What to Look For
The preseason is a mirage. It’s deceptive. What you see isn’t always what you get.
In case I haven’t made myself clear, the preseason is a big fat lie.
But that said, there are some things observers can glean from the fake games. They are building blocks for the bottom of the roster where quality depth is established. And depth, as we learned in 2015, is critical to sustain an injury plagued season.
Here’s what I’ll be looking for tonight…
When on Offense
1. The Left Side of The Line: Ronnie Stanley has been stout. The NFL doesn’t seem too big for him and he’s been technically efficient. Tonight he’ll be challenged by Ezekiel Ansah who had 14 ½ sacks in 2015. Next to Stanley, Alex Lewis will be tested at times by the likes of former Raven Haloti Ngata. The rookies will be under pressure because behind them stands that Ravens’ franchise quarterback Joe Flacco who hopes to remain standing.
2. Speaking of Joe Flacco: It will be interesting to see how he does in his first action in over 9 months. Naturally there will be rust but I’m more interested in the adjustments he makes pre-snap. It’s time for Joe, at this stage of his career, to take command of games. Behind him is a duel for the backup job. Ryan Mallett is the favorite but I’m sensing an upset in the making courtesy of Josh Johnson.
3. WR Combinations: The Ravens have potentially their best ever corps of pass catchers. From the gritty Kamar Aiken to the feisty future Hall of Famer Steve Smith, Sr.; from the speedsters Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore to the chain movers named Michael Campanaro and Jeremy Butler, Flacco and OC Marc Trestman have options.
When on Defense
1. Mosley’s Mate: CJ must step up as a leader and it will help if the player beside him can be effective. Both Kamalei Correa and Zachary Orr have had solid camps. Orr has been the better player during preseason games but Correa is more versatile. Tonight will be a big indicator of who gets the starting nod on 9/11 v. Buffalo.
2. The Wright Call: Shareece was the Ravens best corner in 2015 but so far this summer he has struggled. The Ravens gave him a 3-year deal and they expect him to pick up where he left off. Tonight he’ll be challenged by the versatile Golden Tate and the rangy newcomer Marvin Jones.
3. The Push: Where will the pass rush come from? Will the Ravens do a better job disguising the blitz? With Dumervil, Suggs and Za’Darius Smith all dressed as spectators will Chris Carter and/or Victor Ochi show up on tape enough to improve their odds of making the final 53-man squad? Can 4th round pick Willie Henry help collapse the pocket and stave off the hard-charging UDFA Michael Pierce? A lot of questions. Let’s see who answers in a positive way.
Lastly, how about a warm Charm City welcome for former Ravens Super Bowl 47 champions Haloti Ngata, Anquan Boldin, Josh Bynes and Jim Caldwell.