The Baltimore Ravens play the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium. Since this is the first preseason game the starters are only excepted to play one quarter and some will not play at all. Here are some things to watch for during the game.
Wide receiver battle- With the addition of Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth there is major competition for the 4th and 5th wide receiver spot. A position of weakness last year has now become a position of strength. Demetrius Williams, David Reed, Marcus Smith, Justin Harper, Rodelin Anthony, and Eron Riley are all on the bubble.
Right Tackle- Offensive tackle Jared Gaither has been toying with the Ravens all year, and/or injured. Oniel Cousins will most likely get the start at right tackle, it will be interesting to see how he does. Ramon Harewood has been a surprise at camp, he is a rookie that was drafted in the 6th round out of Morehouse, he saw some action with the first team.
Tight end position battle- Another weak position last year that is very much improved. Todd Heap is the starting tight end but Ed Dickson, rookie 3rd round pick out of Oregon, has opened up a lot of eyes with his pass catching ability. Dennis Pitta has also been impressive in camp and Davon Drew has been solid as well.
Corner backs – Fabian Washington and Chris Carr may not play in Thursday’s game. It will be up to a bunch of lesser known players to fill in. It is a good thing that preseason does not count towards anything because it could get ugly. Prince Miller is excepted to get a lot of playing time, lets see what he can do with it.
Linebacker position battle- Jameel McClain is expected to get the start next to Ray Lewis and he is emphatic to play. Tavares Gooden, Prescott Burgess, Antwan Barnes, Edgar Jones, Albert McClellan, Paul Kruger and Jason Phillips are playing for a play on the depth chart.
These are all guys that could be starting for some other teams in the league but might have trouble making the Ravens tough group. Jimmy Clausen might have trouble staying on his feet against these guys because these will be the guys he sees when he is out with the second or third team.
Free Safety- Who knows if/when Ed Reed will play this year. Tom Zbikowski and Ken Hamlin are battling for the top spot. So far they have both had their moments in camp.
Special Teams- Most of the bubble players will boost their status with good-to-great special teams play. Guys like David Reed, Marcus Smith, Edgar Jones, and Prescott Burgess will give themselves an opportunity to make the team just for special teams play.
Kicker battle- Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham will continue their battle into the preseason. Head Coach John Harbaugh said that the kickers will take turns on kicks.