Here are 10 things that I will be looking for tonight:
- Terrell Suggs – How does he play? Does he look slow? Is he having a hard time with the offensive lineman in front of him? What kind of “football” shape is he in? I think Suggs will have a solid showing tonight.
- QB – Is tonight the night that Troy can seal the deal and make a final case for being the starting quarterback on September 7? I still say that Kyle Boller would have to do way more than what Smith has to do tonight to keep hope alive. If the offense moves the ball with or without scoring a bunch of points, that closes the deal for Troy.
- Safeties – With it looking more and more like Ed Reed will not be ready to start the season on time (as I have been saying for a while), who steps up in his place? Jim Leonhard is expected to be the guy who takes the field with Dawan Landry and the most likely guy to win the competition with Harauki Nakamura, and Tom Zbikowski. But, how will the the communication be with those two and do they cover each others weaknesses?
- Tackle – With Adam Terry expected to play a little bit tonight (and looking like he will be ready for the opener) and Jared Gaither looking like he may not be ready for the opener, who steps up? Which of Chad Slaughter, Oneil Cousins, David Hale, Mike Kracalik, and Joe Reitz make a push for that left tackle spot? Do they put Adam Terry in at left tackle and maybe see who can help on the right side? The tackle position has been a reason for concern for the last two years and I am not sure that there will not be more questions after tonight.
- Interior defensive line – Haloti Ngata is expected to play some tonight which is good news for the Ravens, but not so good news is the amount of time that Kelly Gregg has missed and possibly still will miss with a knee injury. Justin Bannan is one of the more underrated players on the Ravens roster and while he is not Kelly Gregg, he is still a very solid backup and will not miss a beat. J’Vonne Parker is also a guy to watch tonight to see how he plays when he is in the game at that position.
- Communication in secondary – It was an issue last week with the secondary but it might be a little bit better this week with Samari Rolle being back there and possibly Chris McAlister. No. 21 & 22 can make up for some miscommunication but this is another reason why the team will miss Ed Reed. Dawan Landry has to step up and take over that role and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
- Running Game – With Willis McGahee’s health being a concern, how does Ray Rice respond tonight? Ray had a nice game early on last week versus the Vikings. How will he respond tonight? Who steps up behind him? Will it be Cory Ross? Alex Haynes? Allen Patrick? All three of those guys could earn a roster spot tonight with a solid performance.
- 3rd WR – With it looking like Demetrius Williams may not be ready to start the season, will someone step up for that 3rd wide receiver position? Marcus Smith has had a solid camp and nice preseason, but I do not think he has locked up that spot yet. Matt Willis has been around for a while with the team and has a great opportunity to show what he can do. Here is a guy to watch tonight, who I think might have a real shot at the 3rd spot: Yamon Figurs. Cam Cameron used Figurs several times as the 3rd wideout during camp. He can absolutely fly down the football field; he just has to be able to hang on to the football.
- Tight End- Dan Wilcox might get a chance tonight to play in a game for the first time in a while. This is huge for Wilcox, because his spot on the roster could very well depend on it. If this were a regular season game, I really think you would see Todd Heap out there on the field. Tonight is a chance for Adam Bergen, Aaron Walker and Edgar Jones to fight it out for one of the tight end positions.
- Who Steps Up – Every one of these guys dreamed of one day playing in the NFL. For a lot of them, that dream will come to an end after tonight. With the first cuts coming Tuesday, a couple of these guys will have played their last NFL game ever. Tonight is a chance for those guys on the bubble to show that they deserve to stick around and have a chance to compete for a spot on the final 53 man roster. Tonight’s game will go a long way as to the future of some of the players. All of the players know that too and they have to step up tonight and make that decision tough on Coach Harbaugh. One play good or bad can determine their future with the Ravens.
Here is one more guy to watch tonight when he is on the field: Brendon Ayanbadejo. Brendon is always around the football and making plays whether it is on defense or special teams.