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5 Storylines to Watch in Carolina Practices

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

The Ravens will be in Spartanburg, S.C. for joint practices with the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday and Thursday, before meeting the Panthers in Charlotte on Saturday night for their second preseason game. Here are five joint practice storylines to watch.

Will James Proche II and Devin Duvernay keep the momentum going?

James Proche II and Devin Duvernay have enjoyed strong training camps, and that needs to continue with the Ravens having health issues at wide receiver. Groin surgery will keep Rashod Bateman out until September, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Miles Boykin haven't practiced in more than a week, and Sammy Watkins left practice early on Monday and was not on the practice field Tuesday. Head Coach John Harbaugh said that Watkins' issue wasn't serious, but training camp hasn't gone exactly as expected for the revamped wide receiver group. Proche and Duvernay have been bright spots, both having the potential to contribute far more to the passing game than last season. They should get quality work against the Panthers, who drafted cornerback Jacyee Horn in the first round and have veteran Pro Bowler A.J. Bouye. Strong joint practices from Proche and Duvernay would be another positive for the Ravens.

Will the starting left guard competition become clearer?

Left guard remains the starting offensive line position up for grabs, with Ben Powers and Ben Cleveland among those having an opportunity to claim it. Cleveland missed practice last week with a concussion, but Harbaugh was hopeful the rookie third-round pick would return for Wednesday's practice. The Panthers have a strong defensive tackle rotation featuring Derrick Brown, a first-round pick in 2020, and DaQuan Jones, a former Tennessee Titan who was signed during the offseason. Powers and Cleveland could benefit from getting physical work in the trenches against opponents who will test them.

Lamar Jackson vs. Panthers defense

Jackson didn't play in the preseason opener and isn't likely to see significant game action before Week 1, so these joint practices will give him valuable reps against another team. After missing the first 10 days of training camp (Reserve/COVID-19), Jackson has continued to look sharper and his chemistry with tight end Mark Andrews has made them a dynamic duo in practice. However, opponents are always pumped up to face Jackson, and he'll get some different looks from the Panthers defense. These practices should help sharpen Jackson for the season.

The Ravens' defense vs. Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold

Carolina's biggest offseason move was trading for Darnold, the third-overall pick in 2018 who they hope will be their quarterback of the future. Three quarterbacks from Darnold's draft class have already become breakout players – Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. But after his struggles with the New York Jets, Darnold has something to prove, and the Ravens' defense will provide a serious test. The Ravens have three young pass rushers who should get an opportunity to pressure Darnold – rookies Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes, and third-year outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. Inside linebacker Patrick Queen can test his improved pass defense matching up with Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who caught more than 100 passes in both 2018 and '19. In practice or in games, the Ravens' defense loves competition, and this is a chance to get sharper with the season fast approaching.

Which of the players trying to secure roster spots will shine?

The Ravens have plenty of depth, and they will face tough decisions to get down to 53 players. Safety Geno Stone stood out with two interceptions in the preseason opener. The competition to be the No. 3 tight end continues with Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson and Tony Poljan in the mix. Despite a taunting penalty in Saturday's game, cornerback Chris Westry is battling to make the roster, as is undrafted safety Ar'Darius Washington, who had a strong practice Monday and forced fumble in the preseason opener. Excelling in a joint practice setting is important for young players, and many of them are already stepping up.

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