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Key Matchups: Ravens at Patriots


The Ravens are set to kick off their preseason against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.  * * breaks down three key matchups to watch heading into the game:


Ravens CBs Fabian Washington and Frank Walker vs. Patriots WRs Chad Jackson and Jabar Gaffney

Considering this is the first preseason contest, don't expect a host of starters to be in the lineup at Gillette Stadium. For New England, Wes Welker is still on the physically unable to perform list, and All-World performer Randy Moss is, well, Randy Moss. The Ravens are going to keep Samari Rolle on hold until he's back in football shape after rejoining the team this week, while Chris McAlister's knee needs some rest.

Thus, Baltimore is going to get a good look at their two additions on the corners: Washington and Walker. Washington, acquired in a draft day trade from the Oakland Raiders, has excelled playing with the starters in Rolle's absence. The Ravens like his speed and athleticism. Walker, formerly of Green Bay, is a feisty defender that likes to get physical.

In Gaffney and Jackson, the Patriots have two former high draft picks that are looking for breakout years to prove they're not disappointments. They possess the speed to exploit the secondary with the long ball. Jackson, especially, has received recent praise from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Ravens T Chad Slaughter vs. Patriots DE Le Kevin Smith

The Ravens also get to see what they have in Slaughter, the recent free agent acquisition. With Jared Gaither's and Adam Terry's ankles sidelining Baltimore's two starting bookends, Slaughter gets the nod at left tackle. At 6-foot-8, 340 pounds, and incredibly long arms, Slaughter has the size to fend off rushers. And, he's shown surprising flashes of mobility in his short time with the Ravens.

Slaughter will probably face Smith often, considering Richard Seymour could get the night off and backup defensive ends Mike Wright and Jarvis Green are on the PUP list. Smith, a sixth-round draft pick in 2006, is a powerful end that matches up well with Slaughter at 6-foot-3, 308 pounds. He also has impressive speed, considering he was routinely sprinting downfield on New England's kick coverage teams last year.

Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Patriots ILB Jerod Mayo

Thursday night will be a battle of two talented rookies, between the hard-running Rice and hard-hitting Mayo. Rice moves to the first string as Willis McGahee nurses a sore knee. The second-round draft pick has been one of the more impressive performers in Ravens training camp, displaying an ability to break tackles for big gains.

But, Mayo is a tackling machine. Regular starter Mike Vrabel just recently came off the PUP list, paving the way for the first-rounder and former Tennessee star. During his senior season, he posted a whopping 140 stops patrolling the middle of the defense, and he'll look to do the same for New England's playmaking unit.

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