1. Will the Baltimore Ravens’ defense exploit New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez?
Regardless of who’s running the defense, the Ravens have a tradition of giving rookie passers a rough initiation into the NFL. Sanchez is a talented young player, but he’s never seen a defense like this before. It will be interesting to see what kind of strategy and verbal tactics veterans like middle linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed employ to try to fluster the former USC star. Sanchez is a savvy rookie, but is probably overmatched in this encounter.
2. How competitive will this game be given the presence of popular former Ravens defensive boss Rex Ryan on the opposing sideline?
The intensity figures to be cranked up in an unusual way for this time of year. Ryan’s pride is still stinging after being passed over for the head coaching job that went to John Harbaugh. Remember how he parked his red pickup truck in the designated head coach’s space for his interview with Steve Bisciotti and other team officials? For Ryan, this is no ordinary preseason game and he’ll treat it as such as his pride is wrapped up in this one. To a lesser extent, the Ravens will be extremely motivated to prove that life goes on without Ryan under the direction of new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Plus, former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott’s barbs should get things going.
3. Will wide receiver Justin Harper start catching the football on a consistent basis?
Shaky hands have overshadowed some of the terrific plays that the former Virginia Tech player is capable of generating. And inconsistency is why Harper trails steadier veteran Kelley Washington for the fourth wide receiver position. Harper has all the requisite physical tools, but remains an enigma as far as getting the job done play after play.
4. Is rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb pushing for an expanded special-teams role?
If Webb continues to flash athleticism and sound judgment on returns, he could wind up pushing veteran newcomer Chris Carr for some of his duties returning punts and kickoffs. Webb is also in the running for the nickel back job since Samari Rolle remains sidelined with a neck injury. Webb is dangerous in the open field with the football in his hands. Carr needs to perform better than he did against the Washington Redskins.
5. Who’s in and who’s out of the lineup?
Not expected to play: outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (heel, Achilles’ tendon), wide receiver Mark Clayton (strained left hamstring), offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (right leg), inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (sprained medial collateral ligament) and Rolle, who remains on the physically unable to perform list. Offensive guards Marshal Yanda (knee) and Chris Chester (right calf strain) are potential scratches.