- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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When I opened up the mailbag, I received a lot of congratulations for the birth of my son. I really appreciate every one of the kind notes. It's nice to see the sensitive side of the roughest division in football. Now, let's get to some questions ...
Matt, from Sparks, Md., writes: Congrats on the new addition. I have a 8-month-old myself so I know that answering these questions on your amount of sleep is close to impossible. A few questions: Will the Ravens' new offensive line be able to last the full season and why did they restructure instead of cut Bryant McKinnie if he wasn't going to play? Also, headed to the Linc on Sunday. Is wearing a Ray Lewis jersey a good idea or should I go undercover?
Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The offensive line has a better chance to last the full season because the Ravens went younger with left guard Ramon Harewood and right tackle Kelechi Osemele. McKinnie has been durable at his age, but his recent off-the-field issues were a red flag about his dependability. The reason why the Ravens were more agreeable to cutting his pay by $1 million over cutting him from the team is insurance. If Michael Oher got hurt, the Ravens don't have anyone else who they trust to protect Joe Flacco's blind side. Spending $2.2 million might be a little expensive for a backup but it beats the alternative of trying to pick up an unsigned veteran who is a bigger question mark than McKinnie. As far as your attire to the Eagles game, go undercover. Lincoln Financial Field doesn't have a jail anymore, but that doesn't mean fans will greet you with a cheesesteak.
Auto4Short, from Elgin Air Force Base, Fla., writes: First off congratulations JH! But my question is what is the word on Dre Kirkpatrick? Starting to look like the Bengals need all the depth they can get at cornerback.
Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: There is very little to report on Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati's first-round pick, which continues a disappointing first chapter to his Bengals career. After being sidelined for nearly all of the offseason workouts and all but one training-camp practice, Kirkpatrick suffered a setback late in the preseason, which is why he hasn't practiced for the first two weeks of the regular season. The hope is he'll return to practice either in Week 3 or the following week. Kirkpatrick felt good after rehabbing on the field Thursday and Friday. If you saw how Flacco picked apart the Bengals' secondary, Cincinnati needs to get Kirkpatrick into the mix. He was expected to be at least the team's nickelback before injuries got him off track.
Jack, from Cleveland, writes: More likely true of the Browns' Week 1 performance: The defense really is that good, or the offense really is that bad? Don't say somewhere in the middle, the offense will improve and the defense played over its head but is a good unit. Take a stand! Don't hedge in 2012!
Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The defense has proven to be very good, but it's not a game-changing one. Michael Vick's average play at quarterback (he's thrown 20 interceptions in his past 16 starts) has made a lot of defenses look better recently. The Browns offense, though, will have many games where it will look that bad. This is a young Cleveland offense, starting with rookies at quarterback and running back. Mistakes are bound to happen. There were indications in the preseason that Brandon Weeden would throw a high number of interceptions this season. It goes back to his gunslinger mentality and the fact that the Browns receivers will run ragged routes, which will lead to turnovers. Cleveland has a good foundation on offense, but this year will feature weekly growing pains. Hope that meets your "Don't hedge" approval.
Jacob, from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Do you think Rashard Mendenhall has any kind of a shot to get an extension from the Steelers after this season?
Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: At this point, I would say the odds are against it. There were rumblings before the draft that the Steelers could take a running back (like Doug Martin) as early as the second round. It wouldn't surprise me if the Steelers look to the future and put running back high on their priority list for the 2013 draft. Of course, that's not set in stone because no one knows how this season will unfold. The Steelers will likely ride the hot hand at running back, whether it's Jonathan Dwyer or Isaac Redman. When Mendenhall has fully recovered from ACL surgery, he will get his chances as well to prove he should be in next year's plans. Mendenhall has been a consistent running back, averaging 1,103 rushing yards and scoring 29 touchdowns over the past three seasons. But Mendenhall didn't hit the holes hard last season and preferred to bounce runs to the outside -- not the Steelers' style of running. My guess is another team will be willing to pay him more than the Steelers next offseason, when Mendenhall is a free agent.
HomeoftheBRavens, from Baltimore, writes: Are you ready to backpedal from your "Ravens will finish third in the division and miss the playoffs" prediction yet?
Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: You couldn't help but be impressed by the Ravens in the season opener. I have said all along that Flacco is primed for a career season. My question is whether this defense can hold up against the more experienced and explosive offenses in the NFL. But it would be foolish to jump to conclusions on any team after one game. Last season, the Redskins beat the Giants in Week 1 and you know how that turned out. In 2003, the Patriots lost their season-opening game 31-0 to the Bills and went on to win the Super Bowl. In other words, ask me this question after a few more games.