The Baltimore Ravens take on the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank stadium for the third game of the preseason.
The Ravens are undefeated in the preseason, but tonight will be a true testament of the upcoming season. According to head coach John Harbaugh, the first-team will see a lot more of the field during this game than in the previous two weeks, potentially playing well into the third quarter. Here is a list of a few aspects of the game to keep an eye out for from the Ravens.
1. Return of injured players
Right guard Marshal Yanda and cornerback Lardarius Webb could be seeing the field for the first time this season. Yanda has been battling a shoulder injury sustained during the Super Bowl, while Webb has been kept off the field since last October due to a torn ACL. Both players participated in full practices this week.
Yanda is coming off of back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. While he has not participated in full team activities before this week, he will be right back where left off at the time of his injury. Webb sustained his injury early on, but was posting Pro Bowl worthy numbers. Reports out of practice this week show that Webb is explosive and ready to be back out on the field.
2. Brandon Stokley
Newly acquired veteran Brandon Stokley will be one of the players on the Ravens’ roster that will see more playing time tonight. Stokley saw seven snaps in last week’s game against Atlanta and has participated in six practices since signing with the Ravens.
With the battle for wide receiver positions still in full effect, Stokley will be in the slot alongside Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones tonight to get in some reps with the first-team players. With Stokley in the slot position, the Ravens could use the 14-year veteran to fill the void of Dennis Pitta’s injury.
3. Dallas Clark
After participating in only five practices since signing with the team, Dallas Clark will see more playing time against the Carolina Panthers in Thursday night’s preseason game. Clark has been thrown right into the mix of things since joining the Ravens’ organization and has adjusted well to the the team’s style of play.
Clark is a reliable receiver and will be an attribute to the Ravens’ since the team has struggled with injuries at the tight end position. He’s not explosive; Clark will not be seeing much of the long ball from quarterback Joe Flacco right off the bat. But with Clark receiving short passes, the field can be spread and opened up for the next man on this list.
4. Torrey Smith
Wide receiver Torrey Smith has taken on the role of the number one receiver on the Ravens’ offense this season. With the departure of Anquan Boldin, Smith has been Flacco’s go-to wideout. In Thursday night’s game, Smith will be out on the field to prove himself and show why he deserves to be the number one receiver on the Ravens’ roster.
The 24-year-old wide receiver attributes Boldin as one of the reasons for his success so far in the NFL. Since entering the league in 2011, Smith has been behind Boldin in the receiver position and he is grateful for having that opportunity. With Smith being the main receiver on the team now, he will show what he has in the most important game of the preseason.
5. The defense
The Ravens have always been known for having a solid defense and this year is no different. Without linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, there was speculation that the Ravens’ defense would not be as talented as previous years. While the defense has been a little shaky in the preseason, the team should have it together by Thursday night’s game.
The defensive line was not at their best last week against Atlanta. But linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are proving to be quite the tandem. Linebacker Daryl Smith has stepped up as an unexpected leader on the defense. Safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown are being sidelined as potential backups, proving how much the defense has stepped up in the weeks prior to the season opener.