Tonight the Baltimore Ravens return to football in their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins. The Ravens faced the Redskins last year in the regular season, on October 9. (A game I attended. The Ravens lost in a nail-biter, the final score being 16-10. The two teams that play in Maryland will face off again this preseason. Although the game is part of the NFL’s preseason lineup, the stakes for some will still be high. Many players are on the cusp of making the 53 man roster of both teams, and the preseason is a major factor in coaches’ decisions. Here is a quick preview of what we will see in tonight’s game.
Wide Receiver Battle
The Baltimore Ravens came into the offseason with a receiver corps that was filled with doubt. However, they are now entering the preseason with a receivers group that is drawing attention. The Ravens’ receiver unit is lead by returning veteran Mike Wallace, along with the team’s newcomer, veteran Jeremy Maclin. Breshad Perriman is also a projected starter, as he is trying to become one of the team’s offensive leaders. Although the starting receivers are solid, more attention is going to the bottom half of the Ravens’ receiver depth chart. Undrafted rookies Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White have been showing off their ability all throughout training camp, along with second-year receiver Keenan Reynolds. Each of these three players has played exceptionally well in practice, but Baltimore cannot rely on simulation alone. They need a real game scenario to base their final decisions off of. It is unlikely that the Ravens could manage to keep all three of these intriguing wide receivers. The preseason will be used as a determining factor of who stays, and who goes. Expect a lot of play time for these receivers tonight.
The offensive line has been a work in progress for the Ravens for the entirety of the offseason. Aside from right guard Marshal Yanda and left tackle Ronnie Stanley, the starting lineup for the offensive line is still undecided. The Ravens have brought in veteran tackle Austin Howard to compete with James Hurst for the right tackle position. Howard will likely not play tonight, but Hurst will. The position is still anyone’s for the taking, and Hurst has a real opportunity to prove himself tonight. At left guard, Alex Lewis is probably going to be the starter this season, but the position is still undecided. He is battling Jarrod Pughsley for the position. Expect Pughsley to get substantial playing time tonight. Meanwhile, at the center position, Ryan Jensen seems to be in the lead of a battle that has died down in recent weeks. His main competitor, John Urschel, retired this offseason, and Jensen is now battling Matt Skura for the starting spot. Again, expect both players to get substantial playing time tonight, but Skura may get more. He is behind in the battle, and the Ravens may want to see more of him.
Young Defenders First Impressions
The Ravens added many young defenders to the roster through the draft this year. Although first round cornerback Marlon Humphrey will likely miss the game, the other defenders should be on the field. Pass rushers Tyus Bowser, Chris Wormely, and Tim Willams all want to make their mark by putting pressure on the quarterback. Each of these players will find themselves on the field more often than not tonight. The Ravens also want to see how other defenders added this offseason, such as Tony Jefferson play. Jefferson, along with other more veteran players will get less play time, as the Ravens are trying to prevent further injuries. Other young players who will see extensive action tonight are Matt Judon, Michael Pierce, and Kameli Correa. It will be interesting to see how they all play tonight, as all are competing for starting jobs.
Backup Quarterback’s Potential
A lot has been talked about the Ravens’ backup quarterbacks, in light of Joe Flacco’s back injury. Many believe that Ryan Mallet is not capable of leading the team if, God forbid, Joe Flacco was to miss time in the regular season. However, through all the speculation and talk of adding Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Mallet continues to be the backup quarterback. Tonight, Mallet has a chance to end all of the speculation, by putting on a show for the Ravens to see. If Mallet performs at a high level, you can expect the team to distance themselves from any more speculation of adding a new quarterback. On the flip side, however, if Mallet plays poorly, Baltimore will likely start searching for another quarterback to add. Mallet will get a lot of playing time tonight, so he has a big opportunity tonight.