Yesterday, the new NFL season kicked off with the Hall of Fame Game. With football (albeit, preseason) back on the menu, it's an appropriate time to look ahead to the next few weeks of Baltimore football, before the real thing begins.
Week 1: vs. Saints
Date: Thursday, Aug. 13
Time: 7:30 PM EDT
Place: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
What to Watch For?: Week 1 is essentially an extension of practice. Teams will run their base formations, and keep it very basic for the players. Limited game planning is implemented, and the starters hardly see the field. Week 1 is a great time for the second and third string players to show their true colors, and earn more reps later on in the year.
Week 2: @ Eagles (Nationally Televised via NFL Network)
Date: Saturday, August 22
Time: 7:00 PM EDT
Place: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
What to Watch For?: The tempo is upped in Week 2. More complicated schemes and plays are called. While the starters play more, the focus is still on the backups. With cuts looming at the end of the week, players have to be on their 'A-game' this week. These two teams will have also practiced against each other the previous week, as the Ravens are meeting up with the Eagles to have joint practices.
Week 3: vs. Redskins
Date: Saturday, August 29
Time: 7:30 PM EDT
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
What to Watch For?: Week 3 is best defined as a "dress rehearsal" for the team. Prior to the game, teams will simulate their normal regular season procedure, as they will scout out the opposing team, gameplan, and prepare for their opponent. The starters will play through the third quarter, while backups will get a taste of what its like to ride the bench. The depth chart really starts to solidify itself here. This game is also of a little significance, as it is the 'so-called 'Battle of the Beltway'.
Week 4: @ Falcons
When: Thursday, September 3
Time: 7:00 PM EDT
What to Watch For?: The 'scrubs' playing their hearts out. With the starters and key backups sitting out, this game is a battle fought by the third-stringers. What they don't have in talent, they make up for in heart. These guys will give it their all, trying to impress their team or other teams for a potential roster spot.
Players to Watch:
- The Wide Receivers: The battle at this position has been one of the most talked about of any this offseason. And there's only one way to settle it, on the field.
- The Rookies: I'm sure most fans want to see Baltimore's shiny new toys Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams in action. How these top rookies perform on the field will almost certainly be scrutinized.
- Backup RB Battle: Another tightly-contested battle between rookie Javorius 'Buck' Allen and second-year back Lorenzo Taliaferro. Both are big guys who offer the perfect change-of-pace style to one-cut back Justin Forsett.
- Kapron Lewis-Moore: The 2013 rookie who suffered back-to-back knee injuries in camp has never seen a NFL snap before. There's no doubt that the talent is there, but we just haven't seen it on the field. With Brent Urban down for an indefinite period of time, the team needs 'KLM' more than ever.
- Arthur Brown: The team's 2013 second-round pick has been labeled a 'bust' by many. Yet truthfully, Brown has hardly ever seen the field due to great talent in C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith in front of him. Brown is the direct backup to both as a second-stringer, and should see plenty of reps this preseason to show what he's really made of.
The Ravens preseason opponents are very diverse, giving the team a good taste and sense of what they'll face this year. The high-flying offense of the Eagles could be a good matchup for the Ravens defense, while the creative and diverse offensive attack of the New Orleans Saints could also give the Ravens some headaches.
While it may be the preseason, it's still football. Which matchups and players are you most looking forward to seeing?