Week 4 of the 2014 NFL Preseason is here, which means kickoff to the regular season is just days away. The New Orleans Saints will host the Baltimore Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Thursday night for a final exhibition game before Sean Payton and company travel to Georgia to take on the Atlanta Falcons Sept. 7. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what to expect from tonight’s contest.
Both the Saints and Ravens enter the final week of preseason play with a 3-0 record. Sean Payton and John Harbaugh will be resting a majority of their starters in order to keep them healthy for the beginning of the regular season. Tonight’s matchup will also be the biggest evaluation period to see who’s worthy of a spot on each teams’ opening day roster before the 53-man trim-down deadline arrives on Aug. 30.
With Drew Brees sitting out and Joe Flacco likely likely limited to a series or two, the competition for backup quarterback will be heated battles, especially for New Orleans. Luke McCown will get the start with Ryan Griffin relieving him as both guys fight for the job behind Brees. From Baltimore, we’ll get a heavy dose of Tyrod Taylor and Keith Wenning along with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak‘s attack scheme.
Looking at the running back situation Travaris Cadet and undrafted rookie Derrick Strozier with a little Khiry Robinson on the side will likely head the backfield for the Saints while Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas get some rest. For the Ravens, Bernard Piere is out dealing with a concussion and a decision on whether or not Ray Rice will suit up is still in the air. That leaves Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Fitzgerald Toussaint with a heavy load tonight.
There really is no point for New Orleans to play Marques Colston or Jimmy Graham. Risking injury to Drew Brees’ top targets is unnecessary. Even with limited play this preseason, Kenny Stills could get some rest along with Brandin Cooks — we’ve all seen what they can do. That goes for veterans Torrey Smith and Steve Smith of Baltimore as well.
Keep an eye on Robert Meachem, Nick Toon and Joe Morgan for the Black and Gold — their evaluation period is now. Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones should lead the way for the Ravens at wide receiver along with Kamar Aiken and Deonte Thompson. Michael Campanaro, Baltimore’s seventh-round pick at WR is going to see a hefty chunk of action as well.
Coach Harbaugh is still looking for the team’s long-term option at right tackle to replace Michael Oher, so Rick Wagner will be heavily observed with Jah Reid likely sidelined with an injury. Sean Payton’s offensive line seems to be set, except for the center battle between Jonathan Goodwin and Tim Lelito — their biggest evaluation period is also tonight.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints are likely going to rest all of their starters. Patrick Robinson is in the lead to start opposite Keenan Lewis on opening day, but that role has yet to be determined. P-Rob, along with Champ Bailey, Corey White, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Trevin Wade should see tons of action tonight. Wade looks to be fighting with Derrius Brooks, Brian Dixon and Terrence Frederick for the final spot at cornerback.
Some other players to keep an eye on are defensive ends Glenn Foster and Tyrunn Walker, linebackers Kyle Knox, Ronald Powell and undrafted rookie Kasim Edebali, who leads the Saints in sacks alongside DE Cam Jordan. Safety Pierre Warren should also be evaluated, but his chances at making the final cut are slim with all the depth at the position.
If you’re expecting to see cornerbacks Ladarius Webb and Jimmy Smith take the field for Baltimore, that’s not going to happen. Both starters are sidelined with injuries. That goes for third corner Asa Jackson as well. After drafting ILB C.J. Mosley in the first round, the Ravens have added some promise to their defense. The kid was an all-out stud at Alabama, so it will be interesting to see if he takes the field tonight since he is projected to be an opening day starter.
With Haloti Ngata likely resting, we’ll get a nice little dose of rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan from Florida State. Baltimore’s stud linebacker unit with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith and Mosley is quite intriguing, but rest and health is a must. Some time on the field is possible, but Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee, Josh Byrnes and Arthur Brown look to run the show.
The Ravens are set with Sam Koch at punter and Justin Tucker at kicker. New Orleans, on the other hand, will be evaluating veteran Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke to see who will be kicking the ball through the uprights in 2014. Both guys have looked solid, but there is only room for one.
Tonight’s intriguing contest is all about backups, evaluation and making the final cut. Both teams have outstanding depth and are looking to finish the preseason 4-0, but of course, only one will reign supreme. Check out our game time information for everything you need to know about the Thursday night matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens.