Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Few Things to Watch for Tonight Ravens/Redskins Preview (Preseason)

Ah, the return of the "Battle of the Beltway" series that we've seen in the last few years in both football and baseball. There is no rivalry really though (except in the minds of some marketing executives who have plenty of t-shirts to sell, some in the media who have an easy story to write and a few fans who are stuck with the notion that Jack Kent Cooke kept Baltimore from getting a football team for a few years or Peter Angelos kept baseball out of DC). If anything, by being so close to one another, both franchises have helped each other over the years. There's less travel when each team is playing in the pre-season and both teams have moved players between each other over the years.

The good news out of all of this is that I know what the Ravens are bringing to the table when they come to FedEx. That's because I know a great deal about the team. For the most part, you can't live in the DC/Maryland/Delaware area without hearing something about the Ravens. They split time with the Skins on Training Camp Daily and with the Orioles (for now, but maybe not in the next few years) being perennial losers, the Ravens are the only thing going in Baltimore sports. Plus, SHD is a die hard Raven's fan, so I thought it would be only fair to know who's on his roster and what they're up to (since he follows the Skins). If anything, the Skins will have a good challenge on their hands on Saturday and that's welcome to see where the Skins stand against more elite teams.

The Ravens come to FedEx as potential Super Bowl contenders. It's true. The AFC has only a handful of teams that I would consider being in Dallas in February (the Colts, Jets, Bengals, Patriots and Chargers being the other teams) and the Ravens have to be right up there. I have told SHD a few times that if the Ravens make the playoffs and don't face the Colts, they have a great chance of being there and he pretty much agrees with me. This year, Baltimore has a very strong offense to go along with their notorious defense. The Ravens added more weapons at the WR and TE positions (notables include Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth and Ed Dickson) to already go with a top caliber RB in Ray Rice.

As you probably know by now, wins and losses mean little to nothing in pre-season. But for this game, what you want to look for is execution- especially by the 1st and 2nd string players. Mike Shanahan has said that the starters should be in approximately 30-35 plays and this should give everyone a good opportunity to see where many players stand as the Skins head to their dress rehearsal next week against the Jets.
 There are some very interesting matchups to watch and here are just a few worth noting:

Brian Orakpo vs. Michael Oher- two of last year's highly touted rookies face each other for the first time tonight. It will be an interesting battle to see if Oher can handle Orakpo's power and speed or if Orakpo will get shut down by Oher's nasty skill set.

Trent Williams vs. Terrell Suggs- Williams will get his first serious test at LT as he faces DE/OLB Terrell Suggs who is coming off a lackluster 2009.

Redskins Secondary vs. Ravens WR/TE corp- The secondary looks like it has gotten better from the 2009 unit but tonight they get a great challenge in facing the Ravens new receivers. Last week DeAngelo Hall and Lendy Holmes caught INTs and the Bills pass game struggled. It won't be nearly as easy this week.

Redskins WR/TE corp. vs. Ravens Secondary- The Ravens have a very, very weak secondary thanks to some major injuries from the 2009 season and 2010 training camp. Matter of fact, if the Ravens falter this year it may be this unit as a reason. Cooley and Davis should get some opportunities. I'm looking at the WR corp to step up and make some more plays tonight. Whoever can take this weakness to their advantage has a better chance of making the final 53 man roster.

Redskins interior O-line vs. Terrence Cody and Haloti Ngata- Fans and media have criticized Casey Rabach in previous years for getting blown off the line by the bigger DTs/NTs. Tonight, Rabach, Dockery and Hicks face two very big dominating players in rookie Terrence "Mt." Cody and Haloti Ngata. Keep an eye on if the can move the pile on their runs and if the pocket collapses in the middle on pass plays.

Players to Watch
Larry Johnson- Last week he didn't get to play against the Bills (coach's decision) and this week he wants to show what he can do against the Ravens. Johnson has had a complete 180 change since he has come to the Redskins (similar to what's been going on with DeAngelo Hall) and the word out of camp is that he has impressed many with his commitment to the team and his game.

Willie Parker- Also didn't play last week (coach's decision). Unlike Johnson, Parker has a great deal to prove as many (including me) are speculating that he won't be on the final 53 man roster. Parker knows the Ravens personally from his Steeler days and will need to use that to his advantage to excel.

Devin Thomas- Started slow but eventually showed why the Skins think he could be an elite WR in the NFL. He did well with the 2nd team and needs to prove he can do the same things with the starters.

Anthony Armstrong- Had two good catches and a TD with the starters last week. Also looked good as a blocker. Needs to improve upon the performance and work to earn that roster spot.

Brandon Banks- Had an amazing pre-season game against the Bills. That said, he'll have to continue to do this and show he can take the occasional hit if he's to make the roster. Also, needs to show that he won't drop punts.

Jammal Brown- Makes his debut as the Redskins RT. How he looks now and continues to improve as we get to the season opener will determine how far this team will go this year.

Ryan Torain vs. Keiland Williams pt.2-  Last week both impressed. They need to keep forcing the coaches to make a tough decision.

Byron Westbrook vs. Justin Tryon- Only a month ago, many though Westbrook would have to really step up to beat out somebody for a roster spot. Today, it looks like Tryon is going to have to really step up in order to hold off Westbrook as the #5 corner.

Backup O-linemen- Stephon Heyer, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chad Rinehart, William Robinson, Edwin Williams, Will Montgomery, Clint Oldenburg. The depth looks better than last year, but right now there is no guarantee that many of these guys will be here after cuts. The 2nd/3rd stringers looked rough at times last week.

Lendy Holmes- Led the team in tackles last week and had an INT. Could he he have a chance to make the roster?

Darrel Young- Had a nice game blocking. Not something the average fan notices unless you really knock a guy on his butt, but looked good. While I doubt the Skins will keep 2 FBs (Mike Sellers is a lock), Young could make the Skins PS or at least impress another team.

Richard Bartel- Missed last week (hamstring) but should be back this week and he has to show a great deal to make the final 53.

Quick Hits
- It's very doubtful that we'll see Malcolm Kelly this week. He will have to get healthy quick or his days in DC will be over.
- Mike Furrey heading to the IR (concussion). Skins roster goes back to 79.
- Albert Haynesworth is having headaches and missing practice. To Mike Shanahan, Haynesworth is a headache. He'll be playing tonight I believe, but I wouldn't be surprised it's with the 2nd team again.
- I also doubt we'll see Chris Horton (toe) tonight, but could be wrong about that.

Game thoughts and Recap either tonight or Sunday morning.

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