By Ken Murray
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I'm all for letting established veterans on defense take a pass on this final preseason game. It doesn't serve any purpose at all for guys like Kelly Gregg and Chris McAlister to be out there. We know what they can do.
But the Ravens don't have that luxury on offense. The quarterback situation aside, their starting tackles have hardly played. If Jared Gaither is going to protect the blind side for Troy Smith or Joe Flacco, he had better get some serious repetitions or Cam Cameron is going to have to plant a tight end beside him the whole season. Can you spell IR?
Gaither's competency/health will have a domino effect on the line. If he can't get it done, right tackle Adam Terry has to move to the left side and guard Marshal Yanda might wind up at tackle. Terry's best on the right side and Yanda is better at guard, so you can expect repercussions.
The offensive line needs the continuity it wasn't able to get in training camp. Except for a couple of nifty runs by Ray Rice, the running game sputtered. Who knows when Willis McGahee is going to show up. Or how long he'll hang around.
The receivers? Give Derrick Mason the night off because he's the only threat the Ravens have. The rest of the wide-outs should stay on the field until the cows come home or the Ravens find some guys who can catch.
As much as you want to avoid injuries, you have to remember that there's no switch to throw on opening day that makes this a viable offense. John Harbaugh started camp as a tough guy with lots of hitting. Let's end it that way. Let the first-team offense play for at least a half. And don't let Flacco go any longer than that. You saw what happened to Kyle Boller when he had to play behind the second line.
Why take a chance on injury?
By Edward Lee
Why should the Ravens play their starters for more than a quarter tonight and jeopardize their seasons by inviting injury? Why should the Ravens sacrifice the entire regular season just to see whether their offense can score points and churn out yards against the Falcons' backups and training camp fodder?
Some of the Atlanta players won't even be in the league after Saturday. They might try to make a run at a few of the Ravens' injured starters. That's a temptation the Ravens can squash.
Let's not forget that tonight's game is a preseason contest that means absolutely nothing. If the Ravens win, will anyone remember that the team capped the 2008 preseason with a victory and a 2-2 mark? A better question might be, will anyone care?
In 2006, the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals and New York Giants finished the preseason with identical 4-0 records. All three finished the regular season at 8-8. Only the Giants advanced to the playoffs, and they were bounced in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Indianapolis Colts parlayed a 1-3 preseason mark into a 12-4 regular season record and a Super Bowl win.
If you told me that a win tonight guarantees a playoff berth in January, I would say go for it. But as we all have learned, there are no guarantees in the NFL.
So sit back, prop up your feet and watch tonight's game with nary a worry. That's what the Ravens' starters should be doing.
What do you think? Get in on the argument by commenting below.