NFL Nation: Panthers-Ravens 130822

What to watch: Panthers-Ravens

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
11:02
AM ET
Three things to watch as the Carolina Panthers play the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN:

Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. Newton will get his most extensive playing time of the preseason, and the Panthers hope he and the offense can get in a rhythm. Newton has led only one touchdown drive this preseason. Clausen is expected to play with the second team. That’s not a sign that Clausen has a chance to beat out Derek Anderson for the backup job. It’s more of a sign that the Panthers want to take a good look at Clausen before deciding if they want to carry two or three quarterbacks on the roster.

The receivers. Armanti Edwards, Domenik Hixon and Joe Adams aren’t expected to play due to injuries. That means more playing time for Ted Ginn Jr. and David Gettis, who are having strong preseasons and have a chance to be among the top backups at receiver.

Garry Williams. He’s been getting the first-team work at right guard since the team released veteran Geoff Hangartner. Williams needs a strong showing because it still is possible the team could bring in a veteran as other teams trim their rosters.

What to watch: Panthers-Ravens

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
11:00
AM ET
Here are three storylines for Thursday night's game between the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

1. Time for Joe Flacco and the starting offense to get on track: None of the concerns about the Ravens' starting offense have been alleviated so far this summer. Even though the Ravens have kept the play calling basic, Flacco and the Ravens have been awful in their execution over two preseason games, showing a lack of rhythm without their top two tight ends (Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are injured) and no proven No. 2 receiver. In three quarters this preseason (eight drives), the Ravens' starting offense has produced one touchdown, two turnovers (both interceptions) and three three-and-outs.

Baltimore is far from panicking over the lack of production, and Flacco isn't worried about his efficient but far from electric numbers (14-of-18 for 175 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions). The Ravens, though, would feel a lot better about themselves if they gain some momentum in what should be the last extensive playing time for the starters this preseason. This is the Ravens' best chance for a good showing. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) is scheduled to make his preseason debut, tight end Dallas Clark will take the field for the first time for the Ravens, and wide receiver Brandon Stokley should get an increased number of snaps.

2. The No. 2 wide receiver battle: It's been more of a quandary than a competition. Jacoby Jones was the favorite to win the job and he is still listed as the starter opposite Torrey Smith on this week's depth chart, but Jones can't get separation in this battle if he can't get separation from cornerbacks. In the four passes thrown his way this preseason, defenders have caught more passes (two interceptions) than Jones (one catch for 4 yards).

Jones' disappointing preseason has created an opening for Stokley and a handful of young receivers to earn more playing time. Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson (who isn't expected to play because of a foot injury), Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown are all vying for a spot behind Smith. I thought Doss and Thompson would be fighting for the No. 2 job at this point, but neither has shown much this preseason. The only receiver who can been ruled out is David Reed, who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday.

3. Rebound time for Jimmy Smith: There was a sense that the Ravens wanted Smith, a 2011 first-round pick, to assert himself and take a starting job this summer. That hasn't happened. Smith struggled against Atlanta last week, when quarterback Matt Ryan relentlessly targeted him. Although Smith didn't get the inside help that he expected, the coaching staff pointed out that Smith didn't play well and needed to work on his technique.

Smith may have not won a starting job even if he played better. Corey Graham has played extremely well and isn't about to lose his starting job after working so hard to prove he's more than a Pro Bowl special-teams player. Lardarius Webb has a chance to play in his first game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament 10 months ago. If Webb can show he's healthy enough to start, Smith will likely be the Ravens' No. 3 corner.

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