The Ravens and Rams are taking completely different philosophies into their final preseason game tonight in St. Louis.
For the Ravens, there’s no Joe Flacco, Ray Rice or Anquan Boldin on offense, and no Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata or Ed Reed on defense. They get the night off in favor of the likes of safety Omar Brown, running backs Bobby Rainey and Bernard Pierce, and Tyrod Taylor, who’s starting at quarterback.
The Rams, on the other hand, are planning to field their first-teamers for the opening half, and perhaps into the third quarter.
So it should provide those players vying for the final spots on the Ravens’ roster a true test against the kinds of players they’d see on Sundays during the regular season.
Seeing how they stack up against starting-caliber opponents will give a much better sense of what they can do than the first three preseason contests, when their primary competition was fellow rookies and backups.
Should be interesting, and telling.
Update: Right away, this is looking like a Rams first-team squad facing second-teamers.
Quarterback Sam Bradford and tailback Steven Jackson have carved through the Ravens’ backup defense for 137 yards in the first quarter, leading the Rams to a 14-0 lead.
The second score was set up when Taylor fumbled, stripped from behind, to put St. Louis back in the red zone.
Not a good start, but this one isn’t about the team’s performance. It’s about the individuals, and coaches will see what they need on the tape.
Update II: Linebacker Sergio Kindle, hoping to lock up a likely roster spot, was flagged for roughing the passer, helping to extend a Rams drive and set up their latest score.
The Ravens now trail 21-0 in the second quarter.
Update III: Defensive back Danny Gorrer bounces back from a pass interference penalty with a pick as the Rams threatened to score their fourth touchdown, this time without Bradford under center.
Those are the kinds of things coaches will smile at - a solid response from a bubble player.
And Justin Tucker just suffered his first missed kick of the preseason, slicing a 57-yarder wide left on his first try after winning the job from Billy Cundiff.
That’s a wrap for the first half with Baltimore trailing 21-0.
Pierce has gained 27 yards on the ground while Tandon Doss has three receptions. The Rams outgained the Ravens 254-106.
Update IV: The Ravens fell behind 28-0 early in the third quarter, but have finally scored on Curtis Painter’s 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Billy Bajema.
That makes it 28-7 with 6:20 to go in the third.
Update V: Tucker’s 49-yard field goal makes it 28-10 Rams. Kid’s got quite a leg.
Update VI: Thompson makes an 11-yard touchdown grab with 6:25 to go, and the Ravens now trail 31-17.
Thompson has had quite a night with six receptions for 68 yards. Could he have just solidified his spot on the 53-man roster?
Update VII: And that’s a wrap on a 2-2 preseason for the Ravens.
The Rams take this one 31-17, but it was far from a good gauge of how the Ravens will turn out, considering they played three defensive starters and even fewer on offense.
Last week’s 48-17 win over the Jaguars was much more indicative of how good this team can be, as the starters played into the second half. Tonight, they didn’t touch the field against the Rams’ first team.
Some helped themselves (Thompson). Some hurt themselves (Kindle). Whether they make it onto the regular season roster will be known in less than 24 hours.