The Ravens will wrap up the preseason Thursday night against the Saints, in their first trip back to New Orleans since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl XLVII.
The fourth preseason game pales in comparison to the last trip to the Big Eaasy, but make no mistake about it, the objective is still to leave New Orleans with a victory and a perfect 4-0 preseason record.
"The scoreboard's going to be lit up for a reason, and we're going to try and be on the top part of that," Head Coach John Harbaugh said this week.
Just like previous years, the plan going into the game is to rest most of the veterans and starters to make sure they're healthy for the Week 1 matchup against the Bengals that is just 10 days away. Sitting them will give younger players experience and the chance to earn their way onto the roster.
"Being a backup quarterback, you never know when your reps are going to come, but you know you're going to get a chance to play in the preseason," said quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is expected to play most of the game. "I cherish these moments and I look forward [to them], and I'm excited to play with the guys that I have around me."
Three Matchups To Watch
QB Tyrod Taylor vs OLB Khairi ForttTaylor has played well during training camp and the preseason, and Thursday will be one final chance to get reps before settling into his backup role behind Flacco. Rookie outside linebacker Khairi Fortt is also looking to prove himself as a viable option on the Saints defense, and Taylor hopes to use his three years of experience against some of the younger players he'll be facing.
S Terrence Brooks vs. WR Brandin CooksThe Ravens third-round pick came on strong last week against the Redskins, and Harbaugh said that the "light has come on" for the athletic safety. He made several plays in that game, showing his ball skills and knack for the football. He'll likely go up against Saints rookie receiver Brandin Cooks, a speedy first-round pick who can work the middle of the field. Facing another young playmaker will be a good test for the Ravens safety.
WR Michael Campanaro vs CB Stanley Jean-BaptisteCampanaro made his first two catches of the preseason last week against Washington, and he's hoping to carry that into this week. Campanaro will go up against the young players in New Orleans' secondary, including second-round rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste. If Campanaro caps off the preseason with an impressive outing, then he could play his way onto the 53-man roster.
Three Keys To The Game
Capitalize On OpportunityThe younger players who will see the bulk of the snaps in the game have been waiting for this opportunity for their whole lives. There are only a few spots truly up for grabs, but the coaches will be looking closely at players on the bubble to determine if they're deserving of a job. Players have to perform on the big stage, and prove that they aren't intimidated by the NFL atmosphere.
Keep Up Offensive SuccessThe Ravens have made clear strides on offense during the preseason under new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. The starters and backups have all shown promise, and the hope is to carry that momentum into the regular season. The players getting reps Thursday want to show that they have a strong grasp of the new system, and that they could be counted on during the regular season if someone else went down.
Don't Show Too MuchThe matchup with the Ravens and Saints is somewhat rare because the two teams play each other again during the regular season on Monday Night Football. Teams that play each other in the regular season often shy away from preseason action. Both teams know they'll see each other again, so they will likely limit what they show and run vanilla schemes on both sides of the ball.