The third week of preseason is as real as a practice game will get. We'll be seeing the starters play into the third quarters, there's been some gameplanning... So we should see some improvement overall, but here are some things to focus on specifically.
The middle linebacker, whoever It may be.
We went in depth on Casey Matthews adventure last week and clearly he had his troubles. However, the people who say that this a guy who hasn't even played the equivalent of a full NFL game yet are right. I think it's fair to expect him to be a little better than he is at this point, but he was always going to be a work in progress. So it will be interesting to see if we spot some growth tonight. Also working in will be rookie Brian Rolle, who will play with the first team in nickel situations.
"This is a great opportunity," said the 5-10, 227-pound Rolle. "For a guy like me, who was drafted late, to get to run with the ones is great. I’ve been getting compliments on how I played in the first two games so I’m not surprised I’m out there with the ones."
How does Mike Patterson look?
Patterson was out for 18 days as he underwent tests and explored treatment options for AVM. So while he did have some camp time, his main focus now is getting his conditioning up to snuff. While he likely won't play a lot, it will be interesting to see how his presence affects the run defense. While Cullen Jenkins and Anthony Hargrove did a fair job getting some penetration in the middle last week, neither are good at eating up blocks or freeing up the linebackers like Patterson has been.
How does Michael Vick bounce back?
The last time Michael Vick looked as bad he did last week was probably the second game of last preseason when he threw two picks against the Bengals. Andy Reid said this week that his play last week as a "blip." It's up to Michael to prove that this week. A good performance tonight will pretty much wipe away the memory of the Steelers game away and relegate it to "it's just preseason." More interceptions from him will start to make people very nervous.
It's supposed to be impossible to throw on this defense
The Ravens didn't have much luck throwing against the much vaunted Eagles secondary in week one, but the Steelers did in week two. In fact, even Byron Leftwich tossed a long TD. It would be nice to see the Samuel, Asomugha, Cromartie trio lock people down or even get a turnover.
The play of Jarrad Page
Nate Allen struggled mightily last week and revealed after the game that his surgically repaired knee is not as 100% as he was saying earlier in camp. So Jarrad Page will run with the first team tonight. If he can be a stabilizing force back there, it should be a nice boost to the defense as a whole.
Can King Dunlap make the right tackle spot his own?
With Ryan Harris and Winston Justice both dealing with injuries, King Dunlap gets his second straight start protecting Michael Vick's blindside. The reviews on him last week were positive and if he plays well tonight he just might win that job even if if Harris and/or Justice are healthy.