Mike Preston: What to watch in Ravens' opener against the Bengals

As the Ravens continue to prepare for the season opener in Cincinnati, here are some things to watch in Sunday’s game:

>> The health of quarterback Joe Flacco and whether his back can hold up. Flacco missed the entire preseason and it is hard to believe that he won’t get hurt again once he starts getting smacked around. But Flacco says he’s fine and ready to go.

>> The offensive line was reshuffled numerous times during the preseason. The Ravens are counting on Ryan Jensen to make the right calls at center while James Hurst, a tackle, is now playing left guard. We need to see if Austin Howard, the right tackle, is in good playing shape after missing extensive time because of a shoulder injury.

>> Receiver Jeremy Maclin is new and it will be interesting to see how much timing he has down with Flacco and how the Ravens use him in the passing game.

>> Danny Woodhead is expected to be the third-down halfback in the offense, but hopefully he won’t become the team’s top receiver if Flacco becomes Mr. Check-down again this season.

>> I want to see the impact of assistant coach Greg Roman on the running game. The Ravens have said they will be more committed and they brought in Roman to strengthen the attack.

>> Defensive end Brent Urban had a strong preseason, but it will be interesting to see how he plays as a full-time starter. He has played well so far, but quite a few players fade when the lights go on.

>> Linebacker C.J. Mosley will need some help plugging holes in the middle and that will require Kamalei Correa to play well on the weak side. Correa has steadily improved in the preseason, but still had problems shedding blocks. He allows offensive linemen to get into his body.

>> Cornerback Brandon Carr is very cautious, but I am still concerned about him versus the deep ball. It will be interesting to see if cornerback Jimmy Smith plays Bengals receiver A.J. Green all over the field instead of trading off with Carr.

>> The Ravens need a fast start because they always seem to struggle against the Bengals on the road. If they can get after quarterback Andy Dalton early in the game, he could give them a couple of turnovers.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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