This Thursday marks the beginning of a new season for the Baltimore Ravens as the team takes the field at M&T Bank Stadium in a game for the first time since the team's big upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. It is a fresh start for the Ravens and the fans as they try to get the images of the trainwreck 2015 season out of their heads, and throw it in the trash.
Usually, the first preseason game is just about the basics when it comes to the starters, and for backups it's a chance to showcase themselves on the big stage. It won't be easy, as the Ravens take on the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers. There are many questions for this Ravens team and hopefully head coach John Harbaugh can begin to get some answers in preseason game #1. Here are some players to watch for in this Thursday night's preseason opener.
QB Joe Flacco
Yeah, this one is obvious but it's also the most important. We actually don't know for sure if Flacco will even play in this game and if he does it will only be for one or two series. I made a case in my article two months ago about why Flacco should play in the preseason and my stance hasn't changed 2 months later. It is important for Flacco to go out there against opposing defenses who are actually trying to hit him and see how he performs after ACL surgery and with the knee brace.
If Flacco takes a hit, we will hold our breaths, but that's the nature of the beast. He's going to have to take a few hits. Another thing to watch is his chemistry with his receivers. He won't have Steve Smith Sr.. Heck, he might not have him for week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, so his chemistry with the likes of Mike Wallace, Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, Kamar Aiken and, dare I say, Dennis Pitta, must show in this game.
RB Terrance West
I must admit, when I thought about the running back situation, Terrance West never crossed my mind. It was all Justin Forsett, Javorius Allen, Kenneth Dixon and even Lorenzo Taliaferro. With Taliaferro on the PUP list, not to mention the fact that he might be cut, and Dixon going down with an MCL sprain on the first day of camp, sound familiar, West has taken the opportunity and has emerged as a guy who could possibly steal the starting running back job.
How ironic would that be considering it was West who was signed after Forsett's injury and it could be West taking Forsett's job. Even though West contributed last season and has shed 15 pounds, I'm still not fully on the West train. I want to see how he performs against the Panthers and throughout the preseason. I'll be keeping a close eye on the former draft pick from Towson University. I still believe Forsett will start the season as the team's starting running back and I think Allen and Dixon could become the starter as the season rolls along, but Terrance West is a major wild card.
LB Kamalei Correa
The Ravens drafted Correa with its second round pick in this years draft because of his high motor, and so far in training camp he has demonstrated just that. Even though Correa has not been listed as the team's starting ILB opposite C.J. Mosley, Correa has run with the starting defense and, just like Terrance West, has stood out. Being a rookie it is so much different to go from the college level to the pro level.
No matter if your from Boise State or Alabama, whether you are a 6th round pick or a 1st round pick, there is always a serious challenge. This game will provide great experience for Correa. If Correa can get the starting job, his speed and high motor can provide something the Ravens have been missing for a while now on defense.
DB Lardarius Webb
Lardarius Webb's career has been full of ups and downs thanks to inconsistent play and numerous injuries. With the release of safety Will Hill earlier in the offseason, Webb will officially move to safety and line up next to Eric Weddle. The Ravens have been criticized by fans due to its loyalty to Webb and have wondered how Webb is still on the team. Nonetheless, Webb will get another chance at a position he is relatively new at on the NFL level. It will be vital to watch the communication and chemistry Webb has with Weddle.
The reason the Ravens wanted this pair of safety's was to get more athletic and be more faster in the back end of the secondary. This was a team that was dead last in interceptions last year with a whopping six picks. The team knew it needed change. Webb will have a tough first task going up against the 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton. Webb and the entire secondary is on notice as Thursday night approaches.
Who are the players you are looking forward to watching on Thursday night? Comment below and sound off.