With the Baltimore Ravens opening their preseasn schedule this Thursday evening on national TV, I traded questions with the SB Nation's Carolina Panthers blogger, Jaxon, from Cat Scratch Reader. Here are his answers to my questions and click here to go to their site to see my answers posted to his questions.
1. With QB Jake Delhomme now in Cleveland, what hopes are there for a passing game to complement the solid running attack you already have?
Jaxon: In spite of all the hoopla over QB Jimmy Clausen the Panther offense in 2010 rests in Matt Moore’s hands. Moore is 26 and starting his 4th season and has 8 starts under belt (5-3). His 8-to-1 TD to INT ratio to close out 2009 gives us hope. The Haters at this point usually say those last wins came against teams with nothing to play for. I don't buy that; players know the eye-in-sky never sleeps and always play to win. That same eye will be on Matt Moore as we look for him to sustain some drives and take care of the ball.
2. Can WR Steve Smith come back from injury and return to the All-Pro form without a proven QB to throw to him?
Jaxon: I’m not even hesitating here, Smith will be fine. He’s already playing catch on the sideline and doesn’t seem to be favoring the arm at all. He will sit for most of the preseason though as a precaution but he will be ready when the opener rolls around.
3. What can we expect to see from the defense and what is their weakness(es)?
Jaxon: The biggest concern on the entire team is the defensive line. We’ve got to find two starters at DT from FA acquisitions Tank Tyler, Louis Leonard, Derek Landri and Ed Johnson and 2nd year draft pick Corvey Irwin. The Ravens running game will be a great early assessment of what we have to work with. The early leaders are Leonard and Tyler but the jury is still out.
4. What rookie or UFA should the Ravens and their fans keep an eye on?
On offense keep an eye on FB Rashawn Jackson. He is supposedly to be a threat in the passing game so I’m curious to see if the Panthers actually throw to the FB. With the release of long-time Panther FB Brad Hoover in the offseason Jackson and 2nd year player Tony Fiammetta are vying for the spot. On defense we want to see how Dan Conner holds down the middle with Jon Beason moved to the weakside to fill in for Thomas Davis. If this goes well we can expect this change to remain permanent for the season.
5. Who is the one guy we don't know of on your roster but should?
In this game two new guys that should play big roles are rookie WR Brandon LaFell (3rd round) and DE Greg Hardy (6th). Both have looked real good in camp with LaFell looking to start opposite Steve Smith. Hardy has looked so good we’re wondering how he ever fell to the 6th round as he looking very similar to a former DE we had (but not to be named). Hopefully these two guys keep up their good work. I'll also give an honorable mention to WR Armanti Edwards, the QB turned WR whom we hope becomes an effective slot receiver and returner.