard did make memorable plays and delivered crunching blows to opponents. But the game is changing and safeties need to be hybrids. The traditional free and strong safety tags have blurred and the so-called strong safeties must be more than another linebacker. They have to cover and quite frankly Pollard can’t. Mix in the league’s hyper attention directed towards helmet-to-helmet hits (Pollard is a repeat offender) and you can see why Pollard’s value diminished for the Ravens. One insider said that Pollard’s blown assignments in Super Bowl XLVII nearly cost the team a ring.

Who do you think will represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII? Mark in Owings Mills

I think the AFC is wide open. The East is the worst of the divisions and the guess here is that Tom Brady is still good enough to get his team to the finish line in front of Miami. In the South I think it’s still Houston’s division but Matt Schaub just doesn’t have that “it” factor in the playoffs. In the West, probably Denver although I think at this stage in his career Peyton Manning is overrated. I’d keep an eye on San Diego out there. And in the North, it’s the Ravens followed closely by the Bengals.

Add it all up and I like the hometown team’s chance of playing in the Meadowlands come Febrrrrruary.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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