I've started many of my articles with a variation of the phrase, ‘football is finally here’. But today, I can finally say, football is here. The Ravens will take on the Panthers tonight at M&T Bank Stadium in the first of four preseason games for the Ravens. Baltimore Beatdown’s Evan Mazza wrote about what players to watch for in this game earlier this week, here we are going to look at what match-ups to watch for.
Cam Newton against the Ravens secondary
This is, in my opinion, the biggest matchup to watch. While Newton will likely be on the field for only a possession or two at the most, the new Ravens secondary will be tested. Newton won the MVP with Ted Ginn Jr as his top wide receiver, and now, Newton gets Kelvin Benjamin back. Yup, Newton now has a bona-fide number one wide out. Uh oh. We will get to see very early in the season how the Ravens secondary fares against a high powered offense like the Panthers. Jimmy Smith will go up against many superstar wide receivers, and a big bodied guy like Benjamin will be a great early season test. I'm keeping an eye on Tavon Young, Jerraud Powers and Eric Weddle, to see how well they have learned the Ravens playbook, as well as if they can back up their rave reviews in camp on the field.
Joe Flacco against the Panthers pass rush
This is assuming that Flacco actually plays. If he plays, everyone wants to see if he can overcome his final hurdle, that being his mental state. Is he going to play protecting his knee, or well he be the Joe Flacco we all know him to be? In this game, Flacco will be tested their. He will finally get a pass rusher right in his face, a pass rusher who will hit him. How will he be able to deal with that? While he will be in for at most one possession, that small sample size can foreshadow what is to come. Unfortunately for Joe, it's not like he is going up against an easy d-line. The Panthers have stud pass rushers all over the field. How will the offensive line be able to deal with the Panthers pass rush? Can they keep Flacco upright? These are all important questions that will be answered tonight.
Greg Olsen against Kamalei Correa
This match-up unfortunately might not even happen. Correa is not scheduled to start according to the Ravens depth chart announced earlier this week, while Olsen will start. If Correa and Olsen are on the field at the same time, it will be interesting to see how Correa performs. Correa has drawn excellent reviews about his ability to cover receivers and tight ends across the middle, and in this game, he will get to put it to the test against one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Will Correa be able to slow him down and continue to make a push for a starting spot, or will he rely more on the safeties to take on the load of Olsen more?
In summary, these all are intriguing match-ups to watch, hopefully they can all foreshadow good things to come, but there is even more key storyline to watch, injuries. The Ravens need to get through the preseason with no more injuries, and tonight is the first step.