5 Things To Watch vs. Bengals

There may not be any game that gets more attention during the regular season than the opener.

The Ravens will kick off against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at 1 p.m., and there are many areas to watch as Baltimore launches its 2014 campaign.

Here are five to keep an eye on:

Offense lets loose

New Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak will debut his system in Baltimore. The first-team offense has drawn rave reviews so far, and it presumably still has some tricks up its sleeve considering Kubiak didn't want to show too much during the preseason. The run game was the offense's downfall last year, and it will be interesting to see the difference.

Injured cornerbacks return

The Ravens' top three cornerbacks – Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson – all missed chunks of the preseason due to injuries. Webb (back) was out for nearly all of training camp and the preseason. Smith (chest) missed the final two preseason games and Jackson (ankle) was sidelined for three weeks. They're all expected to play Sunday, but how good of shape are they all in? Smith will likely draw the assignment of covering one of the best receivers in the game in the Bengals' A.J. Green.


Offensive line gets big test

Baltimore's offensive line was at the forefront of last year's offensive struggles. The revamped and healthier unit paved the way for the most rushing yards in the NFL this preseason. Can it do the same against the Cincinnati Bengals' tough defensive front seven? It will be quite a challenge trying to block Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry and inside linebackers Vontaze Burtict and Rey Maualuga. Right tackle Rick Wagner will get his first career start.

Ray Rice effect

The Ravens embark on a two-game stretch without top running back Ray Rice due to his suspension. Bernard Pierce will carry the load, followed by rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and veteran Justin Forsett. While there's a lot of faith in the explosive Pierce running in Kubiak's system, not having Rice does have an impact. How much of an impact remains to be seen.

Does defensive speed show?

Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said he expects his unit's improved speed to turn into more turnovers.  First-round inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will start and second-round defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan will work into the defensive line rotation. Keep an eye on how much they can affect Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw four interceptions that last time he faced Baltimore.

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