The Ravens ran up the score -- and ramped up their performance -- in a 31-13 preseason win over the Chiefs last week. On Thursday night, they will try to keep it going against the Redskins, who are making the short drive from D.C. to M&T Bank Stadium. This is not a rivalry game, as much as some would like it to be. It’s an exhibition between two football teams based in close proximity that have no ill will toward each other.
So while insults will be slung around in the bleachers and punches might be thrown again in the concourse, Thursday’s game will be all business for the Ravens and the Redskins as they prepare for the regular season.
Despite a solid showing against the Chiefs, the Ravens have plenty of wrinkles to iron out before the Steelers come to town in Week 1. Here are five storylines to watch when the Ravens take on the Redskins.
1. Joe Flacco needs to get in sync with Anquan Boldin. The quarterback got mixed reviews last week for completing 50 percent of his passes. He was most erratic when throwing to Boldin -- well, except for the two fluky throws that slipped out of Flacco’s hand. He overthrew Boldin on a deep pass in the first half, and he looked more comfortable throwing to newcomer Lee Evans. In the second half of last season, Flacco and Boldin didn’t hook up as often -- 40 of Boldin’s 64 completions came in his first eight games -- and the offense suffered for it. I’m not singling either player out. It’s on both Flacco and Boldin to get back on the same page.
2. The competition at cornerback is heating up. It looks as if Bernard Pollard is going to secure the spot next to Ed Reed at safety, but the battle for playing time at cornerback is wide-open. Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams started against the Chiefs -- and played pretty well -- and veteran Domonique Foxworth got snaps with the first-team defense in practice this week. We’ll see who steps up Thursday.
3. Another week of shuffling on the offensive line. Flacco didn’t get smashed around against the Chiefs, so that was a positive development. But the team went out and signed a pair of offensive tackles, Mark LeVoir and Bryant McKinnie, which wasn’t a vote of confidence for Michael Oher and Jah Reid. I’m not sure how much we’ll see of LeVoir and McKinnie – the later would be better served riding an exercise bike in sweats and black garbage bags for the entirety of the evening -- but Marshal Yanda returned to practice, which means we will definitely see another new combination on the offensive line. Chemistry is going to be an issue for this group early in this season. (Update: Yanda, in fact, is out against the Redskins, and LeVoir will start at right guard.)
4. John Beck returns to conquer his former kingdom. Or something like that. Beck’s ascension from Ravens fourth-stringer to Redskins cult hero and potential starter is one of the biggest stories of the NFL offseason. A strong showing against a Baltimore team that traded him for some guy named Doug Dutch will put him one step closer to being Washington’s Week 1 starter. So how is that a Ravens storyline? You can be sure if Beck is lights out Thursday night and Flacco falters, talk radio and the blogosphere will be buzzing about it Friday. Someone will suggest the Ravens should have traded Flacco for Dutch. I’m not saying it’s warranted, but watch it happen.
5. Can the defense keep it going? The Ravens held the Chiefs to 10 points -- I’m not counting that field goal after Lardarius Webb muffed a punt -- and sacked a K.C. QB five times. They did it without Ray Lewis, too, but he wasn’t going to play much anyway. Ray will be back Thursday, but the ones to watch are the corners and the young pass rushers, who have the team’s most welcome development so far this preseason.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times