Pre-snap read: Ravens v. Chiefs

August 19, 2011|By Matt Vensel

We’re eight days removed from the Ravens’ first preseason game, a sloppy 13-6 loss to the Eagles. The Ravens immediately addressed one issue the following day with the trade for wide receiver Lee Evans, but plenty of questions still remain as the Ravens host the Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium on Friday night.

Will the offensive line play better? How will the new guys fit in? Will kickoffs continue to be insanely boring?

We may get some answers Friday night, or at least some hints at what those answers may be when the Steelers come to town in Week 1. Here are five storylines to watch as the Ravens take on the Chiefs.

1. All eyes will be on the offensive line. And we’re probably not going to like what we see. The Ravens will be without starting center Matt Birk and guard Marshal Yanda. Bryan Mattison will be in at center, Oniel Cousins will be moved inside to guard and rookie Jah Reid will remain at right tackle. That’s why you probably shouldn’t judge the Ravens too harshly on their performance unless they get quarterback Joe Flacco killed in the first quarter. Hopefully the offensive line can make some progress -- getting the ground game going would be a good start -- but this isn’t going to be the group we see when the games actually count.

2. Old faces, new places. The Kansas City Ravens storyline got played up a lot this week with Kelly Gregg, Le’Ron McClain and Jared Gaiter joining a Chiefs team that the Ravens wrecked in the playoffs. But it isn’t as juicy as it would be if this were the regular season. It will be weird seeing those guys wearing red and white during the warm-ups. But after the opening coin toss, we’re going to forget they’re out there and focus on the Ravens' issues.

3. Jimmy Smith makes his Baltimore debut. The rookie cornerback made a brief cameo in the loss to the Eagles. We should get an extended look at him Friday night as the Ravens try to gauge whether he will be ready to start against the Steelers. If I’m John Harbaugh, I stick the first-rounder on Dwayne Bowe right from the get-go and see if he passes the test. The Chiefs wide receiver has good size and strength and had 15 touchdown catches in 2010.

4. Ditto for Ricky Williams and Lee Evans. Williams, whom the Ravens signed early last week, was held out of the preseason opener for precautionary reasons. Meanwhile, Evans joined the team less than 24 hours after the game. I doubt we see either player for more than a quarter, but I can’t wait to see how they fit in, especially Evans. You think Cam Cameron will dial up a bomb to Evans to try to appease the hometown crowd?

5. Can Paul Kruger and Serio Kindle keep it going? Kruger and Kindle -- that sounds like a law firm -- were two bright spots from the loss to the Eagles. Kruger had five tackles and a sack. Kindle was all over the place -- which isn’t always a good thing -- but Kindle even being on the field was a victory in itself. The Ravens didn’t address the pass rush in the offseason. Instead, they are banking on these two former second-round picks and other youngsters like Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones to contribute. We’ll see against the Chiefs if these guys can build on last week’s performance.

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