Who: Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons
What: 2012 preseason opener
When: Thursday, Aug. 9
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
TV: WMAR (Ch. 2) and WBAL Plus
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), 98 Rock (97.9 FM)
Records: Last season the Ravens went 12-4, won the AFC North and were eliminated from the playoffs in the AFC title game, while the Falcons went 10-6, finished second in the NFC South and lost in the wild-card round
Ravens newcomers: The following veterans will make their Baltimore debuts after signing with the team as free agents during the offseason: receiverreturner Jacoby Jones, safety Sean Considine, cornerback Corey Graham, guard Bobbie Williams, nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu.
Injuries: Dennis Pitta (broken hand), David Reed (knee) and Terrell Suggs (Achilles) are out, and a number of other Ravens might not play, including Matt Birk (back), Jimmy Smith (back) and Courtney Upshaw (shoulder).
Six questions to be answered:
1) How does Paul Kruger fare against the run?
Few Ravens are under more scrutiny than the fourth-year linebacker, a starter for the first time in 2012. He fared well as a pass rusher last season but the Ravens really want to know if he can set the edge of a run defense, which is job No. 1 for a Baltimore defense. Thats one skill that can be determined to a degree in a preseason game.
2) How does Bryant McKinnie look if he plays?
The Ravens might elect to wait a week to put him on the field, seeing as he just returned to practice earlier this week. Theres little doubt Michael Oher will start at left tackle, with rookie Kelechi Osemele on the right side. But the Ravens only have a month to make sure McKinnie is still their man after his turbulent offseason, and they might want to get started.
3) Do any of the backup running backs emerge?
To this point, none of the four guys vying for the job of Ray Rices backup has stood out in training camp. Anthony Allen, Bernard Pierce, Damien Berry and Bobby Rainey should all get carries and looks in this game. Pierce, a third-round draft pick, is the guy who should do it, but if no one steps forward, the Ravens might go out and sign a veteran.
4) Does rookie Justin Tucker get the first field-goal attempt?
He is trying to take Billy Cundiffs job, and his performance in the first weeks of training camp has been lights out, even Cundiff admits. Although Cundiff remains the favorite, the Ravens are understandably curious to see if the kid with the huge leg can kick as well in a game as he does in practice.
5) How do the two rookie offensive linemen hold up?
Aside from Osemele, who has looked rugged in practices, Gino Gradkowski is expected will start at center instead of Matt Birk, who is being rested for the season. Both young linemen have exceeded the teams immediate expectations and could be in line to become regulars as early as next year. How they fare in their first game action could be telling.
6) Is Sergio Kindle really that much better?
His position coach recently said yhe young linebacker had made a quantum leap in his third season. Yet he was recently seen getting stonewalled by Osemele in a one-on-one drill. It has taken him a long time to know the game well enough to possibly show what he can do. That opportunity starts now.