1. How will the running back battle unfold between Ray Rice and Willis McGahee?
Rice is slated to start against the Washington Redskins following an eye-catching offseason, bulking up to become more of a tackle-breaker while retaining his speed and quickness. Meanwhile, McGahee appears to be rejuvenated after reporting in good shape with an improved attitude. The former Pro Bowl runner seems to be hungry again.
2. What’s the outlook at wide receiver?
Due to injuries to the top three receivers, expect a heavy dose of Marcus Smith, Kelley Washington and Justin Harper. And the coaching staff will be watching closely to see if their flashes of ability during practice translate into steady production in a game situation.
3. What are the expectations for the rookie class?
First-round draft pick Michael Oher will start at right offensive tackle and has drawn high marks for his athleticism and aggressiveness, earning some praise from retired All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden. Second-round defensive end-outside linebacker Paul Kruger will start in place of Terrell Suggs tonight. Kruger has impressed the coaches with his relentless nature as he constantly chases the football. Keep an eye on instinctive, speedy cornerback Lardarius Webb and hard-hitting undrafted linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
4. What’s going on with the kicking competition?
So far, Steve Hauschka seems to have a slight edge over rookie Graham Gano with superior consistency in practice. However, the games are what truly counts and Hauschka, who connected on a 54-yard field last season against the Houston Texans, is expected to handle the kicking duties in the first half. A Lou Groza Award winner from Florida State, Gano will take over in the second half. Matt Stover remains a possibility for the Ravens if the two strong-legged, young kickers falter.
5. Who’s not expected to play and who’s questionable for the game?
Among the players considered unlikely to play: wide receivers Mark Clayton (strained left hamstring) and Biren Ealy (groin), Suggs (Achilles’ tendon, heel), offensive guard Marshal Yanda (knee), offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (calf, heel), cornerback Samari Rolle (neck) and defensive tackle Lamar Divens (hip flexor). A few players are considered potential question marks, including wide receivers Derrick Mason (dislocated finger), Demetrius Williams (right hamstring), tight end Todd Heap (lower back), offensive tackle Jared Gather (trapezius), free safety Ed Reed (nerve impingement), defensive end Trevor Pryce (foot) and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (sprained toe). Heap, Williams and Gaither have all said that they will play tonight.