Answers by Baltimore Beatdown author Jason Butt. Follow him on Twitter @JasonHButt.
1. A lot of defensive talent left the Ravens last year. Who is stepping up in place?
You're absolutely right about that in regards to the talent leaving. On defense a year ago, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard, Ed Reed and Cary Williams were all starters that won a Super Bowl. It's one of the crazier roster turnovers in recent memory, considering these guys won a championship.
Starting up front, Haloti Ngata moves inside to start at nose tackle, with Chris Canty and Art Jones around him at defensive end (though Jones is dealing with an undisclosed illness at the moment and Marcus Spears is expected to take his spot for the time being.) Daryl Smith, a standout in Jacksonville for many year, takes over at Ray Lewis' Mike linebacker position. For now, Josh Bynes and Arthur Brown will share duties at Will linebacker (with Bynes starting) as long as Jameel McClain is out due to a spinal cord injury sustained last year. That's also the position Ellerbe played a season ago, rotating in with McClain until taking over due to McClain's injury.
James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam will work in together at Pollard's old strong safety spot and Michael Huff will take over Reed's free safety job. Starting at cornerback with Williams gone is Corey Graham, who picked Peyton Manning off twice in the last season's playoff game.
And of course, you guys know about Elvis Dumervil and Fax-Gate, which is how he wound up in a Ravens uniform. He and Courtney Upshaw will share time at Sam linebacker, with Dumervil rotating in for passing downs.
The Ravens should be faster on defense, though there is surely a leadership void, one that Terrell Suggs is trying to fill. But football teams don't win championships on talent alone. There was something special about Lewis that allowed him to bring his teammates together. And no matter how improved this defense may seem on paper, there's nothing that can replace that.
2. Anquan Boldin had been a solid and reliable piece of the Ravens squad for years. Who is the person they are looking to fill his place?
Tight end Dennis Pitta was actually looking to be that guy, someone reliable over the middle that can take pressure off of the outside receivers. Then he dislocated his hip. The attention turned to either Deonte Thompson or Tandon Doss to step in as an inside receiver. Thompson sprained his foot in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay and Doss performed poorly all preseason and wound up on the waiver wire this past weekend.
This will probably surprise you some, but it looks like Baltimore will open the 2013 season with Brandon Stokley a their slot receiver. There's also a chance rookies Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown work in at receiver, with Brown a viable option to play the slot. Aging tight end Dallas Clark could also be a short-yardage option.
I say all that knowing that there's no way the Ravens will be able to replace Boldin's physical stature and ball skills with anyone on this current roster.
3. How is this whole "opening the season on the road as Super Bowl champs" sitting with the Ravens fan base?
Ravens fans were mad at first but eventually got over it. At the end of the day. there are still eight home games and eight road games. Plus, all the attention this poster ordeal has caused might have diverted any attention that could have been stuck on that. It's a shame the Ravens and Orioles couldn't work out a compromise, though with the Orioles in the Wild Card race, it makes perfect sense for them to keep their scheduled game.
Even if the Ravens are more important than the Orioles exponentially.
4. I was screaming for the Broncos to draft Arthur Brown, how has he looked in camp and what will his role be this year?
He's look pretty solid, specifically in coverage. He doesn't have the size yet to be an every-down defender that can play the run. He's someone that will work in plenty on passing downs though, because of his speed that allows him to cover the field sideline to sideline. He'll probably wind up in the Ellerbe role, where he'll play a ton against passing teams and not as much against run-first teams.
Though Bynes is the starter, I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown play more than him Thursday night due to the fact that Manning and the Broncos figure to air it out as much as possible.
5. What part of this Ravens team worries you the most?
We touched on it some already but it has to be the receivers and tight ends. On offense, the Ravens are set at quarterback, running back and the offensive line. On defense, the defensive line and outside linebackers have the talent to get after anyone. The inside linebackers are above average and the secondary seems strong.
At receiver and tight end, the Ravens have Torrey Smith and a lot of other guys. Jacoby Jones had a great postseason but hasn't looked like a No. 2 receiver through camp and the exhibition games. Stokley is 37. Mellette and Brown are rookies. Thompson is a second-year guy that barely played any receiver snaps last season. There's some young talent but it's all unproven.
At tight end, Ed Dickson now assumes Pitta's spot with Clark, 34, behind him. Flacco deserved his $120.6 million deal but could be in for a challenge this year without Boldin and Pitta.
Big thanks again to Baltimore Beatdown for taking the time to answer these questions!