- Barring a fundamental collapse or someone being cut from another team that is head and shoulders above what we have, Steve Hauschka will be the Ravens kicker this year.
Hauschka has been better than Graham Gano this year, but that is kind of damning with faint praise when you look at it. Head Coach John Harbaugh spent almost a decade as a Special Teams coach in the NFL, and he has worked with the likes of Sean Landeta, Brian Mitchell, and David Akers, 3 of the better special teams players of the recent past. He can tell by listening if a kicker is getting good foot into a kick, and the fact that he has not anointed either kicker should tell you that it isn't settled. But Hauschka has been more consistent than Gano (except for his missing a **27** yard field goal last week - which is pretty much inexcusable), and Hauschka pretty much has the job to lose Thursday night at Atlanta.
Mattison is not going to have crazy, exotic blitzes like Ryan did. He is going to rely more on his front four (the Defensive Tackles and Ends) to get pressure on the Quarterbacks(along with some weak side attacks by the Outside Linebackers) and for the secondary to keep contain and coverage to allow the line to get to the QB. But he has the respect of the defense and the support of Ray Lewis (I really don't think he needs a wiki-link at this point) and Ed Reed to make sure that the team does what he wants them to do. The defense will be just fine.
- The receiving corps is going to be unconventional but it will get the job done.
The team has yet to pick up another receiver to complement Derrick Mason and the Injury Reports (Mark Clayton dealing with his hamstring problem, Demetrius Williams having another problem with his ankle - or whatever it is this time. I have lost count - Marcus Smith - who was having a good camp and was expected to be a big contributor on special teams - down for the year...). Kelly Washington is a journeyman receiver who might have found a home by default, and Justin Harper is probably going to make the team because no one else is there to take the roster spot from him (but I will bet you that Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is keeping an eye on the waiver wire and the cut lists to see if a kicker, wide receiver, or tight end pops up. And to a lesser degree some more wide bodies for the offensive line, especially tackle). But it is not all doom and gloom.
Mason still looks good, and when Harper holds on to the ball he makes some plays. Tight End Todd Heap has stayed pretty much injury free this preseason and has spent some extra time after practice working with Joe Flacco, getting comfortable with each other. Ray Rice has looked good both running the ball and as a receiver (he had 8 catches in the last preseason game, and he only played a little more than a half of the game). It goes back to what I said before, by allowing the running backs and the tight ends to be an option in the passing offense as opposed to a blocker for the passing game it opens the entire offense up for everybody, because more players have to be covered and accounted for in space.
To wrap up the preseason (and yes, there is another game in a couple of days as I have previously mentioned, but the starters will probably only play a series or two), it is more about seeing how they are going to cut the roster down to 53 players, which players are going to be kept for those final positions (most of the spots on the 53 man roster are pretty much set for this team, there are going to be a lot of big decisions to make for a few positions, and watch as a number of players cut by the team are on other team's rosters or at least their practice squads before they are finished cleaning out their lockers in Westminster).
So I put it to you...what about this team or this sport do you want to know about? Help me help you.