The regular season finally kicks off as the Baltimore hosts our first Monday Night Football game since 2007.
Grab yourself a few Natty Boh’s before you watch the game and these major storylines:
Will We See Bryant McKinnie?
It’s been a wild week for McKinnie who had a very brief, very public dispute with the Ravens when asked to reduce his $3.2 million base salary.
McKinnie was assumed to start at left tackle, but after the team requesting he take less money and on the heels of Kelechi Osemele’s comments saying that he expects to start at right tackle, it looks like McKinnie will find himself starting the season on the bench. With Osemele at right tackle, Michael Oher would move to left, where McKinnie would be listed as his backup.
The offensive line has been one of the major storylines throughout the offseason and the fact that there is one more late twist should surprise nobody and make everyone a bit nervous all at the same time.
The Unveiling of Dean Pees’s Defensive Scheme
The Ravens defense has received plenty of criticism for not being able to apply much pressure to opposing quarterbacks throughout the preseason.
Terrell Suggs’ injury and Courtney Upshaw’s slower than expected transition to the NFL game have combined to give many fans cause for concern. The Ravens have been playing very vanilla defensive packages so far and even though they’re not doing anything special, they haven’t been able to win many of their 1-on-1 matchups either.
Hopefully some of Pees’s schemes will afford the Ravens pass rush some lanes to fluster Andy Dalton.
How Does Justin Tucker Handle His NFL Debut?
Tucker won over many fans initially because his name wasn’t ‘Billy Cundiff’ but the rookie from Texas has proven his foot is something not to be ignored.
After being given the starting duties after an impressive full-game performance during the team’s 3rd preseason game, Tucker will be under the lights again, this time with the whole country watching.
Tucker seems to be cool, calm and collected while kicking and doesn’t seem to fold under pressure so far. As someone who kicked at a high profile college (Texas), he’s been in situations under the national spotlight before.
Will Joe Flacco Silence Critics?
The first half performance Flacco displayed during the Ravens 3rd preseason game versus Jacksonville was on par with what he has shown during training camp this season. Something is different with Flacco and it appears as if he’s taken a major step and could be ready to put himself in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks.
Flacco is poised and the ball is flying out of his hands. He now has more weapons on the outside that possess some serious speed in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. The fifth-year starter has one of the strongest arms in the NFL and if his speedy receivers can get behind the secondary, he’s in for a big season.
Hopefully that gets off on the right foot this evening.
How Will Anquan Boldin Look In The Slot?
At this stage of his career, Boldin is better suited inside the numbers as opposed to outside of them. The addition of the speedy Jones lined up outside with Smith should free up Boldin underneath the defense as he’s also guarded by opposing nickel corners instead of the primary guys he’s used to facing.
Boldin should be able to flourish in the slot, and he is absolutely expected to improve upon his 2011 season, where he only found the end zone three times.
How Will A Thinner Linebacker Corps Translate?
Most of the time when people comment about being ‘thin’ in football, it’s for lack of depth. In this case, Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain both thought they could improve the pass-coverage portion of their games if they were lighter on their feet. Both have slimmed down noticeably from a season ago.
The preseason didn’t allow for much of a look at how the weight loss would effect the middle of the Ravens’ defense, but Lewis has been playing football long enough to know how he needs to adapt.
While the pass defense should improve with faster linebackers, the rush defense will need to step it up, especially on the defensive line. Losing Jarret Johnson to free agency and Terrell Suggs to injury obviously won’t help matters. The heavies up front will have to play disciplined and fill their gaps.
Lewis’ main reason for losing weight was because he didn’t have to prepare for too many collisions with 250-pound fullbacks in the current NFL. However, his body also may no longer be built to take as many crushing blows from the running game.
Just one more thing to keep an eye on.