5 Players to Watch in Baltimore Ravens' 1st Preseason Game

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IAugust 10, 2015

5 Players to Watch in Baltimore Ravens' 1st Preseason Game

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    With the Baltimore Ravens' first NFL preseason game of the year less than a week away, it is time to think a little about which players to keep an eye on right out of the gate. The Ravens are going to host the New Orleans Saints on August 13, with both teams coming off very different seasons.

    The Ravens finished 2014 with a 10-6 record but lost a heartbreaker in the divisional round of the playoffs to the New England Patriots 35-31. Baltimore is eyeing some redemption for what it considers unfinished business. On the other side, the Saints had a disappointing 7-9 record in 2014. They are hoping that 2015 marks a new beginning and that they can wash the taste of 2014 out of their mouths, starting in Baltimore.

    So it goes every season—the first preseason game of the year is typically quite lackluster in terms of star power. Most of the projected opening-weekend starters play only a single drive or two and at times are held out altogether. The Ravens haven’t officially announced which players will play against the Saints on Thursday, so some of the names on this list might not be on the field. However, the following players have a lot to prove and in some cases are fighting for roster spots. 

    Unless specified, all player data courtesy of NFL.com.

    Depth-chart information is based on the depth chart released by the team on BaltimoreRavens.com.

Javorius Allen/Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB

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    For this list, we've lumped both running backs, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Javorius Allen, into the same spot because these guys are in a heated battle to be the primary backup for star running back Justin Forsett. It’s doubtful that Forsett will get many reps in this opening weekend, so expect to see Allen and Taliaferro split the bulk of the carries.

    Taliaferro is a second-year back out of Coastal Carolina who saw limited action in 2014. However, his highlight game was against the Cleveland Browns, when he finished with 19 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.

    Allen is a rookie out of USC who played sparingly in college until 2014, when he got 276 carries and racked up 1,489 yards. He and Taliaferro are similarly built backs, both around 6’0” and 220 pounds with powerful rushing styles that would work perfectly as a change of pace for Forsett’s nimble rushing style.

Kamar Aiken, WR

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    As of right now, the team lists wide receiver Kamar Aiken as the starter opposite Steve Smith. This is in large part due to the fact that rookie Breshad Perriman (knee) and veteran Marlon Brown (back) are both nursing injuries. It would come as no surprise if both are held out of Thursday’s game against the Saints.

    Aiken is in his fourth season in the NFL, spending the first three bouncing between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots before landing with the Ravens in 2014. Although targets were hard to come by, Aiken did manage to haul in 24 receptions last year, with three of them going for touchdowns.

    With every snap Aiken can get, he can make headway toward either a starting spot in the regular season or the third spot, where his size (6'2", 215 lbs) and athleticism could do some damage in the slot. He won’t be catching a ton of passes from quarterback Joe Flacco on Thursday, but he still needs to make the most of his targets.

Arthur Brown, LB

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    This is a make-or-break season for linebacker Arthur Brown. His college film was spectacular. During his time at Kansas State, he flashed amazing athletic ability and was able to make plays all over the field. When NFL.com did its draft preview of Brown, it compared him favorably to San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

    The Ravens chose Brown in the second round of the 2013 draft.

    Unfortunately, fast-forward to now, and Brown has been unable to make any headway into the Ravens lineup. In fact, the following season, the Ravens drafted linebacker C.J. Mosley in the first round to play the same position Brown does—hardly a ringing endorsement of what they saw in his first season.

    Nevertheless, Brown, along with Albert McClellen, is a primary backup to Mosley and Courtney Upshaw, which means he should see around two quarters of action against the Saints. Is this the year when Brown turns the corner? With linebacker Daryl Smith at 33 years old, there is going to be a void in the starting lineup soon, likely next year.

    However, for now, Brown just needs to do all he can to make the 53-man roster.

Kapron Lewis-Moore, DT

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    Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitability in the NFL. Teams and players must face the harsh reality that there are only a handful of players in the history of the league who could be considered “Ironmen” of the sport. On the other end of the spectrum, we have defensive tackle Kapron Lewis-Moore.

    His senior season at Notre Dame was tremendous. In 13 starts, he compiled 40 tackles and six sacks as a 5-technique defensive end. His draft stock was on the rise. But a torn ACL in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game pushed him to the sixth round of the draft and cost him not only millions of dollars but also his rookie season.

    And then, after rehabbing his knee back to full health in preparation for the 2014 season, Lewis-Moore suffered another devastating injury. This time, it was his Achilles, and he lost a second full season.

    So now it's 2015, and once again, he is healthy. Let’s hope that we finally see the Lewis-Moore from 2013, because he would make an exceptional rotational player along that massive and physical defensive line.

Rashaan Melvin, CB

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    If you aren’t sure who cornerback Rashaan Melvin is, don’t feel bad. He came into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois, originally signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He then signed with the Ravens during the 2014 season and quickly impressed with his combination of size (6'2", 193 lbs) and physical play.

    In fact, with injuries clearing the way, he started the final three games of the regular season and both playoff games. The film shows a player with sound tackling and a solid football IQ.

    Melvin enters the 2015 season in a battle with Kyle Arrington for the third cornerback spot on the roster. Arrington has the edge in experience, but Melvin is a better all-around athlete and emerging football player. You know the Saints are going to throw the football, so Melvin should get some chances to make plays Thursday.

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