The Baltimore Ravens take on the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night in Baltimore. It will be the third game of the preseason, and it will be the most important one. Here are a few things to watch for in the game tonight:
- How will the offensive line perform after last week?: The offensive line looked atrocious in the last game against the Atlanta Falcons. There were penalties, bad blocks, and basically bad play. They will have offensive line leader Marshal Yanda back tonight, who has missed all of preseason due to recovering from rotator cuff surgery. The line is looking to be dominant with the duo of Yanda and Osemele, and we'll see how that works out tonight.
- Will Webb be back to normal form?: CB Lardarius Webb is supposed to be playing tonight for the first time since Week Six last season. In Week Six, he tore his ACL, forcing him to be out for the season. Ever since then, he has been working hard to recover from ACL surgery, but he will be showing himself on the field tonight. Although we do not know how long he will play, it will be good to finally have the Ravens' top corner playing again. How well will he perform coming off such a dangerous injury? We will find out tonight.
- How well will the Ravens stop the run?: The running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been a problem for defenses in the past. Tonight, we will all see how well the Ravens can defend a dangerous duo in the NFL. Last week, they gave up 170 rushing yards against the Falcons, will that number be lower tonight? I would think so. The Ravens' new defense will have had another week of experience under their belt, and it should be much easier tonight, but we'll see.
- The Ravens will play their first rushing QB since February: Cam Newton might be the king of the running quarterbacks in the NFL. The Ravens have not played a real rushing quarterback since Colin Kaepernick in Super Bowl XLVII, and he produced 62 yards and a touchdown off of seven attempts. The Ravens will see if they can hold Cam Newton to less than that tonight.
- Will Joe Flacco be able to keep the turnovers to a minimum?: In the first two preseason games, quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown an interception. We will see whether or not Flacco continues his streak of interceptions, or if he can finally break the streak and have a well-played game. It is likely that he will play through three quarters or maybe a little less, but it will be enough to see how well Joe can perform in an almost-full game.
- The Ravens face another dominant receiver: Last week, the Ravens had to face Julio Jones, one of the most dynamic and dominant receivers in all of the NFL. Julio burned CB Jimmy Smith multiple times, to end the game with three receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. This week, the Ravens will face another big-name NFC South receiver: Steve Smith. Smith was the NFC South's best receiver for years, until Julio Jones came into the mix in 2011. It is likely that Webb will be pairing up with Smith, so it will be interesting to see how well the recovering Webb does against one of the league's best wide receivers.
- Jimmy Smith looks to come back to Baltimore: Against the Falcons, it didn't seem like Jimmy Smith knew where he was. Smith looked dazed and confused throughout the game, which is why he was an easy target for Matt Ryan and the rest of the quarterbacking crew. Jimmy Smith will be playing against receivers that aren't as good as the Falcons' receivers, so it may be a way to show that last week was just a fluke, and he really had no idea that they had a game that night.