Ed Dickson is being cautious with injury
EARLY BIRD: Five things the Ravens want from Thursday’s night’s game against the Panthers:
1. Clarity at WR and TE.
This is a huge game for many players, including wide receivers Aaron Mellette, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, and Brandon Stokley; as well as tight ends Dallas Clark, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Billy Bajema. With Ed Dickson progressing nicely from his hamstring injury, the Ravens may decide they don’t need both Clark and Shiancoe. This game will play a part in sorting out the tight end situation.
The WR picture is even more muddled. The Ravens made one decision Wednesday, trading David Reed to the Colts in exchange for running back Delone Carter. However, more wide receivers must go before the 53-man roster is set. We know Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones have defined roles. The guess here is that Stokley makes the team. If the Ravens decide to keep six receivers, that leaves Mellette, Marlon Brown, Williams, Doss, and Deonte Thompson battling for three spots. Thompson has a sprained ankle and is not expected to play Thursday night. Of the other receivers fighting for position, Thursday could be a make-or-break game.
“It’s a fine line for making a team,” coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. “These battles go on – it’s competition. Sometimes you get to this point and it’s really close. It’s like a football game. It’s a three-point game with a minute left, and sometimes making a play at the end is the difference.”
2. A crisp performance by the first-team offense.
For the first team, this is the longest dress rehearsal before the season-opener (Sept. 5) against the Broncos. Joe Flacco is expected to see his most extended work of the preseason, possibly the entire first half, and maybe into the third quarter. Establishing a rhythm would give the offense a needed boost of confidence.
3. Solid run defense.
The Ravens had problems stopping the run in 2013, and were gashed by the Falcons’ running attack last week. That’s a trend the Ravens want to stop.
4. Stronger secondary play.
Whether it’s Jimmy Smith struggling in coverage, or pass interference penalties, the Ravens’ secondary has not been consistent. That’s no way to get ready for opening night against Peyton Manning in Denver.
5. No setbacks for guard Marshal Yanda or cornerback Lardarius Webb.
Both Yanda (shoulder surgery) and Webb (knee surgery) could see action their first action of the preseason. However, how they feel after the game is more important than how they look.
Morning thought: “We want to win every game. But we also want to play well.” Harbaugh, talking about the Ravens’ preseason approach.