Baltimore heads to Philadelphia for their first pre-season game, Thursday, August 11th. The Eagles, already a playoff contender, added some highly sought after free agents in cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The team also acquired defensive end Jason Babin (12.5 sacks in 2010), and tackle Cullen Jenkins and notable veteran running back Ronnie Brown. The Eagles selected first round pick Danny Watkins (OL) in the draft. Michael Vick is coming off one of his best years in the NFL, can he repeat the same success in 2011?
The Ravens are counting on some new and young talent to fill the void left by established veterans. There are also some key positions that need to be decided as well. With the ‘Lockout’ pushing training camp to only a few weeks, preseason games will be of great importance in determining the starters for 2011.
What to watch:
QB Joe Flacco and his new rookie receivers in Tandon Doss and second round speedster wideout Torrey Smith. Can the rookies step up and improve the passing game?
Tight End: Baltimore favorite Todd Heap was not resigned, that leaves Ed Dickson (injured) and Dennis Pitta to compete. Keep an eye on Davon Drew (drafted in 2009) he’s vying for playing time. The team also brought in Kris Wilson and Jonathan Stupar.
QB Tryod Taylor. The Ravens drafted Taylor in the 6th round and is considered to be (for the time being) the back-up to Flacco. Taylor is expected to play much of the game. QB Hunter Cantwell will be competing as well.
Center: Starter Matt Birk is recovering from a knee procedure (expected to start regular season). That leaves Brian Mattison, and rookie free agents Tim Barnes, Missouri and Ryan Bartholomew, Syracuse to fill in and compete for a back up role.
Right tackle: With Marshal Yanda moving back to guard, the Ravens feel they can be more physical running the ball. Yet, right tackle is up in the air. Rookie third round pick Jah Reid is competing with fourth year back-up Oneil Cousins.
New Running Game: The Ravens added fullback Vonta Leach, considered one of the top blocking fullbacks in the game. Keep an eye on Ray Rice and see if the Ravens O-line running behind Leach and Marshal Yanda will improve.
New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has the defense fired up. Just how aggressive will this defense be?
Sergio Kindle: Slotted to play this Thursday night, outside linebacker Kindle overcame a serious head injury and missed all of 2010. Now he looks to add his speed and pass rush ability to the defense. Kindle has been practicing with no restrictions.
Arthur Jones & Terrence Cody: Second year player Arthur Jones, DT/DE has been practicing with the first team defense. Terrence Cody is expected to be the starting nose tackle after long time Ravens Kelly Gregg was released.
Strong Safety: Who will be starting next to Ed Reed has yet to be determined. Competition will between Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura and hard hitting free agent Bernard Pollard.
Key Injuries: Out
First Round pick cornerback Jimmy Smith has been ruled out of Thursday’s contest (groin injury). Smith practiced Tuesday, but the team does not want risk aggravating the injury with another setback.
Tight End, Ed Dickson: Hamstring (possible out for 2 to 3 games)