Baltimore Ravens: 4 Role Players Who Must Play Huge in Week 1
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The Ravens won both meetings a year ago, as the purple birds went undefeated in the division, but the Bengals proved to be a tough out.
Though the Ravens only trailed for one quarter, both games were decided by eight points or less.
With the game less than a week away, it’s time to analyze which role players will have to step up for the Ravens to win.
Terrence Cody can still elevate his game
Rob Carr/Getty Images
The nose tackle had an up-and-down preseason, and though he held his own at the line of scrimmage, fans, coaches and teammates would have liked to see him make more plays.
The former Alabama standout played extensively with the second-string defense in Week 4 of the preseason against the Rams. While it was good for Cody to step into a leadership role among the younger players on the Ravens defense, the large number of reps Terrence Cody received in the meaningless game was puzzling.
It was as if head coach John Harbaugh was looking to work the young D-lineman into better shape or motivate him in one way or another.
With a lot of uncertainty regarding the talent level of the Baltimore front seven, impact play from the former second-round pick is needed now more than ever.
The Bengals have been dealing with O-line issues, particularly at center, where Kyle Cook looks to be done for the season (via Josh Kirkendall at cincyjungle.com)
With a hole in the middle of the Bengals offense, Terrence Cody needs to control the line of scrimmage and exploit newly acquired center Jeff Faine (The Miami Herald).
Albert McClellan (50) has shown playmaking ability in his Ravens career
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Albert McClellan surprised a lot of folks by beating out top-pick Courtney Upshaw for the starting outside linebacker job.
The University of Marshall grad’s greatest strength is his lack of weaknesses. He has been solid as a pass-rusher and run-stopper and has been strong in covering the flats, though he is not considered above average in any of these areas.
Even so, he outplayed Upshaw, who received harsh criticism for being slow and unproductive in the preseason.
The former practice-squad player will get his first chance to be a starter in the NFL against a quality opponent. He saw extensive action a year ago during the Ravens’ 4—0 stretch without Ray Lewis, and he played well alongside his fellow young linebackers including Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain.
It will be interesting to see how McClellan fares and how long he can keep Upshaw below him on the depth chart.
Dennis Pitta needs to stay healthy for the Ravens offense to be at its best
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The tight end missed the entire preseason with a hand injury and must get back to his solid rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco.
Dennis Pitta was huge in the Week 17 matchup against Cincinnati after not recording a catch in the first Ravens-Bengals game in 2011. He finished with six receptions, 62 yards, and a touchdown and served as Flacco’s primary target on third down.
The Bengals will not want Torrey Smith to beat them again and will likely key on the speedy youngster come game day (scores.espn.go.com).
Look for Flacco to find Pitta in the early goings before going for the kill shot over the top to Smith.
Bobbie Williams (63) was on the other side of this rivalry a year ago
Larry French/Getty Images
The long-time Bengal will get to face the team he spent seven seasons with in his first regular season game as a Raven.
Losing the guard has added to the O-line problems for the Bengals, and though they drafted Kevin Zeitler out of Wisconsin to address the issue, they would certainly like to have their old mainstay on the offensive line back.
An ankle injury ended his season in Week 14 a year ago, and questions still linger about how the 35-year-old’s recovery is going.
Williams will need to come into the game with a nasty attitude. How he plays will determine whether it is he or 2012 second-round pick Kelechi Osemele starting at Ben Grubbs’ old left guard spot going forward.
Expect Williams to play well and keep his job, even though Osemele will probably get a few snaps around the goal line and will fill in for Williams if his ankle problem resurfaces.