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It may just be the preseason and the starters are playing just a quarter or less, but Thursday's matchup against the Carolina Panthers will offer a sneak preview into the offensive firepower Baltimore has assembled this offseason.
Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth will play their first games in M&T Bank Stadium, giving fans a chance to see how much they will add to the vertical attack. Rookie tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta should get even more playing time than the wideouts.
"It's going to be fun," said quarterback Joe Flacco. "We're going to treat it that way -- go out there, have fun and get up for the game. We want to be successful on offense and go down and put a touchdown on the board."
Boldin and Flacco have put a lot of work this spring into making sure they are on the same page, holding throwing sessions at the Ravens' training facility and in Arizona.
But all that work hasn't yet been tested against opposing NFL defenses. While his debut will be exciting for fans, Boldin isn't putting too much stock into what he or the offense accomplishes tonight.
"As a veteran, you just want to get it over with," said Boldin, drawing laughter from a group of reporters Tuesday. "You just want to get out there, kind of get used to the football speed of things and just make it out safely."
Three Players On the Bubble
Fans should remember the numbers 40-53. That makes up the last few roster spots that the Ravens will begin evaluating in live action through the preseason. Competition is strong at the defensive tackle and receiver positions where there is much depth. Plus, the Ravens are interested in seeing who will step up at corner. Here are three players to watch:
Prince Miller, CB:The undrafted rookie out of the University of Georgia is expected to get snaps as the first-team nickel back – the result of so many Ravens injuries at the position. Still, he's played well at times in training camp going against Baltimore's top receivers. A few days after he witnessed the birth of his first child, Miller has a great opportunity to win a job Thursday night. Or, at least make a solid first impression.
Jalen Parmele, RB:Parmele turned heads towards the end of last season by seizing control of the kickoff returner duties. Now, the Ravens haven't done much regarding kickoff returns in training camp, so it's unclear who is in the battle with him. But at this point, anticipate Parmele to be out there when Carolina first tees it off. The Ravens are pretty stocked at running back, but Parmele's special teams duties could make him stand out.
Lamar Divens, DT:There's a tough competition between Divens, Brandon McKinney and Kelly Talavou, but the last few days of training camp, Divens made some eye-opening plays. He sat out all of the 2009 campaign with a hip injury, but now looks to be full-strength. The Ravens need one of those three players to shape into a reliable backup defensive tackle. Divens might be in the lead.
Three Things For The Ravens To Win
The Ravens want to get out of Thursday night's preseason matchup with the Carolina Panthers healthy, but they'd also like to kick off their 2010 campaign with a win. Here are three things that will help:
Marc Bulger grasps the offense.The Ravens' high-profile backup quarterback started off training camp not getting a lot of work under center. Now, he's taking the majority of the second-team reps. It seems he's picking up Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron's playbook more and more with each practice. Bulger should get most of the second-quarter snaps and perhaps work into the third.
The secondary holds up. Cary Williams, K.J. Gerard (if he has worked through his undisclosed injury), Doug Dutch, Chris Hawkins and Prince Miller will see a lot of action with the Ravens top corners – Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb, Domonique Foxworth, Chris Carr – all battling some sort of bump, bruise or season-ending injury. As such, a talented backup like Jimmy Clausen, who was deemed pro-caliber heading out of Notre Dame, could have a big night. Time for the young corners to step up.* *
Oniel Cousins holds the line.With Jared Gaither not playing –Head Coach John Harbaugh said as much this week – it's going to be up to Cousins to man right tackle with the starters. That means he might get matched up with Everette Brown, who has received a lot of praise from media in his second year. Cousins needs to have a good game when he's in there protecting Joe Flacco. The UTEP product is still getting back into game shape, so this matchup will be a good test.
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