Rams Preview: Jobs At Stake In St. Louis

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In the eyes of fans, the fourth preseason game is generally regarded as the snoozer.

As will be the case Thursday night, when the Ravens travel to St. Louis for an 8 p.m. kickoff, the stars see little or no action.

But to a large chunk of Ravens, the fourth preseason game will be their final sales pitch in an effort to land a job. The Ravens currently have 75 men on their roster. By Saturday, that number must shrink to 53. That means 22 players see their trip to St. Louis as vital.

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"It's not meaningless for the guys who have so much at stake," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "There might be five, six, seven, eight guys who are battling for those last roster spots. And this game is really what it's going to come down to."

Cornerback Prince Miller is one such player. Miller is an unrestricted free agent who was thrust into a bigger role due to injuries at cornerback and punt returner this preseason. He has played nickel in practice and shined as a returner in the Ravens' first preseason game versus the Carolina Panthers.

But with the acquisition of cornerback and returner Josh Wilson Tuesday night, Miller's chances of making the team took a hit. Miller, who is trying to support a newborn baby, is going to see a lot of action, according to Harbaugh.

"It'll be a great opportunity for Prince to get out there and take most of those shots and see what he does," Harbaugh said.

"I understand this game means a lot so you obviously want to go out and perform well," Miller said. "But I'm not going to put any added pressure on myself."

Several other tight competitions may come down to a Thursday tiebreaker as well.

The kicking battle between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff is extremely tight and will go until the last minute, Harbaugh said. With the injury to Donte' Stallworth, the fourth wide receiver slot is up for grabs between Demetrius Williams, David Reed and Marcus Smith, who has already done a lot to secure a job on special teams.

And as usual, the final couple of roster spots often come down to who best serves special teams. So keep an eye on linebackers Prescott Burgess and Jason Phillips and defensive end Edgar Jones.

"You get to the point now where you have a pretty good feel and still, some of those competitions are so close that they'll be determined in this last game when those guys get so many reps and when you have an opportunity to evaluate them both in special teams and offensively and defensively through the course of a complete game," Harbaugh said. "So, we're looking forward to that."

3 Players To Watch On The Bubble
Demetrius Williams, WR: The oft-injured wide receiver has impressed coaches throughout the preseason, but he needs to get healthy to finish what he started. There's no question that Williams has potential. Now he's got to show it on the field. If healthy enough to play, expect Williams to get a lot of passes thrown his way.

David Reed, WR: The rookie wideout stood out versus the Redskins, in which he caught four passes for 38 yards on a single drive. He'll see a lot of action once again Thursday night in the competition for the fourth wideout slot. Reed's got to show good hands.

Prince Miller, CB: With Stallworth out, Miller will be the Ravens' main punt returner. He'll also play most, if not all, of the game at cornerback. While Miller has excelled as a returner, he got beat twice versus the Giants. If he's going to add depth at corner, he'll have to improve in coverage.

3 Things For The Ravens To Win Bring Bradford Down To Earth: St. Louis is expected to trot out 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford Thursday night. The $50 million rookie threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns versus New England last Thursday. The Ravens will look to give him some "Welcome to the NFL" moments and blitzing may do the trick.

Give Troy Time: As he showed last Saturday versus the New York Giants, Troy Smith is a whole lot better when he has time to throw. Smith posted a 119.9 quarterback rating versus New York and will get the vast majority of snaps Thursday. The Ravens will be going with their second or third-string offensive line and they've got to cut down on sacks. Baltimore is second-worst in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass attempts this preseason.

Get Off To A Fast Start: Baltimore's coming off a high against the Giants, a game in which the offense looked crisp and defense was suffocating. They don't want to take a step backwards – even if the starters aren't playing – on the eve of the regular season. A quick start would keep the momentum rolling and could lead to a 4-0 preseason for the second straight season.

2009 TALE OF THE TAPE

Ravens                          Category                           Rams

9-7. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2009 Record . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-15

Won 3. . . . . . . . . . . . Longest Streak . . . . . . . . . . . .Won 1

  1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Scored . . . . . . . . . . . . .175

  1. . . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . . . . .17

  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .4

  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .12

  1. . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns on Returns . . . . . . . . . .1

  1. . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Against . . . . . . . . . . . . .436

  1. . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . . . . .54

  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .24

  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .22

  1. . . . . . . . . . . TDs Allowed by Return . . . . . . . . . . .8

29:18. . . . . . . . . . . Time of Posession Avg.. . . . . . . . . . .28:58

+10. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Turnover Ratio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .-13

52.6%. . . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. For . . . . . . . . .32.4%

41.9%. . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. Against . . . . . . .61.0%

26.2. . . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . .23.2

20.3. . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . .24.0

7.4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10.7

7.6. . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . . .6.3

2009 FINAL RANKINGS

Ravens

Rams

Category

Stats

Rank

Stats

Rank

Total Offense

351.2

13

279.4

29

Rush Offense

137.5

5

111.5

20

Pass Offense

213.7

18

167.9

28

Points/Game

24.4

9

10.9

32

Total Defense

300.5

3

372.8

29

Rush Defense

93.3

5

137.6

27

Pass Defense

207.3

8(t)

235.3

25

Points/Game

16.3

3

27.3

31

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