The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will square off tonight in Baltimore for their first preseason game of the 2014-’15 season.
This will be the first time the two have met on the field since the memorable Super Bowl XLVII where the Ravens held off the 49ers to bring home their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, in a 34-31 victory.
Being that it’s preseason, this game obviously doesn’t carry the same amount of weight as a Super Bowl, but it’s still a pretty important showcase for both teams. This is especially important for a Ravens team that missed the playoffs last season following that Lombardi trophy.
Here’s five things to watch for in tonight’s preseason opener for the Ravens:
1. Ray Rice
Throughout training camp and in the days leading up to tonight, it’s been veteran running back Ray Rice who has been the talk of the town, and not necessarily for the right reasons. Outside of the fact that he’s coming off of a quadricep injury and his lowest career numbers, he’s been in headlines for reasons he would like move past forever.
After receiving a two-game suspension for his incident back in February, fans and critics await his return to the field. Tonight, we’ll all be watching as Rice runs out of that tunnel ready to take some snaps.
2. Steve Smith Sr.
Steve Smith Sr. has played a preseason game in just one uniform in his 13-year tenure in the NFL. But by the end of tonight, that will all change.
Watch to see how well he gels with Joe Flacco and primary receiver Torrey Smith. Who knows, don’t be surprised if you see a couple plays from him worthy of a SportsCenter Top Ten nomination.
3. Offensive Line
The Ravens running game took a hit last season, but much of the blame was given to the line’s lack of production. However it wasn’t just the run game. The offensive line struggled to give enough time in the pocket last season, which contributed to Flacco being sacked a career-high 48 times.
Going into this season, the Ravens need to change this. They made a few adjustments during the offseason, and we’ll have a chance to see tonight whether or not those changes were for the better. Although it should be noted that the offense shouldn’t be measured by one preseason performance — more on that later.
4. Terrell Suggs
In a recent interview, Suggs told the media that he wanted the Ravens defense to get back to their “violent ways,” referring to the tenacity they’ve been known for over the years.
He might have relayed a message to the media that also needs to register in him. He wasn’t the most vocal last season, and didn’t necessarily take Ray Lewis’ torch as a leader. We’ll have to watch to see if he’ll be ready to set the tone for his defense come tonight. By all accounts, he’s looked great thus far.
5. Kubiak’s offense
The final thing to watch for in tonight’s preseason game will be the offense that new offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak, installed during the offseason. After undergoing such a change this offseason, all eyes will be on the offense’s fluidity, and the players’ apparent comfort in the system and schemes.
As mentioned previously though, as it’s Week 1 of the Preseason, there is still time to tie off loose ends.
This preseason opener features two teams expected to contend for the playoffs, so it should be interesting to watch. However, for Ravens fans and critics, the reform of this team’s reputation after a down season is what’s most interesting… and that all starts tonight at M&T Bank Stadium.