Baltimore Ravens vs. Dallas Cowboys: Preseason Week 2 Game Preview
Week 2 of the NFL preseason is here. For all 32 teams, it means training camp is either over or has just a few sessions remaining before players get to return home after a long and grinding camp.
For the Baltimore Ravens, they held their final camp practice on Thursday. Now, it's time to focus on their next preseason opponent in the Dallas Cowboys. Baltimore will travel to Texas to face the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium at 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday.
For most NFL teams, the second week of the preseason means the starters get to play for most of the first half before giving way to backups to finish the contest.
That's because the starters by now usually have a full camp under their belt, so they should be able to operate effectively for at least a half.
In the preseason, the objective of teams is not to get a win or improve their record. Instead, they're more focused on their players improving and sharpening their skills in hopes of being ready to perform at their best when the regular season opens.
Another goal is to do this while also keeping players healthy. For Baltimore, this game will be less about preparing for Dallas and more about improving themselves while staying healthy.
Here's what to look for between the Ravens and the Cowboys in their preseason matchup.
Week 1 Recap
Week 1 of the preseason saw Baltimore score a home win over the San Francisco 49ers. They did so in the same fashion they've done for the duration of John Harbaugh's tenure as the Ravens head coach: with a suffocating defense and a strong rushing offense on the way to a 23-3 win.
Baltimore's defense held San Francisco to a mere 187 total yards, though it has to be noted that the Ravens and 49ers were using backups for the majority of the contest.
On the ground, Baltimore rushed for 237 yards on 48 carries (4.9 yards per carry). It was a complete team win that saw Baltimore's starters and backups do well.
On the Ravens' first offensive drive with Joe Flacco and most of the starting offense on the field, they marched 80 yards on 10 plays and finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run from Bernard Pierce.
The offensive line played great in this game after being one of team's biggest weaknesses in 2013. It did not allow Flacco to be sacked in his five pass attempts and opened up big rushing lanes for Pierce and Ray Rice. Those two finished with a combined 54 yards on 13 carries (4.2 YPC).
That unit looked significantly improved from last year, but it'll need to keep this up to show it's real and not just a one-time thing.
News and Notes
Jeremy Zuttah an Upgrade at Center
As mentioned before, the Ravens offensive line looked improved against the 49ers after performing poorly in 2013. Much of that had to do with Baltimore not getting good production at the center position. Gino Gradkowski simply wasn't the answer, and Baltimore needed an upgrade.
"It was important that we brought somebody in there to battle with Gino, and somebody who has some snaps under their belt, so Jeremy fit," Kubiak said, via BaltimoreRavens.com. "[He has been] a great acquisition to our team, and hopefully we keep them all healthy and keep going. I’ve been very pleased with him.”
Michael Campanaro Impressing
Ravens rookie receiver Michael Campanaro had an impressive showing in training camp. The seventh-round pick out of Wake Forest is making a good case to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster as a rookie.
Michael Campanaro is making a convincing argument that he belongs on the team. He looked like the best receiver on the field, and he continued to make plays when he was a member of the scout team going against the first-team defense. Campanaro doesn't look like a rookie when he is running routes.
Campanaro is facing a tough battle to make the final roster with so many quality receivers on the roster. Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones are locks for the final 53-man roster. That leaves Campanaro to battle a host of other receivers for one of those final receiver spots. He can help his odds by having a good showing against the Cowboys.
Playing Time for Starters
In Week 2 of the preseason, most teams opt to keep their starters in for close to an entire half of play.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told Hensley his starters could get "a quarter or maybe a little more" against Dallas. Harbaugh also noted that there will be a play count for some players.
Because it's the preseason, teams don't have to give out injury reports like they're required to do in the regular season.
Baltimore will be without starting cornerback Lardarius Webb against Dallas as he deals with a back issue that caused him to miss all of training camp. This issue is significant and could cause him to miss the entire preseason.
Backup Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson has missed the last four practices with an ankle injury. That means he probably won't play against Dallas.
Baltimore will be without backup defensive tackle Terrence Cody, who remains on the physically unable to perform list with a hip issue.
Dallas will be without starting cornerback Morris Claiborne due to a shoulder injury. Claiborne is entering a critical third season in the NFL. He missed six games in 2013 due to injury, and his play has been inconsistent through his first two NFL seasons. The sixth overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft needs to get healthy and get back on the field soon.
Cowboys backup safety Matt Johnson is dealing with a back and hamstring issue that could cause him to miss Saturday's game.
Cowboys rookie safety Ahmad Dixon has been impressive to this point in camp and could earn a starting role to start the season. Dixon has managed to catch the eye of Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett early in camp.
This is a preseason game, so it's hard to make an accurate prediction as to what will happen when we don't even know how long the starters will play. That said, it was clear against the 49ers that Baltimore has plenty of depth on their defense. I anticipate they'll once again have a strong performance and make this a low-scoring contest.
On offense, Joe Flacco will play for about a half before giving way to Tyrod Taylor for the majority of the second half. Taylor has proven he's a quality backup, and being that he's in a contract year, he's got more incentive to play well this preseason in hopes of landing a nice contract next offseason.
He should have a big game against a depleted Cowboys defense that will be playing third- and even fourth-stringers while Taylor is in. Flacco and Taylor should get the offense going and get an early lead that the defense holds on to.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Cowboys 16