The Ravens have had a busy week, beginning with last Thursday’s 44-16 victory over Tampa Bay in the preseason opener and continuing with the signings of veteran receivers Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley.
Baltimore is now a day away from its preseason home opener - Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against the Atlanta Falcons. Earlier this week, the team sent out a reminder about the new restrictions on what can and can’t be brought into NFL stadiums to enhance public safety. You can read more about those measures here.
As for the actual game, it’s not really about matchups or the opponent still, but instead about the Ravens themselves. Let’s take a look at what to watch tomorrow night.
How much will Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley play, and how much will they help?
The Ravens’ two new additions at receiver might be past their prime, but they have familiarity with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell from their days with the Colts. They have an idea of how he operates, so the learning curve might be shorter.
Their roles in the first preseason game since they signed might be limited since Clark and Stokley have been in possession of the Ravens’ playbook for less than a week. But that remains to be seen. They’ll probable see more action in the third preseason tilt to give them some work with quarterback Joe Flacco.
If they do get some time with the first team against Atlanta, it will definitely be interesting to see how much they help right away. Guess is their experience will translate to doing the simple things better than some, and that would certainly make waves in covering the losses of possession receivers Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin.
How will the wideouts not named Torrey Smith respond to more competition for jobs?
The race to earn jobs hauling in passes from Flacco is far stiffer now that Stokley and Clark are on board. Jacoby Jones has a job, but he was a non-factor on offense last week. Could he be more valuable playing a bigger role on special teams?
Deonte Thompson and Tandon Doss will have to show a lot to push to be among the top four wideouts. Thompson isn’t expected to play against Atlanta because of a sprained foot. Whether that affects his place in the competition is worth watching because it gives someone else a chance to impress.
LaQuan Williams was the biggest standout a week ago, and perhaps he’ll get more of a look with the starters after having the look of a playmaker at Tampa Bay.
Expect more intensity, more pressure and, the Ravens have to hope, better play from the young receivers now that there are more options and thus, more of a squeeze for jobs.
Will A.Q. Shipley get a leg up in the center competition?
Last week, Gino Gradkowski had his turn to start on the offensive line. This week, it’s Shipley’s turn. Coach John Harbaugh and run game coordinator Juan Castillo both said that the competition is neck and neck with both playing well, but neither separating from the other.
So this could be the more veteran Shipley’s opportunity to do just that. One game won’t make it a done deal, but the preseason is as important to these two as almost anyone on the roster. Any offensive line nuts out there should fix eyes at center and see how these two compare.
Can the first-team defense fix communication issues and take a step forward?
The Ravens’ top defense looked pretty good at times a week ago, flying around and making big plays. The team seems to have made a big find at inside linebacker in Daryl Smith, if he can stay healthy. But it’s clear, and understandable, that it’s going to take some time for so many new players to get on the same page.
The starters often play close to a full half in the second preseason game, so this could be an important week for the unit to learn about itself, for the individual players to get more comfortable with each other, and they’ll get a chance to do so against a potent offense led by Matt Ryan.