Entering the the third week of the preseason, the Baltimore Ravens sit atop the AFC North at 2-0. However, they have yet to compete against the cream of the crop, as neither the Redskins nor the Jets made the playoffs last season.
Even if Baltimore does emerge undefeated from the preseason, that is no indication that they will have a good regular season (lest we forget, the Lions went 4-0 in the preseason last year).
With that guarded optimism in mind, here are a few position-specific items of interest that fans should monitor as the preseason progresses:
1) The Battle for Carries
Although Head Coach John Harbaugh has made it clear that second-year man Ray Rice is currently No. 1 on the depth chart at running back, his numbers would suggest Harbaugh is hedging his bets.
Though Rice has played a more prominent role in preseason games, his numbers (13 carries, 51 yards, 1 touchdown) are almost identical to those of backup Willis McGahee (12-49-0).
We'll see if either back's carries change in the course of the next two weeks, but it's more than likely that Harbaugh will maintain an equal workload for both and will turn to the back in whom he has more confidence when the game is on the line.
2) Oher's Transition
First-round draft pick Michael Oher has impressed fans thus far with his play at right tackle, but his real test will come in the next two games. Oher will take on Pro Bowl talent Julius Peppers on Saturday night when the Ravens play Carolina, and he'll face a similarly athletic Jamaal Anderson in the finale against Atlanta.
For a rookie, Oher's performance has been up to par, but will it continue against more experienced players? Time will tell.
3) Special Treatment
The preseason has been a bit of a headache for special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, but the smoke is starting to clear. Steve Hauschka appears to have held off newcomer Graham Gano to retain the kicking duties, but the competition for return duties is less black and white.
Free agent signing Chris Carr has performed as well as advertised, returning three punts for 29 yards and two kickoffs for 36 yards. Beyond Carr, the waters are a bit muddied.
Draft choice Lardarius Webb muffed a punt against the Jets, but at least he's been getting opportunities to perform. Webb has four returns in total (two kicks, two punts), but veteran Yamon Figurs and undrafted rookie Jayson Foster have only returned one kick each, which is hardly enough to determine whether they are game-ready or not.
Don't be surprised if Carr sits out much of the next two games as the younger guys are given opportunities to prove themselves.