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In addition to Flacco's return, five things to watch when Ravens host Lions

In addition to Flacco's return, five things to watch when Ravens host Lions

The return of Joe Flacco is the obvious storyline Saturday night (7 o’clock), when the Ravens host the Lions at M&T Bank Stadium. While the Ravens’ quarterback will be watched closely, here are five other questions to ask:

1. Will rookie pass rusher Matt Judon continue to shine?

Judon leads the Ravens with nine preseason tackles, along with two sacks. With Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Za’Darius Smith not expected to play, the Ravens want to see Judon against the Lions’ starters.

“We need to put him in that position,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees. “What better time? I don’t want to wait until Buffalo (Week 1) to find out.”

Judon led the nation in sacks last season (21) at Grand Valley State.  If he keeps getting to quarterbacks, the fifth-round pick will get playing time during the season.

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2.  Is rookie Alex Smith ready to start Week 1 at left guard?

Nobody has said John Urschel has lost the job. But he has been out since the preseason opener (contusion) and Smith has looked solid. Another strong performance by Smith could sway the coaching staff is his direction.

3. Will we get a clue about the Ravens’ running back rotation?

How will carries be divided among Justin Forsett, Buck Allen Kenneth Dixon, and Terrance West? We still don’t know, but Week 1 is getting closer. Any back that looks good against the Lions will strengthen his case for getting more touches.

4. Can the Ravens’ run defense make a statement?

Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t like the Colts getting consistent yardage on the ground last week. The Ravens face Bills running back Le’Sean McCoy in Week 1. Another poor Ravens performance against the run would be a bad sign.

5.Will the Ravens avoid taking needless penalties?

If you think the Ravens are good enough make the playoffs if they are among the NFL leaders in penalties, think again. Avoiding pre-snap penalties and personal fouls will continue to be a preseason priority.

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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