xml:space="preserve">

After watching the Ravens out in Westminster over the past couple of weeks, I'm looking forward to seeing them, as linebacker Jameel McClain put it, "take out our camp frustrations on another team." The outcome of the game doesn't really matter, but there will be plenty of things to keep an eye on at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night -- and I'm not just talking about the Ravens cheerleaders and those new HD video boards.

Here are the five main things I will be focusing on from the press box:

Advertisement

1. The first-team offense: Joe Flacco and the gang will only play two or three series, but after the offense got hyped up all offseason, Baltimore is eager to see what the Ravens offense can do against the Panthers. Flacco has clicked with Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth in camp, and he still has great chemistry with Derrick Mason.

I expect the Ravens to use the precious early possessions to spread the ball around and continue to get the passing game in sync. Putting a touchdown on the board would be a nice bonus.

2. The Ravens' pu-pu platter at cornerback: This one is a no-brainer. With Domonique Foxworth out for the season and Lardarius Webb not yet back from his own ACL tear, all eyes should have been on Fabian Washington and Chris Carr, the Ravens' likely Week 1 starters. But it looks like neither guy will play (the Ravens will probably hold out Washington as a precautionary measure and Carr has a hamstring injury).

Believe it or not, that could be a positive. Guys like Travis Fisher, Cary Williams and Prince Miller will get a chance to show us all something in live action. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said two weeks ago that he expects someone to step up. So who's it going to be?

3. The newcomers on the defensive line: The big addition -- take that however you'd like -- is second-round pick Terrence Cody. I'll be watching him closely against Carolina to see how his conditioning holds up. I'm also curious to see how defensive end Cory Redding fits in, and I'm extra curious to see how a bulked-up Paul Kruger, a linebacker a year ago, fares in a three-point stance.

Last season, the Ravens ranked fifth in the NFL in rush defense, allowing 93.2 yards per game. If their offseason additions to the defensive line pan out, the Ravens should improve in that area in 2010. But the Ravens will need more quarterback pressure from the interior, too, to bail out the banged-up secondary. We'll see if these guys can smack Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen around Thursday.

4. Ed Dickson: The Ravens' third-round pick has been very impressive during camp. He's fast and athletic for a tight end, and he has made several tough catches over the middle in practice. If he can translate that to game action, he will press veteran Todd Heap for more playing time.

5. A crowded receiving corps: Many people are slamming GM Ozzie Newsome for the team's cornerback issues, but he deserves credit for significantly upgrading the weapons around Flacco. In one offseason, he turned the Ravens' biggest weakness into an area of strength. We know Boldin, Mason and Stallworth are roster locks. And I'd be shocked if Mark Clayton didn't make the team, too (unless he's traded for help at cornerback).

That means Demetrius Williams, Justin Harper, Marcus Smith, Eron Riley and rookie David Reed are battling for one or two roster spots. They'll mostly be evaluated on what they do during these preseason games, so keep a close eye on them throughout. And they better make the most of their game time with Marc Bulger, because third-string quarterback Troy Smith has fallen apart in training camp. The third- and fourth-string receivers may have a better chance of catching his passes if they sit in the bleachers down the right sideline.

Here's a shameless self-shoutout: I'll be on 98 Rock at 5:15 p.m. tonight as part of their Ravens pregame coverage. Tune in. I promise that you "um" will enjoy it, "definitely."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement