The Ravens are set for their first preseason game against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium (7:30 pm ET).
BR.com offers a look at Baltimore's next opponent.
Total Offense– 19th Total Defense– 4th
Rush Offense –8thRush Defense –8th* *
Pass Offense –23rdPass Defense –7th
Points Per Game –28thPoints Per Game –6th
Sizing Them Up
The Redskins are coming off an 8-8 campaign under then-rookie head coach Jim Zorn, one that started out 6-2 but fizzled down the stretch.
Washington is a team led by their highly-regarded defense under defensive coordinator Greg Blatche. That unit featured standouts like middle linebacker London Fletcher, safety LaRon Landry, and cornerback Carlos Rogers.
But perhaps what is even more impressive is how the defense improved with the signing of free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and the drafting of pass rusher Brian Orakpo. Haynesworth, who is coming off a dominating Pro Bowl year, will not be playing Thursday.
Offensively, the Redskins feature a run-oriented offense shouldered by Clinton Portis. Portis's 342 attempts last year were third-highest in the NFL.
The Redskins are banking on quarterback Jason Campbell to continue his growth in the passing attack. His main weapons are speedy receiver Santana Moss and versatile tight end Chris Cooley.
My counterpart with the 'Skins, Gary Fitzgerald, tells fans to keep an eye on four players, one of whom is NCAA record-setting quarterback Colt Brennan.
"A year ago, Brennan shined in preseason play. In five games, he completed 36-of-53 passing attempts for 411 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Needless to say, Brennan generated some excitement about himself -- and his NFL potential."
A buddy of mine, Rich Campbell of the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Press, writes that the Redskins are having a tough time telling offensive guard Randy Thomas to take a rest in the preseason opener despite offseason knee and neck surgeries.
"I've been having concerns with my body for four or five years," Thomas said. "That never stopped me from playing a game. I love the concerns. That just pushes me to prove them wrong. If that keeps a little doubt in people's heads, that makes me look better when I'm out there."
Former Baltimore Sun columnist and now-Washington Post beat reporter Rick Maese covers the heated battle for backup quarterback behind starter Jason Campbell.
"Thursday's game means something different to each of the Redskins' quarterbacks. Campbell isn't expected to get much playing time, which means the other three will spend most of four quarters trying to impress coaches."
Offensive - It's definitely Portis. He placed fourth in the league with 1,487 rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage (1,705). The stalwart running back actually reached 1,205 yards on the ground in six of his first seven seasons, and the only time he didn't (2006), he played in only eight games because of an injury.
Defensive – Haynesworth should be the star this year for the Redskins. As one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the NFL, the 6-foot-6, 350-pound monster is coming off a season where he totaled a career-high 8.5 sacks and had 22 quarterback pressures. Haynesworth is one of the rare ones that can both rush the passer and stop the run.
Devin Thomas could have a breakout season, and from all reports out of Redskins camp, he's on his way. Thomas has been hampered by a hamstring injury, but in a recent story in the Post, Zorn praised Thomas' work ethic. The second-year wideout is competing with incumbent Antwaan Randle El to start opposite Moss.
Ravens SK.J. Gerardvs. Redskins QB Colt Brennan
Gerard, an undrafted free agent, figures to be on the field when the third-string Brennan is out there. Gerard is one of those players that is always around the football, and he has made plays all throughout the offseason. Brennan is a talented and accurate passer, so it will be interesting to see whether Gerard or fellow third-team safety Derrick Martin can snap a pic.
Ravens RB Willis McGahee vs. Redskins LBs
I don't care who is playing linebacker for Washington, this game is a big one for McGahee. It is his first time to really show the public how hard he's worked this offseason after an injury-marred 2008 campaign. He'll go with the second-team, and he's been running hard. The Redskins' middle linebacker is H.B. Blades, so look for a few good collisions.
Campbell on his anticipation to see receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas on the field Thursday night:"I'm very anxious. At the same time it's still stepping blocks. It's the preseason and each game is going to be different. You will play longer and longer each game. It doesn't matter how long they play the first game, it's not going to depend on how they play the whole preseason. They may play more the second, third or fourth game. At the same time, you want to see how far they have come along in a game situation."
Zorn on whether the first team offensive line is ready to play:
"Whatever the first team line is will be ready to go. I think Chris Samuels will start and Casey Rabach will start. Randy [Thomas] is trying to work back off his knee and I'm considering resting him for another week, but it's hard to keep that guy out. We talked to each other and he just wants to go, but I may keep him out. He will be a question mark. Stephon [Heyer] will go."
These first few preseason games are all about the Ravens. Head coach John Harbaugh even said that the coaches weren't necessarily game-planning for the Redskins. His own team was the main concern.
The Ravens are hoping to get as many reps as they can to sort out some especially deep and convoluted positions, like cornerback, wideout and of course there is the kicker.
The starters for both sides won't play more than a quarter, so in that time, it would be a positive thing if Joe Flacco and Co. can get into the end zone by crisply executing the offense. Defensively, the Ravens are expected to run vanilla packages.
Baltimore is not expected to be sloppy, however. The Ravens run each practice like a live game, so the players should be acclimated to game speed.
As far as the final score goes, that is less important – unless it is a blowout – than scrutinizing how some of the faces fighting for roster spots play against an unfamiliar opponent.
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