With the starters seeing little action and vanilla play calling by the coaches, very little will be gleaned. I do not believe the wide receiver, tight end, middle linebacker, and cornerback issues will be resolved after one game. Nor do I believe we are going to see the coaching staff tip-off their ideas on strategy (blitz, route combinations, etc.), sub-packages, or formation. These decisions will need more time.
However, as a football junkie, I am excited to watch the second, third, and fourth quarters, as there are players I am interested in seeing play in live action games. These players will either have a larger role on the team this year, or they are flat-out fighting to make the 53-man roster and/or practice squad. It will be interesting to see who gets time with “ones,” the “twos,” and who is purely in during mop-up duty.
Some of the players below are players looking to push themselves up the depth chart, and some are fringe players hoping to make a positive impression. This team is fairly set, but injuries the last week are opening up doors of opportunity for some of these players.
I have been a long-time supporter and defender of Lardarius Webb, even after last year’s injury-plagued season which resulted in a drop-off in his play. However, his actions this year—failing conditioning test, constant complaining to refs during practice, and inconsistent play—are raising some eyebrows. The final straw, at least for me, was when Webb was beat by Darren Waller and pulled up with a hamstring tweak. Very rarely does one return to practice the very next day after a hamstring tweak. Could that have been a “pride injury?”
Whatever is the case with Webb, doors are being left open for younger players. Rashaan “Pit Bull” Melvin could be pushing Webb and it is not out of the question that Melvin sees significant snaps this year. Could he even push Webb to the bench? I am not alone in this thinking.
Asa Jackson seems to be plummeting down the depth chart, and Tray Walker has the measurable of a NFL-caliber cornerback. I am excited to see how he handles the jump in competition. The real unknown is Quinton Pointer. The 2012 undrafted free agent has bounced around the league from the Rams to the Buccaneers and now to the Ravens when he was signed to the practice squad last December. He has made positive impressions in camp and he could even factor into the return game.
Michel Campanaro vs. Jeremy Butler vs. Darren Waller vs. DeAndre Carter
Nothing in the wide receiver competition will be decided tonight. Obviously. With Breshad Perriman missing all but the first day of training camp and Steve Smith likely to see very limited time (if any), I will be very interested to see who gets the snaps tonight. Equally important, how will the team use these players? Will Campanaro line up outside? Will they test his versatility on the outside? Can Butler keep up his momentum, or will the bright lights affect his play? Waller has exceeded most expectations, especially from a sixth-round pick. Can he capitalize on Perriman’s absence? Carter, another undrafted free agent find, gets an opportunity to show that he can be more than a return specialist. Fans have been excited for him. Let’s see him in NFL(esque) action tonight.
Kick Returner Competition: Campanaro, Jackson, Carter
Hopefully, there will be opportunities for the returners to make an impression. Campanaro, Jackson, and Carter are the frontrunners, but will others be thrown into the mix? Maybe we will see some like running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (fitting that the Ravens play the Saints tonight) or cornerback Quinton Pointer?
Brynden Trawick vs. Nick Perry
With Matt Elam out for the year and Terrence Brooks still not being cleared to full-time activities, there is an open spot in the safety corps. Could Nick Perry be this year’s undrafted free agent find? Because of the injury situation, I can envision a scenario where both players make this team. It will be interesting to see how the coaches work these players into the game and who each player is lining up with.
It is great to see Lewis-Moore healthy. With the injuries to Brent Urban, DeAngelo Tyson, and Christo Bilukidi, Lewis-Moore has a golden opportunity. By my estimations, he was a bubble roster player entering training camp. He still may be, but the stars could be aligning for him to make the 53-man roster and possibly even factor into the defensive line rotation.
I want to see his unorthodox pass rushing abilities live and against the Saints. He has not made the impact I thought he would make this year, but I am still rooting for him. I still contend the Ravens are going to need some pass-rushing help this year, and this is outside of rookies Za’Darius Smith and Carl Davis. Means may not be the answer, but I will still be watching out for number 56.
Which group will Brown run with tonight? If Brown is running exclusively with the “threes” and if he is only seeing time in the third and fourth quarters, then the report of Zachary Orr and Albert McClellan passing him on the depth chart is true.