Football is here, ok well preseason football, but it's football nonetheless and we finally get to see the defending Super Bowl Champions in action tonight as the Baltimore Ravens open their preseason schedule against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With most of the starters likely to see little time on the field, here are the five players you should be watching tonight.
Baltimore's starters are expected to play a few series and at the most, the first quarter, and the preseason is honestly a way for coaches to find out who are going to be the final players to be added to the 53 man roster.
Let's take a look at the five players that we feel Ravens fans should be looking for tonight when we watch our Ravens take the field.
Ok, so we mentioned the starters won't play long, but Ravens fans need to keep an eye on Smith tonight. He is currently listed as the starting middle linebacker "mike" meaning the one with the headset in his helmet and calling the plays on defense. The middle linebacking core has been one of the biggest question marks this offseason for Baltimore, and Smith has been very impressive thus far. The former Jacksonville Jaguar is a veteran presence in the middle and may be the best under the radar move by GM Ozzie Newsome this offseason.
We here at Ravens101 have been praising the fourth round selection out of Harvard since he was drafted back in April and for good reason. Juszczyk is one of the more versatile players on the Ravens roster as he is a bit of a hybrid fullback that can play tight end, block, and also run and catch the ball. Once Baltimore lost TE Dennis Pitta for the season due to his dislocated/fractured hip, we instantly informed you how important Juszczyk is to this offense this season. He should be a fun player to watch, and should see a good amount of playing time tonight.
The first round selection out of the University of Florida, the safety is currently listed as number two on the depth chart behind James Ihedigbo and should get some time tonight to show how much of DC Dean Pees' defensive scheme he has learned, and how he can make adjustments on the fly in gametime situations. It is still expected that Elam will likely be a starter at some point this season, if not week 1, but Baltimore will get to see their first round choice in action for the first time tonight.
Perhaps the best position battle in training camp thus far has been the battle for the starting center position as Baltimore looks to fill the void left by the retiring Matt Birk. If you are looking for a starter playing a half in this game, look no further than the center position. Gradkowski and Shipley will likely each play a half in this game as Head Coach John Harbaugh tries to figure out who will be the best option to snap the ball to quarterback Joe Flacco. Gradkowski is currently listed as the starter, but the four preseason games are going to go a long way in determining who gets the starting nod come week 1.
Outside of Torrey Smith, and maybe Jacoby Jones, the wide receiver position is absolutely wide open and tonight we are going to get the opportunity to see several guys run in and out of the game as Baltimore looks to begin to narrow down the vast amount of receivers vying for roster spots. Tandon Doss, David Reed, Tommy Streeter, Deonte Thompson and Aaron Mellette are among the group we will get to see tonight and do not be surprised to see Jones play a little longer than most of the starters as it is not a given that Jones will be a starter come week 1 if he gets beat out.
Ok, so this isn't exactly a list of five players, but when it comes to preseason, these are the types of players and position battles that make the games more fun to watch. Ravens fans should be excited to see some of the newcomers and draft picks tonight as we will get our first glimpse of the 2013 Baltimore Ravens.
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