Saturday night, the Ravens will be taking part in what will be a “dress rehearsal” atmosphere for the veterans as they welcome the Redskins down the beltway to Baltimore.
Fans can argue the preseason is too long and could be shortened to just two games. Regardless of that outcry, each exhibition is a measuring stick for the coaches and younger players who are trying to keep their jobs before the team cuts down to a final 53 by August 30th.
As far as how veterans approach the third preseason contest, they understand the game will be the heaviest workload as far as playing time. Most players want to get the kinks out now because once week one arrives, the mistakes need to be at a minimum.
“It’s the last practice before the real thing. So, you go out there, you approach it, you prepare like it’s a game week. Smith said. “Obviously, we’re familiar with [the Redskins]; we played them a couple years ago. It’s going to be fun getting ready for the real thing. Time is flying,” Smith said.
The Redskins game will also be another indicator of how having Steve Smith Sr. on the team, can provide Torrey Smith a chance for bigger plays, and open the field up. Smith sounds very pleased with how Kubiak’s playbook is constructed. Especially after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.
“It’s definitely built, timing-wise, and trying to get you the ball and let you work in space, which I love because I can get the ball quick. It’s a lot of room, and I feel like I can trust my speed to create some big plays.”
Other aspects to take note of during the game will be who shows up at the Cornerback position. The lack of depth is a legitimate concern. Jimmy Smith has been battling a bruised chest and will be absent for the game, Lardarius Webb is still fighting a lingering back injury that has kept him out of practice since mid-July, he’ll remain sidelined for the rest of the preseason. The team is not shying away that CB is an emphasis of need. Head Coach John Harbaugh did stress that Deji Olatoye and Sammy Seamster who both singed as rookie free agents in May, have shown flashes of progression during camp, and given that the top three corners are out, the younger ones get a chance to shine.
“They’re raw, they’re guys coming from small schools and they’re free agents for a reason, but they have upside. They’re developmental guys that we like,” Harbaugh said.
On the positive side, despite the Ravens allowing six sacks in the first two games of the preseason, the starting offensive line has not allowed one. That is an essential note since Flacco was sacked 48 times in 2013, tying for the 4th highest in the NFL. Buffalo (6-10), Cleveland (4-12), Jacksonville 4-12), and Miami (8-8) were the only teams who gave up more sacks in ’13 than the Ravens. The Ravens have stressed that protecting the QB will have to be a focal point in order for the offense to excel in 2014. Even if the O-line struggled last year, which seems to be a thing of the past, as the man behind center is very confident with his O-line heading into the 2014 season.
“I feel great behind them right now. I don’t know what that says. I always feel comfortable behind them on Sunday. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it. I feel great. They’re playing really well; they’re playing really fast. They’re mentally freed up to the point where they can just go be physical. As an offensive lineman, that’s a big thing, because that’s your No. 1 job. When you don’t get to do that and you’re kind of sitting back and trying to sort things out, then things can go the wrong way. That’s not happening,” Flacco said.
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