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Preseason Game #2: Baltimore Ravens position battles to watch

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Photo - BaltimoreRavens.com

John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens are transitioning into regular season mode this weekend. Beginning next week, the team will be holding closed practices and getting down business as it prepares for the regular season opener on September 11th. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and wide receiver Steve Smith, the emotional leaders for each side of the ball, have returned to practice, giving the Ravens some needed juice after a grueling training camp.

On Saturday evening, the Ravens will continue its 2016 journey with a game against the Indianapolis Colts. Here are five position battles to watch for during the game:

Running Back

Projected starter Justin Forsett should see some brief action in this game after sitting out the first preseason match. Terrance West hopes to continue his impressive play, combining surprising change of direction with tackle-breaking strength. If West is able to carry his recent performances forward, he could be in line for the majority of carries in the running back committee once he regular season rolls around.

Rookie Kenneth Dixon is looking to gain more experience in this game and improve his pass blocking, as he vies for a larger role in the offense. Buck Allen found the end zone in the first preseason contest but needs to break more tackles after receiving the handoff or face being buried on the depth chart.

Left Guard

Following the departure of mauler Kelechi Osemele, John Urschel appears to have a firm grip on the starting left guard spot between rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Jeremy Zuttah. But rookie Alex Lewis has displayed the necessary physicality and toughness for a smash mouth running game at this early stage in his career. Look for Lewis and veteran Vladimir Ducasse to push Urschel. Left guard is one of the only positions on offense without a projected starter who has a full season of starting experience. The success of the rush offense is a big key for the season.

Punt Returner

The Ravens released Kaelin Clay this week, trimming its returner options. Rookie Keenan Reynolds is a work in progress, he is attempting to change positions at the professional level. Reynolds must show more confidence fielding punts in order to make the team. Michael Campanaro returned to practice this week and wants to prove he can stay on the field. If Campanaro can become more durable, he looks like the best option at returner since he combines good hands with shiftiness in the open field.

Inside Linebacker

Career backup and special teams maven Zachary Orr is the projected starter. Orr has taken the vast majority of first-team reps and received praise in training camp. Rookie Kamalei Correa is seeking to make an impact with the pads on while Arthur Brown is hoping to salvage his career by showing more assignment discipline and consistency. The Ravens are also experimenting with converted safety Anthony Levine as a dime linebacker and his performance on passing downs should be monitored.

Slot Cornerback

Neither of the veteran slot corners, Jerraud Powers or Kyle Arrington, had strong games against Carolina. Both of them struggled to stay with their man in pass coverage.  Promising rookie Tavon Young dodged a bullet this week, returning to practice after a knee injury. Speedy receiver Phillip Dorsett should test the slot corners. If Young impresses, he could make the veterans expendable.

Team leader Terrell Suggs recently told reporters the Ravens roster is putting last season behind them and rediscovering their swagger. As the team grows healthier, the pieces are falling into place with the regular season approaching. The production the Ravens receive from these five contested positions will play a large role in determining the direction of the upcoming season.