Is this a pre-season or post-season game, because right now it feels like the latter. The hype surrounding this contest has fans across the globe excited.
While I won’t tell you to avoid watching Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III, there’s other positions I will be watching for due to the current roster battles.
Center — Right now Alex Lewis holds the title of starting center. He’s received more snaps in training camp and I want to see the exchanges with RGIII, Lamar and Josh Woodrum. While all three quarterbacks are shorter than Joe Flacco, this is a critical position the team needs to lock down. Watch for the snap, his first step forwards or backwards and his blocking efficiency. When Matt Skura steps in later on, look for the same.
Right Tackle — As of now, the Ravens have James Hurst as the starting right tackle, but Orlando Brown Jr. is within reach of taking the title. This position is critical in the run game and Alex Collins will need running lanes this season.
Breshad Perriman — Healthy, focused and ready to deliver as he’s done in camp this year, the 2015 first-round pick is going to be targeted tonight. I’m excited for the wide receiver.
Tim White — You’d think he’s already produced a 1,000-yard season with the hype. I like Tim’s play and I believe he’ll demonstrate what has been worth hyping up this evening, but I also don’t want 150-yard expectations placed on the man.
Mark Thompson — He’s received some first-team reps the past few practices and I believe the Ravens are interested in seeing what he’s capable of. Baltimore’s running attack often includes a big man to push the rock and move the chains.
Hayden Hurst — He started off red-hot in training camp, but has suffered some rookie growing pains down the stretch. He’s a big tight end with strong hands and I’d love to see some catches made. Also, he’s been working on his blocking often in camp and I want to see his production on the field. Multiple big runs can be sprung from a tight end sealing off the edge or taking down a player in the second level.
Tim Williams — The sophomore pass-rusher from Alabama needs to make some plays here. With Tyus Bowser out with an injury, this is his time to prove he can take some real reps and hit the quarterback.
D-line — Can the younger players get some push without Brandon Williams commanding the trenches? This is the best time to watch the front seven as they’re allowed to get after the quarterback and disrupt the interior.
Anthony Averett — He’s been a training camp star and it’s time to replicate it in a game. He’s been fighting to see time in bigger defensive back packages and I suspect he’ll see extensive time.
Chuck Clark/DeShon Elliott — Both are battling for the dime role and time beside either Eric Weddle or Tony Jefferson. Watch for their coverage abilities.
Kenny Young/Patrick Onwuasor — According to Don Martindale, these two are tightly contested for the starting inside linebacker position next to C.J. Mosley. They need to be able to play both the run and the passing game and the Bears offense is a good place to start.
Kaare Vedvik — He’s boomed both punts and kicks in training camp; we’ll see both on display tonight. Within the past two weeks he’s hit a 66- and a 65-yard kick in practice.
Trent Sieg — Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said they picked up Sieg because he and his program think he has NFL talent. Watch for his snaps tonight and look for the spin and accuracy when he’s on the field.
Kickoffs — The NFL placed seven new rule changes this offseason. The kick will be a considerably more unique play.
Returns — Who is getting the reps at kickoff and punt returns? This is an open competition now, watch for who’s doing what and how they perform.