It's been chippy at times. It's been emotional. There have been highs and lows, but on Saturday, the joint practices with the Eagles will culminate in an actual competition against each other, albeit a preseason game.
With that being said, as the teams gear up to kick off against one another on Saturday night, here are five things to keep an eye on, in no particular order.
It is that time of the year where injuries are running rampant. Training camp and the preseason can become exhausting, and often leads to a flurry of injuries during this time of the year. Some of these injuries are severe, while others just require time and rest to heal. The Ravens are not immune to the injury bug that often occurs during this time, and several players have missed time this week and could sit out Saturday night. Jamison Hensley at ESPN wrote that of 17 offensive linemen, five did not practice on Friday. Two of those were starters Rick Wagner and Kelechi Osemele. We all know about Breshad Perriman's infamous knee injury, so we will not see him on Friday. Lardarius Webb also missed practice due to a lingering hamstring injury.
The Ravens will likely give these guys the opportunity to rest and heal, in hopes that they will be at full strength when Week 1 of the regular season rolls around.
2) The Starters
The first preseason game usually involves the known starters playing only a series or two. However, the starters usually see substantially more game-time in the second week of the preseason. Many teams opt to leave their starters in for the whole first quarter, and some even let their starters play the whole first half. Last week, the Ravens starters came out firing, especially on the offensive side. Joe Flacco looked excellent, completing five of six passes for 33 yards, and added a 17 yard run.
Flacco will get some more time on Saturday and it'll be interesting to see how he plays. He's seemingly had a good week in practice this week, and we will see how he plays in live-game action. Another guy to keep an eye on with the starters is Justin Forsett. Forsett only rushed twice against the Saints, accumulating three yards. It'll be interesting to see how he fares against an Eagles run defense that is typically in the top 15 in rushing yard allowed.
3) The Cornerbacks
I noted the secondary as an area of interest in my preview for last week's matchup and I believe the secondary, especially the cornerbacks, will be an area to watch Saturday night. Lardarius Webb has not looked as strong as many of us have hoped for, and Rashaan Melvin has stepped up in a big way, according to several reports. Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli even went as far as to say that Melvin was "the best player on the field on Tuesday."
Melvin will definitely be a guy to watch for on Saturday. If he continues the high level of play that he has shown this week, he could be in contention for the Ravens #2 cornerback spot. He has experience as a starter after being forced into the lineup after the secondary was ravaged by injuries last year, and although he was picked on quite a bit due to his relative inexperience, it seems as if he has stepped up and made major improvements in his game.
The cornerbacks will also be interesting to watch because of the Eagles' passing attack and wide receiver group. Jordan Matthews is a popular selection for "Breakout Player of the Year," while rookie Nelson Agholor has also been impressive. Veterans Riley Cooper and Miles Austin round out the Eagles receiving corp. The matchup between the Ravens corners and the Eagles receivers will be an interesting one to watch.
4) The Wide Receivers
This may be the most talked about position group this offseason, and for good reason. There are 12 players fighting for 6-7 spots. The competition is heated, and each player knows that they can't afford to have a bad game or a bad practice in such a tight race. I have previously said that I believe only 1-2 spots are up for grabs, but I believe there could be more.
Marlon Brown, who I once considered a lock, may not have the security many initially thought he had. Brown has struggled with injuries, and when he has participated, he hasn't looked the best. That can probably be attributed to playing through an injury that isn't completely healed, but Brown has not looked the best, and with other receivers hungry for a spot, we shouldn't assume that Brown's spot on the roster is 100% locked away. I will say this, I believe Marlon Brown will be on the final roster, but it will not be handed to him. He has to start playing better, because there are other guys that have been gaining a lot of attention.
I wrote about this a few days ago, but Darren Waller has looked a lot better than a sixth-round pick. Obviously, it is still the preseason and it's too early to go overboard on this guy, but I am really excited about this guy. He can be a matchup nightmare if he continues to improve, and I believe Waller will land a spot on the 53 man roster.
As a surprise to many, Tom Nelson has received some first-team reps this week, and the Ravens have been intrigued by what they've seen out of the safety-turned-receiver. Nelson has shown good route-running ability for a guy that is transitioning into the position. I'm not sold on the fact he will make the final roster, but if he shows up and makes plays against the Eagles, his name may start popping up more in the conversation.
Michael Campanaro will be another guy to keep an eye on. He was the only receiver to catch a touchdown in Week 1, catching a 45 yard touchdown from Matt Schaub. Campanaro has looked good as a receiver this week and also adds versatility as a return guy. I expect Campanaro to make a couple more big plays this week against Philadelphia.
5) Nick Boyle
Nick Boyle, the fifth-round tight end out of Delaware, has earned mixed reviews this week. While he was known more as a blocking tight end, he has surprised the coaching staff with his ability as a pass-catcher. Boyle has made several tough catches over the middle this week. However, he has also shown a tendency to drop passes and fumble the ball. The Eagles focused on trying to poke the ball loose after the catch, and the victim of that has been Boyle, on more than one occasion.
The Ravens would love to have Boyle step up as a third tight end that can earn playing time. With a young trio of Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Boyle, the Ravens believe they will be able to have success at the position. With Dennis Pitta being sidelined on the PUP list and unable to return until Week 7, this trio will have to step up in his absence. Big things are expected from Gillmore and Williams. If Boyle can step up and show an ability to make tough catches and hang on to the football, while also providing a strong blocking presence, the Ravens should be fine at the tight end position.