10 Things to Watch for in Baltimore Ravens Preseason Finale
Week 4 of the NFL preseason is here and it seems that interest is way down. All attention has been pushed to Week 1 of the regular season, which is now less than a week away. That's right, one week until real football.
Preseason Week 4 is perhaps the hardest game to get excited for with the real games so close. Many teams will be giving a lot of time to backups who are on the roster bubble.
The Baltimore Ravens will be one of those teams with several starters slated to not even suit up. Their backups will get substantial playing time as they make their last case for being on the final 53-man roster.
Here's what we can expect to see from these backups in a preseason finale that is far from meaningless for them.
1. How Justin Tucker Performs Now That He Knows He's Got the Kicking Job
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It was going to be hard if not impossible for Cundiff to win back their trust after the way the 2011 season ended. It has to be best for both parties that Cundiff is now getting a chance to start over with the Washington Redskins.
However, the pressure is now on for undrafted rookie Justin Tucker.
It can be difficult for rookie kickers to adapt to the pressure of the professional game. Therefore, it's going to be interesting to see Tucker in action now that he's the starting kicker.
2. The Battle for Terrell Suggs' Starting Spot
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The Terrell Suggs injury was arguably the most costly blow suffered by the Ravens this entire offseason. If this year is a disaster, it'll likely be because they were unable to replace Suggs' production.
The belief now is that Paul Kruger will start at Suggs' position, while Albert McClellan starts as the other outside linebacker.
Kruger had 5.5 sacks in 2011, so he could be the Ravens sack leader in what'll possibly be a Suggs-less season.
Though Kruger may not play much Thursday night, he, McClellan and Courtney Upshaw could factor in to who becomes the Ravens' outside linebackers.
3. Which Running Backs Play Their Way to a Roster Spot
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Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are the only running backs who are safely on the Ravens roster. This leaves three backs who are fighting for that third spot and the sparse number of carries that comes with it.
Anthony Allen, Damien Berry and Bobby Rainey have had their good and bad moments this preseason.
Rainey in particular has shined this preseason, and with his speed and pass-catching ability, he's got what it takes to be a poor man's Ray Rice. He should be safe, though he might have to settle for the practice squad this season.
Allen and Berry are another story.
Allen has been one of the Ravens' biggest disappointments so far, and he might need to have the night of his life just to make the team.
Berry has come on strong with 10 carries for 53 yards and six receptions for 59 yards, so he could give Rainey some competition for the third running back spot.
4. Sergio Kindle's Last Stand
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The injury-plagued Sergio Kindle has clearly disappointed to this point in his career. With zero tackles or starts in his career, it's starting to look like the head injury he suffered in 2010 could be the catalyst that ends his NFL career before it really began.
This preseason, Kindle has been outplayed by Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw.
It was initially thought that Terrell Suggs' injury could be the thing that potentially gave Kindle a chance to start again. John Harbaugh, however, said that Kindle isn't even a lock to make the final 53-man roster.
It could come down to Kindle or Chavis Williams as to who makes the Ravens roster. Either way, though, Kindle has clearly fallen far and he doesn't look ready to shed his bust label anytime soon. The pressure is on for him to have a great game or else his days in Baltimore may be over.
5. Omar Brown's Nose for the Ball
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Omar Brown has been nothing short of a revelation this preseason with five turnovers recovered in three preseason games. This includes three fumble recoveries, an interception and even an onside kick recovery.
Though he was initially under the radar as an undrafted player, Brown is clearly getting attention from Ravens coaches. Now he's got a great shot at making the Ravens roster, and it's even possible that he'll treat fans to one or more spectacular forced turnover on Thursday night.
He should make the Ravens roster and could even become a primary backup to Ed Reed.
6. DeAngelo Tyson's Fight for a Roster Spot
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Seventh-round draft picks aren't necessarily guarantees to make rosters, as these players are typically raw and developmental. Therefore, DeAngelo Tyson's future was not solidified on draft night.
Tyson's stats haven't been awful (four tackles and a sack through three preseason games). Still, Tyson could use a statement game where he shows that he's got the potential to be developed into a key player on the Ravens defensive front.
7. Preseason Injuries
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Injuries are the worst part of preseason games, but the Ravens have been relatively fortunate so far.
Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta have both missed extensive time due to injury. They will be back for the regular season—something that might not be the case for Emanuel Cook and Sean Considine.
Beating the Rams takes a backseat to the players, especially starters, staying healthy on Thursday night.
8. Battle for Backup Quarterback
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Joe Flacco has been very durable the last four years, but continued health is not a guarantee.
Tyrod Taylor was the backup in 2011, but Curtis Painter has played will this offseason.
The Ravens could potentially have three quarterbacks on their roster, but it is more likely either Painter or Taylor will have to try to latch on with another team.
9. How the Wide Receivers Perform
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There are a lot of young and talented wide receivers on the Ravens roster.
LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson seem to be the three players that are most likely to make the Ravens team. They've impressed through training camp and the preseason, so their roster spots seem safe.
Players like Tommy Streeter or Logan Payne could show something in the final preseason game.
As a sixth-round draft pick, Streeter should be determined not to get cut. The opportunities for him to make plays will probably be there, he just needs to make it happen.
10. Depth at Offensive Line
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The Ravens starters alongside the offensive line are not quite set yet; however, the backups will likely see more playing time on Thursday.
This game is more about which offensive linemen make it on the team as backups.
Rookies and second-year players like Gino Gradkowski and Jah Reid are safe. Justin Boren, Jack Cornell and Tony Wragge have no such guarantees, so they will have to play well to earn a roster spot.