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.
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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