CHARLOTTE — Dwan Edwards doesnt expect to feel much nostalgia Thursday night when he visits his old team.
Baltimore drafted the defensive tackle in 2004 and he played five seasons with the Ravens. He looks forward to seeing some of his old teammates, but other than that, its just another preseason game.
Well, sort of.
The third game of the preseason is the one where most teams play their starters between two and three quarters rather than trotting them out for a couple of series. And this isnt just any third preseason game for the Carolina Panthers: Theyll be playing the defending Super Bowl champions, on the road, in prime time, on national television.
I think itll definitely be a good test for our team to see where were at and how were progressing and getting better, Edwards said. Theyre a helluva team. Obviously theyre Super Bowl champions, and theyll be Super Bowl champions until someone knocks them off. Itll be a good test for us.
The Ravens look like a decidedly different team this year than the group that went 10-6 and won Super Bowl XLVII in February. Baltimore lost nine players with starting experience to either retirement or free agency, including linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Anquan Boldin. But the Ravens were able to replace a lot of that talent with additions like defensive end Chris Canty, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, safety Michael Huff and receiver Brandon Stokley.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera said hes looking forward to how his team reacts to a top-tier defense that, through just two preseason games, has shown nearly its entire playbook for the regular season.
They lost the middle of their defense in losing (Lewis) and Reed, I think theyre solid guys, Rivera said. You watch them and theyre still flying around, theyre still doing a lot of things. Schematically, it looks like theyve thrown their whole playbook in. You break them down, theyre blitzing from everywhere, theyre using all their combination coverages. Its going to be a great challenge for us as far as where our offense is against their defense.
The Panthers underperformed last week by not scoring a touchdown against a Philadelphia defense that has a new defensive coordinator and few stars on that side of the ball.
Rivera hinted the Panthers might open up their offensive playbook a little more than in previous games. The read option has been nonexistent, Cam Newton hasnt taken a single designed quarterback run and play action has barely been utilized by the Panthers this preseason.
Youre going to play your first bunch a little longer and youve had a little more time to put the rest of the installation in, Rivera said. As we go forward, its time to throw some of those things in and see how we do.
The Panthers defense is expecting the same physical, rush-oriented Ravens offense that has produced 71 points through two preseason games.
Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly figures running back Ray Rice will play a larger role in the Ravens offense Thursday night. Rice, a three-time Pro Bowler who has rushed for more than 1,100 yards each of the past four seasons, has just 11 carries this preseason
Stopping Rice will be key for the Panthers, who struggled against the Eagles running game due to their fast-tempo, no-huddle offense. Philadelphia posted 108 rushing yards in the first half against Carolinas first-team defense but only managed 14 points due to three turnovers.
Kuechly said its a good sign that, even though the defense didnt play well, they still managed to create three turnovers and allow two scores. But he knows theyll have to be better against the rushing attack of the defending Super Bowl champs.
(Philadelphia) was hitting us on creases, we werent where we needed to be, but we watched the film and the kind of things we were doing wrong, we were out of our gaps, Kuechly said. We got to get it corrected so that in the future its not a problem.
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