One of the biggest battles, and maybe the closest so far will be who becomes the Ravens new kicker now that the team has parted ways with Matt Stover. Second year player Steve Hauschka will be going up against rookie Graham Gano to see who has the best accuracy and distance. This contest will most likely be one of the final decisions made this Summer as the coaches want to see how both do in live game situations. if neither impresses the coaching staff then you may see the return of Stover, who has said he plans to keep his leg in shape in case any openings arise.
Another big contest will be kick returner, with incumbent Yamon Figurs facing challenges from Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Matt Lawrence and perhaps even Ray Rice and Demetrius Williams. Last season it looked like Figurs became a bit shell shocked and he looked a little hesitant when trying to turn the ball upfield. If he doesn't set himself well above the others he probably won't make the team as his role as a wideout hasn't developed as the team had hoped.
There will be a new starting linebacker with the departure of Bart Scott to the Jets. It seems that everyone is ready to hand the job over to Tavaras Gooden, but Jameel McLain may have a thing or two to say about that. Both are fairly close in ability and it could become a platoon situation well into the season. Also in the running will be rookie Jason Phillips, who has shown some signs of progress during the recent OTA's. Another possibility would be to move Prescott Burgess or Antwan Barnes from outside linebacker to inside.
Training camp will also be a battle between Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. During the OTA's Rice saw all the action with the starting unit, while McGahee, still recovering from injury, was relegated to second string. McGahee is confident that he can regain the starting role but to do it he has to beat out a beefed up Rice. This will show just how much heart and desire McGahee possesses.
The wide receiver position may be the most crowded of any other on the team. While there remains the possibility that Derick Mason may change his mind about retiring the team has brought in Drew Bennett as a possible replacement. Others fighting for a spot are Kelley Washington, Marcus Smith, Justin Harper, Ernie Wheelwright, Isaiah Williams, and Eron Riley. Now that's a lot of competition to sort through! I have a feeling that Smith may make a case for himself more then some of the others, but only time will tell.
There is also a glut of cornerbacks fighting for a spot on the roster. Newcomers Chris Carr and Domonique Foxworth will be trying to take over the nickle spot held by Frank Walker, who to his defense played well last year down the stretch. Or, in another possible scenario we might see Foxworth and Carr fight for an outside job while Rolle becomes the nickle. That might make more sense considering the respective ages of the players involed. It may be the final chance for Derrick Martin and Evan Ogelsby to show that they belong and I'm sure they realize it. With the return of Samari Rolle, along with fellow starter Fabian Washington, the team should have the best depth they've had at the position ever. And even better is most of them are true speedsters. Of course the tackling ability of some of them has been suspect at best so look for that to be a major factor in the decision making process.
Every year a number of players take that leap to the next level, and it will be interesting to see who which ones will do it this year. Let the games begin!