Tonight is game 3 of the preseason, often referred to as the Opening Day dress rehearsal.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. There’s little to no game planning, just many subplots as players either work to refine their game in preparation for the start of the regular season while avoiding injury or they are fighting for their careers.
This is the reason why some journeymen players are often preseason stars and seldom suit up on Sundays – provided they make the team.
That’s why the preseason is a lie. It’s a mirage and a lure into a false sense of security or unnecessary panic.
Here are a few things to look for
1. Tackling: Since the dawn of the newest edition of the Collective Bargaining Agreement live contact with tackling to the ground during training camp is rather rare. No wonder tackling can look so shoddy, as was the case of Ravens defenders in Dallas last week. The Ravens will look to clean that up tonight. Will they?
2. Matt Elam: He’s looked rather lost. We’ve heard that he would be the safety spending more time in the box but that hasn’t been the case. Perhaps Dean Pees doesn’t want to tip his hand and present the second year former first round pick quite that way during the preseason. But even during practice Elam has been consistently a step or two late and hasn’t made many impactful plays.
3. Back-up O-Line: The starting offensive line is set but which 4 players will carve out their place on the final 53-man roster? Ryan Jensen has been disappointing and John Urschel has been slow to come around. Jah Reid has shown flashes but has been inconsistent while A.Q. Shipley has often been overpowered at the point of attack. Gino Gradkowski has played better than he did in 2013 but then again, he’s facing the 2’s in preseason.
4. Corners: The cupboard is nearly bare and the Ravens starting tandem of Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks will be tested often by RGIII, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Where will the depth at corner come from?
5. Battle for No. 6 WR: Nobody asked me but the givens for the 53-man roster are the Smiths, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro. The 6th spot boils down to a three-way battle that includes Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Butler and Deonte Thompson. Don’t let Thompson’s big game against Dallas deceive you. His splash plays were as a returner not at WR. That job belongs to Jacoby and as a receiver Thompson’s inconsistencies leave him staring up at Aiken and Butler.