Locked out from Westminster: Looking to Thursday night

August 11, 2010 | Luke Jones

On a slow news day with the Ravens closing their walkthrough to the public and media today, we now wait for the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.

After all of the hype and expectations surrounding the Ravens throughout the offseason, we’ll finally get a chance to see this team in live-game action, albeit in a cameo appearance for most starters. As with any preseason game, escaping without injury is paramount, especially at the offensive tackle and cornerback positions.

Preseason games are about evaluating each individual play and series, with the end result of a win or loss completely irrelevant in most cases. Even so, it’s difficult not to be excited about the opportunity to see Anquan Boldin bring his combatant style to the Baltimore offense for the first time.

As I discussed with Thyrl Nelson on AM 1570 WNST earlier today, there hasn’t been a more-anticipated preseason opener in Baltimore since Steve McNair’s debut against the New York Giants in August 2006. McNair marched the Ravens 80 yards in 12 plays, finishing the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run as the M&T Bank Stadium crowd instantly adopted the former Tennessee Titan rival as its own.

Though it would be McNair’s only series of the evening, it signaled a reversal in the Ravens’ fortunes at quarterback—for one season at least—and set an early tone for what would be the best regular season (13-3) in franchise history.

And oh yeah, the Giants ended up winning the game, 17-16.

Given the enormous expectations this season, a Joe Flacco touchdown toss to Boldin on the opening drive would top the McNair preseason moment. Whatever happens after that on Thursday night—aside from a major injury—would be irrelevant.

- All eyes will be glued to the secondary as the Ravens will be fielding a patchwork unit of cornerbacks against the Panters. With Chris Carr (hamstring) likely out, Fabian Washington (knee) a game-time decision, and Lardarius Webb (knee) still on the Physically Unable to Perform list, veteran Travis Fisher and Cary Williams could be the starting cornerbacks, an uncomfortable proposition even for the first preseason game.

Williams and rookie Prince Miller will receive a large number of reps, giving the coaching staff ample opportunity to evaluate the two. Williams has shown promise during camp, but a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy clouds his hopes for cracking the 53-man roster.

Miller matched up effectively against the best the SEC had to offer during his collegiate career at Georgia, but his tiny stature—only 5-foot-8—is difficult to overlook as Ravens receivers have consistently beaten him in jump-ball situations. The pint-sized defensive back possesses skill in the return game, a factor working in his favor.

- The Ravens continue to explore external options at the cornerback position, one of them being Frank Walker. The much-maligned veteran remains a free agent but continues to have discussions about a potential return.

However, the Dolphins are interested in the 29-year-old Walker, who spent the last two seasons with the Ravens. He is scheduled to meet with the Dolphins and potentially sign an agreement to play in Miami.

“We have a meeting and depending how that goes, we will see if I want to sign there or not,” Walker said in a text message on Wednesday.

Most Baltimore fans will firmly stand against a potential Walker return, but I still think he’s the best option among the veteran defensive backs flapping in the wind of the free agent wire right now. Then again, I haven’t forgotten about the little yellow flags flying through the air, either.

- Injured cornerback Domonique Foxworth underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL in his right knee on Tuesday.

The surgery was performed by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

“My knee is killin me,” Foxworth said on Twitter. “And almost everytime I eat a lil bit and take pain meds I throw-up.”

Foxworth is a highly-respected figure in the Ravens locker room and faces a long recovery, but he should be 100 percent recovered in time for the start of the 2011 OTA schedule.

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