Feb 23, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh (left) and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh (right) watch the on field player workouts during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, the Ravens preseason opener is upon us. The offseason just feels longer and longer each year, but now we can look forward to some real, live action. Even though we know that the starters will only play a series or two, we get a good look at some of the guys that are fighting for snaps or even just trying to secure a roster spot.
On top of the norm, we also get our first look at rookies, the offensive scheme, and a couple of new coaches. Now is the time to impress, to step up, and to make plays. Here are a few things we will be keeping a close eye on in tonight’s preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
The new offensive line
Depending on who you talk to, the offensive line is either playing well or playing not so well. One thing is for sure, and that is Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda are doing their part. Eugene Monroe has been getting owned by Terrell Suggs, and Jeremy Zuttah has been banged up. All is quiet on the right tackle side as Rick Wagner appears to be playing well enough to hold off Jah Reid.
While the Ravens front seven is giving them fits, it will be interesting to see how this unit performs against another team. The problem is, the 49ers have an elite front seven themselves. So this will be yet another tough test for the rebuilt o-line.
Joe Flacco’s comfort in the new offense
We’ve heard all about how Flacco looks more comfortable in the offense and how his footwork is improving, but then we have also seen some pretty up and down performances from him in practice. He has a stronger supporting cast than ever, along with a running game that appears poised to bounce back. But until he shows that he can get the timing aspect of the zone read down, the offense is going nowhere.
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The entire secondary, at least whoever is left standing
It seems like almost every player in the secondary has suffered some sort of injury in camp, but there are at least enough healthy bodies to play a game. This competition is wide open, and we will be keeping an eye on the likes of Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, and Tramain Jacobs to see if anybody begins to create separation (pun intended) in the battle for the third cornerback spot.
The rookies, especially Lorenzo Taliaferro
C.J. Mosley may already have the starting ILB job sewn up, but other positions are up for grabs. Taliaferro can earn himself a role behind Bernard Pierce if he outplays Justin Forsett, and could even eat into Pierce’s snaps if he plays well enough. We have already seen a rookie runner break out in a preseason game this year when Andre Williams handily outplayed starter Rashad Jennings in the HOF game. Don’t be surprised if Taliaferro does the same thing.
The wide receiver competition
The depth at wide receiver is creating a big problem for the Ravens, albeit a good problem. It’s impossible for the team to keep all of these guys, but they may end up keeping more than the usual five, perhaps even six or seven. Michael Campanaro is probably a lock, but what about Jeremy Butler, Kamar Aiken, and Delonte Thompson?
What will you be watching for in tonight’s game?