In AD 2013, Off-season was beginning.
John Harbaugh: What happen?
Ozzie Newsome: Somebody set us up the McClain.
Dan Cass: We get phone call.
Cass: Teleconference speaker answer.
Ozzie: It’s you!!
Roger Goodell: How are you gentlemen. All your free agents are belong to us. You’re on the way to destruction.
Ozzie: What you say!!
Goodell: All too late! You have no chance to win Super Bowls this time. Ha ha ha ha…
Ozzie: Cut every old, high priced player. You know what you are doing. Move Boldin. For great justice.
Well, now that’s out of the way, time for the Ravens’ first game this preseason!
The avid fan should pay attention to the position battles in the coming games. There is a big battle for the 2nd starting CB position between former 1st round pick Jimmy Smith and surprisingly effective Corey Graham, who signed last year for special teams but became our top starting CB in the playoffs.
This will be Smith’s 3rd year with the team since drafted in 2011. He showed better playing ability during the end of last season, although he was involved with an almost penalty in last minutes of the Super Bowl. The Ravens already have parted ways with Cary Williams, who mainly us Ravens fans knew to be prone to both penalties and giving up big plays. (He also could have been called for a penalty in the Super Bowl, which occurred during a scuffle and he pushed an official. This is normally an automatic ejection.) Now it’s time for Smith to step up into a starting role as the 3rd season is normally the make-or-break year for players.
If you’ve been paying attention to the training camp, you would notice the number of injuries affecting our tight ends. Dennis Pitta has been placed on the injured reserve (IR) and Ed Dickson is currently working through a little hamstring injury currently. That leaves the Ravens with Billy Bajema, the 3rd tight end last year, and newly signed Visanthe Shiancoe (who is a 10 year veteran and Morgan State alum). Dickson has a big chance at becoming one of the top players for receiving Flacco’s passes this year now that Pitta can’t play. Early on in his career, Dickson was seen as the better blocker and Pitta the better receiver. Both showed great competency in receiving last year, occurring at the same time as the new trend in the NFL is having two athletic TEs starting in a spread-like offense. (New England has made this quite popular.)
Flacco may have some difficulty against a revamped Buccaneer defense that includes former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson and former DPOY Darrelle Revis, who has been considered the best cornerback in the league the last couple of years. Other than that, the Tampa Bay defense hasn’t had the same potency as it did in the Warren Sapp years. Back then, they also rode the top defense to a Super Bowl win along with game-manager QB Brad Johnson. (The defense changed teams throughout the league, birthing the Tampa Cover-2 defense scheme which is widely used and landed Tony Dungy a head coach position with the Colts). The parallels between the 2000 Baltimore defense and the 2002 Tampa Bay defense are outstanding.
Of course, as this is preseason, don’t expect to see the starters for much more than a quarter of play tonight. Especially since this is the 1st game, you will see many undrafted, 1st year, and practice squad players playing the majority of the 2nd half of the game. The first two preseason games are mainly an evaluation for fringe players to see who should be retained when rosters are trimmed down to the 53 player limit.
The Ravens are one of the few teams in the league who frequently find success with undrafted players almost every season. Either that, or they have to cut certain undrafted players as their roster is too full and said players may be snatched up by other teams. This happens just about every single season ever since the Ravens signed former undrafted running back Priest Holmes who was eventually let go and started for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Remember that tonight the game is on at 7:30pm (however it’s blacked out in Tampa).
Enjoy the game and go Ravens!