There will be so much to take in for Ravens fans tonight when they square off against the Atlanta Falcons for their very first preseason contest of the 2012 season. This years version of the Baltimore Ravens is going to be quite different then the teams we have seen in the past.
First of all the Ravens are stacked with speedy, play-making wide receivers that can stretch the field. From the starting trio to the group competing for the last few spots, most all of them have the potential to take the top off of the defense. They also now have a quarterback that can get them the ball once they've beaten the coverage and for the first time in his tenure here I believe Joe Flacco will have the freedom to do so at will.
Also the Ravens will be playing under a brand new defensive coordinator, Dean Pees. Pees has had success in the NFL before coordinating the New England Patriots defense to one of the best in their teams history. It will be interesting to see how he uses all of the defensive play-makers on this Ravens squad as they are far more talented than any defense he ever had in New England. Will he use the blitz happy Chuck Pagano, Rex Ryan style of defense? Or will this year be the return of the Greg Mattison three man rush? I know those are the extremes and I'm sure that Pees will have his own style that is incomparable to any of the coaches we have had in the past but it will be interesting to see just what kind of schemes he will run in this first outing.
Preseason games are never about coaching though, neither team will be bringing their A game or trying to catch each other off guard to get any advantages. Preseason games are about individual player improvement. This will be the time that us fans are able to see with our own eyes what all the hype is about when it comes to the new additions to our team. It will also be our shot to see how the players we have have grown.
So without further ado, here are the top three players to keep an eye on tonight:
1.) Joe Flacco
All reports are that Joe Flacco is ready for a big, big year. He was a work out warrior during the off season and has been near flawless in training camp. All those that have had the pleasure of watching him in person have come away saying that he has never looked so good. Joe has shown poise and full control of the offense. This year may finally be the year that he gets to take full reign of the offense and that may be bad news for the rest of the AFC. Who knows how far Joe can go without Cam Cameron holding him back? Maybe Joe will be able to audible out of some of those end arounds to Jacoby Jones or Torrey Smith.
If you want to see Flacco you had better make sure to see the beginning of the game because I doubt he plays more than the first drive or two.
2.) Kelechi Osemele
Reports are that left tackle Bryant McKinnie will not be playing in this first contest due to a back issue that kept him out of the first week of training camp. With McKinnie on the side lines Michael Oher will move to left tackle (for the time being) and rookie Kelechi Osemele will get the start at right tackle. Coaches and media have been raving about the play of Osemele in training camp thus far and it will be very interesting to see how he does against live NFL competition.
It was originally though that the Ravens drafted Osemele as a replacement for the departed Ben Grubbs at left guard. However, because of his great play at the tackle position, things may change a bit for he and the team. Kelechi played left tackle all four years in college. If Michael Oher is unable to prove he is the future left tackle for the Ravens once McKinnie leaves, is it possible that Osemele may be the answer? That would make the Ravens draft board look very different for years to come.
3.) Bobby Rainey
Third round draft pick Bernard Pierce will not play against Atlanta due to a shoulder injury that has kept him out of practice for the past few weeks. Without pierce the running back position gets pretty thin behind starter Ray Rice. There are three backs that will get the majority of the carries tonight, Anthony Allen, Damien Berry and little known undrafted free agent Bobby Rainey out of Western Kentucky.
I'm pretty sure that the Ravens know what they are getting out of Allen and Berry but the word is that Rainey has been explosive in OTA's and training camp. He has shown off great speed and agility along with superb hands catching the ball out of the back field. All the same attributes that make Ray Rice so good. The coaches are very high on Rainey and I think a big game in the preseason could assure him a roster spot. After all with Pierce out due to injury at the moment Rainey is listed as the number two back...
4.) Jacoby Jones
5.) Corey Graham
6.) LaQuan Williams
7.) Sergio Kindle
8.) Tyrod Taylor
Which Ravens player are you looking forward to watching the most?