TAMPA, Fla. — Most of the Ravens' position battles won't be decided until much later in the preseason, but the starting lineups for Thursday's opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers included no significant surprises.
There were some questions about who would start at middle linebacker, but free-agent pickup Daryl Smith started there and he was the Ravens' most active and effective defensive player in the early going. With Jameel McClain on the physically-unable-to-perform list, Josh Bynes started at weak-side linebacker and made a strong play to sniff out a screen pass in the second quarter, resulting in a Buccaneers' punt.
Terrell Suggs started and played two series at his customary rush linebacker spot with Courtney Upshaw starting on the strong side and playing on running downs and Elvis Dumervil rotating in on passing situations. The overhauled defensive line included Haloti Ngata playing at nose tackle — he played mostly defensive tackle last year — Chris Canty at defensive end and Arthur Jones at defensive tackle. Canty took down Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman for a sack to end Tampa Bay's first drive.
Corey Graham and Jimmy Smith started at cornerback with free-agent acquisition Michael Huff and veteran James Ihedigbo at safety. Rookie first-round pick Matt Elam, who is competing with Ihedigbo for the starting strong safety job, entered the game in the second quarter on defense.
The only real position competitions on offense are at wide receiver and center. As expected, Jacoby Jones started opposite Torrey Smith (Maryland) out wide with Tandon Doss first entering the game when the Ravens went to a three-wide-receiver set.
At center, Gino Gradkowski started and played the first quarter and a half before giving way to A.Q Shipley.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun