The Ravens will take the field once more this preseason before completely shifting their focus to the Denver Broncos and the games that really matter.
In the preseason finale Thursday night against St. Louis, the attention will be on the bubble players as the Ravens finalize the last few spots on the 53-man roster.
The team that takes the field in St. Louis will be much different from the one that travels to Denver a week later, as most of the starters are not expected to suit up against the Rams. The Ravens do not typically play their starters in the preseason finale, and they want the team at full strength for the Sept. 5 opener.
While the finale against St. Louis won't mean much once the Ravens switch gears Friday morning, the contest could be the most significant game in the careers of some bubble players fighting for their jobs.
Matchups To Watch
WR Tandon Doss vs. CB Brandon McGee
The fourth-round receiver will look to finish the preseason strong after a frustrating stretch through the first three games. Doss could get matched up against the rookie cornerback McGee, and he could create mismatches over the middle of the field. The receiver competition is tight, with all the receivers hoping to make their mark.
LB Arthur Brown vs. RB Isaiah Pead
The second-round pick should see plenty of time with the starters watching from the sidelines. While Brown is in the mix for a starting role, most of the rookies do get more reps than the veterans in the preseason finale. Brown has been solid in his preseason work, and this game against second-stringers could be an opportunity for him to flash.
C A.Q. Shipley vs. DT Jemelle Cudjo
The center competition appeared to be wrapped up after the third preseason game, but Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell said that race was still close. Gino Gradkowski is believed to be the favorite in the competition, but Shipley should see playing time this week and could try to unseat Gradkowski from that spot.
Keys To The Game
Get Out Healthy
Perhaps the top priority of this week's game is to leave St. Louis with a healthy squad. While most of the starters will not play, several key contributors will get significant reps, and the Ravens do not want to see them go down with any injuries. Staying healthy is always important during the preseason, and that's especially true this year with a short turnaround to the regular season because the Ravens open on a Thursday.
Finalize Special Teams Units
The ability to play special teams is often a key factor in deciding which players make the 53-man active roster. The Ravens will have a close eye on the special teams units this week, especially after it gave up a punt return touchdown last week against the Panthers.
Bubble Players Standing Out
Most of the spots on the active roster are set, but a standout performance by a bubble player against St. Louis could force the coaching staff to reconsider their plans. As the young players try to make the most of what could be their last professional opportunity, look for someone to stand out and play their way onto the team.