The Ravens take on the Bills tonight in the third preseason game of the year for the team. It is the game that will provide the longest look at the starters before Week 1. Here are the top three storylines I will be watching for as the Ravens take the field tonight in Baltimore.
Will Ryan Mallett look like a capable quarterback? Part III
In each of the first two preseason games for the Ravens, Ryan Mallett has been absolutely horrible. In fact, in the Ravens preseason game against the Dolphins, Mallett was outplayed by third string quarterback Josh Woodrum, prompting questions of moving Woodrum above Mallett on the depth chart.
Against the Bills secondary, which has lost its top two corners from 2016 (Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby), Mallett must show that he still belongs as the top backup to Joe Flacco. Flacco will not see the field, meaning that Mallett will once again get the start. In the third preseason game, the starters see the most action out of all four games. This means that Mallett will be given multiple drives to show that he is still someone that the Ravens can count on. If he cannot do so, and with Flacco’s health still a large question mark looming over the Ravens, there may be reason to reach for the panic button.
Can the defense keep its dominant form?
The Ravens defense has been stellar, leading the NFL in total defense among a large group of other categories through the first two weeks of the preseason.
The front-seven has been impenetrable, and the secondary has not left quarterbacks many windows to throw into. With LeSean McCoy in the backfield, the Ravens run defense that has allowed just 42.5 yards per game so far will get its biggest test of the preseason. Again, as the starters will see a lot of action in this game, we will get the best preview of what this defense is capable of doing. With another big performance, NFL pundits across the nation will be forced to recognize this Ravens defense.
How will the Ravens utilize their offensive line, and how will it perform?
With Jeremy Zuttah back in Baltimore, a lot changes for the Ravens. More than likely we will see Zuttah at center and Ryan Jensen shifted over to guard. Matt Skura will continue to compete for both the center and guard roles, but he has a steep uphill climb in front of him with Zuttah back. Austin Howard, James Hurst and Jermaine Eluemunor will continue to battle for the starting right tackle job.
In other words, the starting lineup for the Ravens offensive line is largely in flux, and there will be a lot to watch for in this game from that group. It will be interesting not only to see where the Ravens play some of their more versatile lineman, but also to see how well they play. The offensive line is probably the second biggest question on this team right now behind Flacco’s health, and a good performance from the big men up front will help quiet some concerns. In addition, a penalty-free game from Zuttah would be more than welcome.
What will you be watching for tonight as the Ravens face the Bills?