That being said, it is a long season and there will be many twists and turns along the way. The Ravens face a stiff test in the Peyton-Manning-led Denver Broncos, but the Broncos have their own issues. Virtually ever team in the NFL has some flaws.
Let’s see what areas the Ravens would like to further establish and develop with tonight’s game. Here are tonight’s plotlines:
This question is layered with a variety of things that need to fall in place, preferably starting this evening.
For starters, everyone is hoping the wide receiver position becomes clearer. I think we will see more of Brandon Stokley, working out of the slot. I expect Dallas Clark and Flacco to try to gain more rhythm. The veterans and Flacco need game-speed action with one another to further their rapport with one another.
In addition, I think we will see some of the younger receivers get some time with Flacco; in particular, Aaron Mellette. The scouting report on Mellette says he has good, soft hands and is able to go over the middle and catch passes. Thus far, we have predominately seen him on the outside. I would like to see Mellette try to navigate through traffic, find soft spots in the zone, and work the middle of the field with Flacco. If Mellette working with Flacco is a reality, what does it mean for Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, and possibly Marlon Brown? Will we see all of these players work into the rotation? Throughout the preseason, we have heard about utilizing different players depending on the situation. Maybe some of this unfolds tonight.
Another factor of the offense’s struggle last week was the offensive line’s inability to establish a running game. A.Q. Shipley is a backup player—he allowed too much penetration on run plays. Look for Gino Gradkowski to officially snare the starting position tonight. Overall, the Ravens have to be looking for more consistency from the starters (Marshal Yanda sighting?) on the line in both the run and pass games.
Flacco’s ability to establish a connection with the veteran receivers, the younger receivers being sprinkled into the game plan, and better play from the offensive line need to come to fruition tonight. The offense will go as far as these aspects develop tonight, and as the season progresses.
Re-assertion of defensive front seven
I tend to believe the players and coaches when they said that last week’s defensive breakdown was more technique related than anything else. I also think the starters were a bit jacked up in front of the home crowd, many of them for the first time, and they were over pursuing because of it. This front seven is too deep to struggle for a long stretch. It gets rectified tonight.
Webb and Yanda sightings?
I am in the camp that believes these two players should see game action before the regular season begins. I would like for Lardarius Webb to face competition at game speed before he lines up against Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker. This would be a final test for his surgically repaired knee to reassure him that all is well. As the elder statesman in the secondary, Webb also provides stronger communication to the back end of the defense.
Yanda playing tonight may be more complicated. I am not sure if he needs more time to round into shape from his shoulder injury. If he were to play, he would provide communication and stability to the offensive line, which it needs. His time working with Gradkowski will be important as the season unfolds.
Roster bubble player watch
This is the fun, yet complicated, part. The final roster spots are really tied to how many players the Ravens will take in a couple of positions. The positions with the most uncertainty are running back, wide receiver, and the secondary. It is a mix-and-match scenario.
With Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, and Vonta Leach locks to be on the team, is there room for Kyle Juszczyk and Anthony Allen (newly acquired Delone Carter is a cut in my eyes). Can Juszczyk provide enough worth on special teams for Allen to be expendable?
How many cornerbacks and safeties make it? Depends on how many receivers and backs are taken. If the Ravens keep six, or even seven receivers, that puts Omar Brown, Moe Lee, and Marc Anthony in jeopardy.
Will the familiarity of Ramon Harewood and Terrence Cody allow them to make the team? Or does a younger upstart overtake them?
It all comes down to value and versatility. Which players provide the most value will determine who makes the team. Let the roster battles continue.