Previewing the Baltimore Ravens' Week 2 Preseason Game vs. Lions
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The Ravens' first preseason outing was a mixed bag. Yes, they defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 31-17 and scored 24 unanswered points in the second half, but the first-team offense and defense struggled in their brief appearances in the first quarter.
Against the Lions, the Ravens' starters should see extra time on the field. What can we expect from them this week? Here are three things to watch for.
What is Going On with the Offensive Line?
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Last week, with Gino Gradkowski as the starting center and Bobbie Williams making his first appearance as left guard with his new team, the Ravens seemed to struggle dealing with the speed and pressure of the Atlanta Falcons' defensive front.
This week will be another difficult test for the line, with the Lions and their intimidating front seven coming to town.
Though Matt Birk is set to return to his regular job as the starting center, which should help the young and new players on the line get more comfortable in their blocking assignments, Williams will still be out there with the starters, as will rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle.
The Falcons sacked quarterback Joe Flacco twice last week and the Lions defense will be coming at him with even more aggression. Keeping him protected is obviously the most important job for the offensive line; this will be another major test for a crew that is likely to remain the starters when the regular season begins.
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Last week, the Ravens' defensive front seven was uncharacteristically soft, namely because they were without linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, as well as rookie Courtney Upshaw. Though Suggs is still at least three months away from taking the field this year, it looks as though both Upshaw and Lewis will join the starters on Friday.
Some of the biggest question marks surrounding the Ravens this year is how successfully they'll be able to stop the run without Jarret Johnson and pressure the quarterback without Terrell Suggs.
Those questions certainly didn't get answered last week against the Falcons—the Ravens defense had just two total sacks and 55 tackles to the Falcons' 77. This week, with a full half of playing time against the Lions and their quarterback Matthew Stafford, they'll have ample opportunity to get back into typical Ravens form.
Defense has been the Ravens' calling card for well over a decade. That's a lot of pressure on a unit that has seen some significant changes this offseason. Let's see if they can move on from last week's poor showing and get things back on track.
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The Ravens' best wideout, Torrey Smith, has been sidelined with a sprained ankle he suffered last week against the Falcons. That means there will be ample time for the other receivers on the roster—most of whom aren't guaranteed a roster spot at the moment—to put their talents on display.
Last week, with the never-ending pressure of the Falcons' defense bearing down on them and an overwhelmed and young offensive line, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco couldn't get much of a passing game going.
Though he ended his night completing nine of his 12 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, the Ravens' offense as a whole had just nine total yards in the first quarter.
The Ravens are certainly looking to experiment with their passing game in the preseason—a total of 17 players were targeted by Baltimore quarterbacks last week.
Now is the time for players to start separating themselves. Will undrafted rookie Deonte Thompson have the most receiving yards for the second week in a row? Will Jacoby Jones solidify his status as the team's No. 3 receiver? Is there any guarantee the Ravens will keep both Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams on the active roster?
None of these questions will be answered completely on Friday night, but they'll be far closer to finding answers once the game is over.
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