Written by BSR Contributor Cody Colston
Football is back! Well, sort of. First, we need to suffer through preseason, which isn’t all that bad. Preseason games and training camp are very instrumental in determining both the 53-man roster and the final depth chart.
So for the next four weeks, I’ll be outlining some things to keep an eye on during the games, starting with the offense.
With the departure of Anquan Boldin, there is a spot up for grabs. Jacoby Jones might be the clear favorite for the number two job but that leaves the number three job open. Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, David Reed and LaQuan Williams, Aaron Mellette, and Tommy Streeter are all in the mix for not just a spot on the depth chart but a roster spot. Seeing as the Ravens won’t carry eight-plus wide receivers, someone is going to be the odd man out. My dark horse is Streeter, with his size and speed, he’s going to be someone you’ll want to watch.
With the loss of Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson is the clear favorite for the starting job, but he suffered a slight hamstring tear and is out at least a week. So that leaves veterans Visanthe Shiancoe and Billy Bajema, H-Back Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk, and the speedy Matt Furstenberg. It’s another situation about fighting for a roster spot since it’s useless to carry five tight ends but an exception might be made for ‘Juice’ since he is technically an H-Back. It’ll be interesting to see how they use ‘Juice’ and, with his speed, Furstenberg should open some eyes.
A competition mainly between Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley after the retirement of Matt Birk, it has been said it’s Gradkowski’s job to lose. Shipley started four games for the Colts last year and was mainly traded for depth and as competition for Gradkowski.
Joe Flacco has praised Gradkowski, saying, “Gino has done a great job last year of picking the offense up…” and has to adjust to the height difference between Birk and Gradkowski, “I know I loved taking the snap from Matt because I could basically stand straight up because he was so high.” Flacco said. Not as big as the last two competitions, a good Center is instrumental to a having a good offensive line, and just as important.
Struggling with weight issues the past two offseasons, Bryant McKinnie was very important to the Ravens’ Super Bowl run, shutting down pass rushers, Aldon Smith, Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, and Rob Ninkovich. McKinnie has come into camp overweight, again, and couldn’t finish his first practice. Kelechi Osemele or Jah Reid would be next in line for the left tackle, Reid more so seeing as Osemele has found a home at left guard.
While I expect McKinnie to bounce back and Ravens’ columnist John Eisenberg – has said he already has - watching him is a low priority on the watch list.
Coming off an impressive rookie season with 108 carries and 532 yards and 1 TD, Bernard Pierce will be looking to improve on that. Pierce is an excellent complement to Ray Rice, Pierce being a big bruiser, and ‘north-and-south’ runner, while Rice tends run around and out run the defense.
Expect Pierce to get a lot of hand offs in the red zone and short yardage situations to give Rice a breather. Pierce will get a lot of time during preseason to ‘wow’ the coaches, but don’t expect him to take Rice’s job, only show he’s worthy of more carries.
Follow Cody on Twitter @The_OtherCody.