5 things to watch for vs. Rams

5 things to watch for vs. Rams
August 29, 2013, 7:00 am
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Baltimore wide receiver competition heating up

EARLY BIRD: Waking up with the Ravens on Thursday, Aug. 29.

Two-minute topic: What should we look for in the preseason finale tonight at St. Louis?

The Ravens wrap up the preseason against the Rams in a game that figures to be little more than an extended audition for second- and third-teamers. Although starters are not likely to play much if at all, and the game will not count in the standings, there are definitely story lines in play. Here are five of them.

1. Will the wide receiver battle finally be sorted out?

The battle for the final few receiver spots is down to the wire. Deonte Thompson (ankle) will miss his third straight game with an ankle injury, and that complicates things. Tandon Doss, Laquan Williams and rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette should get plenty of chances to show their stuff, albeit with third-team quarterback Caleb Hanie likely running the offense for most of the game.   

2. Who starts at center?

Like wide receiver, the center job has been a great competition throughout camp between Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley. Many starters will not play at all on Thursday night. If Shipley starts, that could be the clearest indication that Gradkowski has won the job, something many observers believe will happen. Earlier this week, though, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell suggested the race is still too close to call.

3. Does Delone Carter do enough to earn a roster spot?

The Ravens have yet to see any game action from Carter, the running back they acquired from the Colts for David Reed. He was traded just over a week ago and did not play in last week’s game against Carolina. Carter, who will wear No. 38, doesn’t have a lot of time to convince the Ravens he’s worth a roster spot. Something else to watch is whether Carter has a role on special teams, because the Ravens No. 3 back certainly will.

4. Does someone make a key special teams play?

The final few roster spots will come down to special teams. Sure, the roster will list those players at cornerback, or running back, or wide receiver, but by and large the major contributions of those players will be on special teams. Does one of them make a key play tonight? Does LaQuan Williams recover another fumble? Does Omar Brown grab a turnover? Does Bobby Rainey spring another big return? That kind of play could be a big factor for players on the bubble.

5. Are there any key injuries?

That is a question in any game, and even though the starters won’t be playing much, any major injury could affect the team’s depth and have a trickle-down effect on the 53-man roster, which must be set by Saturday at 6 p.m.