Game Preview: First Look At Ravens’ Youth

Cam Cameron called tonight’s game the biggest preseason opener ever.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Thursday, August 11th, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Categories: 2011 Season Gameday, Mike Duffy, Preseason 1 at Eagles

Cam Cameron has been coaching in the NFL for 10 years, but he considers Thursday night’s matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles the biggest preseason opener he’s ever been a part of.

Considering the number of inexperienced players currently on the Baltimore’s bloated roster, it will be critical for the Ravens to get the most out of their initial real-time evaluation.

“It is our first test, and I can’t imagine – at least in a long, long time – the first preseason game being more important to coaching staffs, organizations and players in a long, long time,” Cameron said this week from Ravens training camp.  “That’s going to be the real evaluation. Practice is important, but now the lights come on.”

“We’ll see if guys can duplicate the fundamentals and techniques that they have done here.”

What elevates the stakes is the lack of offseason minicamps and organized team activities.

Due to the NFL’s four-month lockout, club training facilities closed, and in turn denied coaches the opportunity to get their charges up to speed by the time the preseason rolled around.

The Ravens currently have 40 rookies or first-year players in their 90-man locker room, a number boosted by the release of veterans Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg and Willis McGahee.  The youth movement was compounded by 11 unrestricted free agents signing elsewhere.

For a comparison, the Eagles have only 30 rookies or first-year players on their roster.

What’s more, the Ravens could be asking several of their young guns to contribute early, whether it is rookie receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss, tackle Jah Reid, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, or the host of other hopefuls looking to make a name for themselves on special teams.

“There is always importance to these first couple of games to see if we have some guys that can play for us this year – make some plays,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who will use whatever live action he gets as a way to test his new wideouts. “We haven’t gotten a lot of work, but to be honest with you, camp has been going pretty good. I think this is a big deal. We are back to football.

“It’s definitely a test to see where we are at.”

While Chuck Pagano said he is going to keep his defensive game plan “vanilla” and play his big-name starters sparingly, the new coordinator is excited to see what he has at his disposal in his first year on the job.

“I think we’ll be able to really answer that after this first preseason game, because you’re so scared to death,” Pagano noted.  “You can only do so much stuff live out here, because you want to keep your team healthy.”

“What we’re looking for is great communication and getting lined up and making the checks and being on the same page. But tackling is always a concern. So, coming out of this first one, we’ll know more.”

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh almost expects his team to take a step back after two strong practices on Monday and Tuesday.

Harbaugh noticed a slight regression when the Ravens changed venues last weekend in their public practice at M&T Bank Stadium, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens at Lincoln Financial Field.

Rest assured, the Ravens want to win the game.

But perhaps more important than boosting their preseason record, the Ravens will get a thorough evaluation of where the team is and the direction training camp needs to go.

“Well, it’s big in the sense of, ‘Where are we?’” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s going to be very important for us… It’s going to be very interesting to see where we’re at.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,