Halfway through the preseason, the Baltimore Ravens will host the Washington Redskins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. With the regular season just two weeks away, starters should expect to play two to three whole quarters.
The corner battle is still one to watch this week, especially without the top three. Starters Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and backup Asa Jackson will not be playing Saturday. This gives Chykie Brown a major opportunity to step up, especially if he still wants the third corner spot. Brown went into training camp the most likely to win that position, but Jackson has outperformed Brown over the past few weeks. Brown will be on the field for a great amount of time Saturday, which should help his chances in the regular season.
On the offensive side, I’m always excited to see rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. He has really been fighting to stay on the roster and I hope to see him have a lot of playing time Saturday. If Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce have another rough year, I expect to see Taliaferro becoming a significant part of the offensive line. Hopefully Pierce shows some improvement, especially before the first two weeks of the regular season without Rice.
Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe has not met expectations so far this preseason. He’s normally seen as the best offensive lineman on the team, but this year he has room for improvement before the regular season begins. As the left tackle, Monroe needs to better protect Joe Flacco’s blindside. The Redskins have two pass-rushers, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, who recorded a combined 18.5 sacks in 2013. This pair will be a solid test for Monroe.
The backup quarterback competition is another interesting one, and some are starting to doubt rookie Keith Wenning’s spot on the roster. Fourth-year backup Tyrod Taylor has been impressive so far, and will probably receive more playing time than Wenning Saturday. Last weekend in Dallas, Wenning went 2-4 for 23 yards and lost a fumble while being sacked. Although Taylor rarely has time on the field in regular season, he is proving his talent and athleticism as a powerful No. 2.
Rick Wagner officially earned the starting right tackle spot, so he should play a big role in Saturday’s game against the Redskins as well as throughout the season. He’s on his way to become even better. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is another player to watch, even though he only had two catches for nine yards last week. He shows great improvements every time he’s on the field and although he won’t be Flacco’s first target, he will make a difference.
Both teams are undefeated after two weeks, but the Redskins have never won a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium. This will be a “dress rehearsal” type game, at least through the first half. I don’t think it will be an easy game Saturday, but I hope to see the offense and defense make some strong moves. This is the most the starters will play this preseason, so we should get a decent idea of how the team looks.
“We’re not striving for freshness right now,” Coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re striving for strength, and that’s what we’re trying to build into our football team right now.”