Coming off their less-than-inspiring performance in Philadelphia last Thursday, the Ravens will be looking to improve upon more than a couple things in their second preseason tune-up contest.
Coming to town are the Kansas City Chiefs, who have suddenly become “Ravens West” to the Jets’ “Ravens North” and the Redskins’ “Ravens South” this offseason, adding former Ravens Kelly Gregg, Le’Ron McClain, and Jared Gaither to their roster. While the B’More faithful will be eager to give at least two of those guys a nice warm welcome in their returns to Charm City, let’s take a look at what more important issues Ravens fans will be watching for after kickoff.
As always, the Ravens’ main concerns seem to start up front. With Marshal Yanda sitting this one out due to back spasms, public enemy #1 Oneil Cousins will be moved inside to right guard, where he hopes to reverse his fortunes from last week’s awful showing. Jah Reid will get the start at right tackle, where he will have his hands full with Chiefs’ linebacker Tamba Hali, who led the AFC with 14.5 sacks in 2010. On the other side, Michael “False Start” Oher will try to rebound from a similarly dismal performance against Philly, where he was manhandled at times, especially while run blocking.
The Ravens couldn’t block anyone in the preseason opener, regardless of whether they were trying to run the ball or throw it. Let’s hope to see some improvement tonight.
The Ravens’ other most glaring weakness against the Eagles was their inability to wrap up ballcarriers when they had them dead-to-rights. Time and again, Mike Vick, Le’Sean McCoy, and Ronnie Brown slipped out of what should have been tackles-for-losses, and turned the play around for positive – sometimes hugely positive – gains. Ravens’ defenders were in the right place at the right time more often than not, they just couldn’t seal the deal. I’m willing to give them a pass for last week’s effort – rust and all that – but I want to see a much stronger showing of sure-thing tackles here in game #2.
I’m very anxious to see newly acquired wideout Lee Evans in his Ravens debut. Early reports from Evans’ first few practices with the team were that Joe Flacco was having a tough time adjusting to Evans’ speed, throwing behind him or underthrowing him several times. This isn’t surprising – while there have been a burner or two in the WR corps since Joe showed up (Yamon Figurs, Torrey Smith), Flacco hasn’t had anybody with the combination of speed and “polish” running routes for him well…pretty much ever. I’d like to see a sign that Evans and Flacco are adjusting to each other tonight, in the form of a few targets and hopefully at least a catch or two.
Sergio Kindle/Paul Kruger
While it was great to see Sergio Kindle out there on the football field running around and engaging in live contact against Philadelphia, it was Paul Kruger who really caught the eye of Ravens fans. In the never-ending search for a pass rushing compliment to Terrell Suggs, the third-year player from Utah looks like he might finally be ready to step up, recording five tackles and a sack against the Eagles. What we need to start seeing now from Kruger is some consistency – he can’t have a great game one week, then come back and be an invisible man tonight against KC.
As for Kindle, he had himself in good position several times in Philly, but seemed overanxious – understandable, considering his circumstances – which cost him the chance to make a play or two. Watch for him to be a bit less nervous/hyper out there tonight, and hopefully make a more tangible impact.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for preseason game 2. How about you – what will you have your eye on tonight?
And now, just for fun: