Flacco talks about the importance of the first pre-season game
*Watch the Ravens and Bucs on WBAL-TV at 7:30 p.m. and watch the replay on CSN at 12:30 a.m. on Friday.
EARLY BIRD: Waking up with the Ravens on Thursday, Aug. 8, the day of their preseason opener against the Buccaneers.
TAMPA – Finally, we have football. The Ravens play tonight for the first time since Super Bowl XLVII. So much has changed. So many new faces are fighting for roles and roster spots. Here are five things to watch in tonight’s game.
1. The receivers: We know Torrey Smith is No. 1 at wide receiver. But who is No. 2 or No. 3? That we don’t know. Nobody has separated from the pack during training camp. Jacoby Jones has the inside track to start opposite Smith. But Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, David Reed, and others are fighting for attention. The coaches want a playmaker or two to emerge during these preseason games. Anquan Boldin is gone. The Ravens will feel a lot better about Boldin’s absence if one of their receivers has a stellar preseason. If nobody looks good, it’ll be cause for concern heading into the regular season.
2. How Visanthe Shiancoe looks: It’s been a tough training camp for tight ends. Dennis Pitta – done for the season. Ed Dickson – hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined at least a week, maybe longer. Can Shiancoe still be an effective red zone and third down go-to guy? There’s a chance he’ll get enough playing time and balls thrown his way tonight to show a little of what he’s got.
3. How the rookies look: Matt Elam. Arthur Brown. Brandon Williams. Kyle Jusczyk. The lights come on for them tonight. If rookies are going to be mistake-prone, it shows up more during games than on the practice field. The Ravens think Elam could be good enough to start at safety, and that Brown could start at inside linebacker. But if they don’t look good during the preseason, John Harbaugh has other options. We’ll get some insight during the preseason as to how game-ready the rookies are.
4. The secondary: For the first time in more than a decade, Ed Reed is not patrolling the Ravens’ back line at safety. Even when the Ravens were not a dominant defense last season, they rarely gave up big plays. Now the Ravens will have two new starting safeties, and if Jimmy Smith starts at one corner, three-fourths of the starting secondary will be new. Opposing quarterbacks are going to test the Ravens deep, and it could start tonight.
5. Injuries: Hopefully, there won’t be any. But training camp has already brought a rash of injuries around the NFL. Now the preseason gets into full swing. The Ravens hope to leave Tampa without losing a key player.