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Five things to watch: Ravens v. Giants

Joe Flacco and the first-team offense came under fire in the Ravens' 23-3 preseason win over the Redskins last week. Saturday night, when the Ravens host the Giants -- their opponents from Super Bowl XXXV -- at M&T Bank Stadium, Flacco and the gang will try to work out the kinks.

Here are the five main things I will be focusing on from the press box, and Flacco tops the list:

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1. Check-down Joe: A week after Baltimore got all giddy about Flacco's strong performance against the Panthers, some folks were calling for a switch at quarterback after Flacco went 9-for-16 and 72 yards against the Redskins. Flacco struggled to get in sync with his wideouts, and often checked down to his running backs. Same old, same old for the Ravens offense? Flacco says no, insisting that the Ravens were holding back. With the starters expected to play into the second half against the Giants, we'll see if the Ravens open things up a little and get the critics off of Flacco's back.

2. Linebackers in coverage: Finger-pointing all around would have been warranted after the Ravens defense allowed Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman to throw for 401 yards last week. Most notably, the Redskins exploited the middle of the field because the Ravens linebackers tripped over themselves while dropping into coverage, and the safeties were unable to close the gaps. I'll be watching to see if the linebackers -- including that old man in the middle -- have taken steps to correct the problem.

3. David Reed: Reed, one of the Ravens' two fifth-round picks, had a solid second-half performance last week, hauling in four Marc Bulger passes for 38 yards. Inconsistent in training camp, Reed showed off the reliable hands that got him noticed during offseason workouts. He has pulled ahead of Marcus Smith and Justin Harper, at least in my opinion, but another big game will earn him more points with the men who actually make the roster decisions.

4. The significantly-less-visible side: Ravens left tackle Michael Oher has been knocked for so-so efforts in the team's first two preseason games (Oher says he's not sweating it). I think he's been fine, but let's see how he responds to a little criticism. The Giants have one of the best defensive line rotations in the NFL, with Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora, so the guys on the field will test him, too.

5. Cory Redding: The Ravens signed Redding in the offseason in the hopes that he would be a reliable starter on their defensive line. So far in game action, Redding (one tackle) has been pretty silent as he adjusts to a new team and the 3-4 defense. Will he make some noise tonight against the Giants?

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