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Panthers vs Ravens: Week 2 NFL preseason preview

The Carolina Panthers will host the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 of the NFL preseason with Sam Darnold likely making his debut in Carolina blue.

Panthers vs Ravens: What you need to know

See where the Panthers and Ravens stand in our most-recent NFL power rankings

Sam Darnold vs Baltimore Ravens No. 1 defense

panthers vs ravens game preview
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

In what was a surprising decision, Matt Rhule opted against playing Sam Darnold in Carolina’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts. One might figure that Rhule would want the newly-acquired quarterback to see more action.

As for the Ravens, a majority of their starting defense suited up sparingly in a 17-14 win over the New Orleans Saints. We’re expecting to see more of them in this one.

  • The Sam Darnold enigma: P.J. Walker got the start in Carolina’s narrow loss to the Indianapolis Colts — completing 10-of-21 passes for 161 yards. While any talk of a quarterback competition is overblown, the Panthers need to get Darnold in with their with his No. 1 skill-position guys. What better way to start than against one of the best defenses in the NFL?
  • The flock of the Ravens: In particular, we’re intrigued to see how Carolina’s first-team offensive line holds up against a veteran group of pass rushers in Baltimore. That includes Derek Wolfe, Justin Houston, Calais Campbell and Chris Smith. If Carolina gives Darnold time, he’ll have an opportunity to prove that his three-year tenure in Jersey was a mirage.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver battle and injuries

panthers vs ravens game preview
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Ty’Son Williams was the Ravens’ leading receiver in the preseason opener with five catches. There’s good reason for this. The likes of Sammy Watkins, Marquise Brown and rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman didn’t play.

Bateman will be out through Baltimore’s regular season opener after undergoing surgery on a core muscle injury. Watkins might see some action moving forward in the preseason. As for Brown, the jury is still out.

  • Young Ravens must step up: Rookie fourth-round pick Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State was seen as a mid-round steal. In his preseason opener, the receiver came up with zero catches on two targets. It’s going to be interesting to see how he performs moving forward this summer.
  • It’s all about Lamar Jackson: This is the biggest key. Whether the former NFL MVP plays Week 2 of the preseason remains to be seen. Either way, Baltimore needs more production out of its wide receivers than we’ve seen the past couple seasons.
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Related: Baltimore Ravens 2021 preview and predictions

Panthers vs Ravens: The trenches

panthers vs ravens game preview
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Ravens and Panthers fancy themselves as potentially dominant entities in the trenches. In order for each team to live up to expectations, winning these battles are going to be key. That begins in earnest this week.

  • New-look Ravens offensive line: After trading away Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr., Baltimore will slot in Alejandro Villanueva at right tackle opposite Ronnie Stanley. Meanwhile, Kevin Zeitler comes to Baltimore to take over at right guard. How these two perform will be telling. Expect them to see some action this week.
  • Panthers could be more meow than bite: Carolina has a potentially dominating edge pass rusher in Brian Burns. However, it might lack that No. 2 option out on the edge. This could impact the likes of Derrick Brown and Da’Quan Jones inside. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow and Co. must see what they have in terms of depth behind Burns moving forward during the preseason.

Bottom line: This Panthers vs Ravens matchup will be defined more by Sam Darnold’s debut in Carolina than anything else. But there’s a lot to look at for both teams in what promises to be the only real regular-season tune-up for either side.

Related: Carolina Panthers 2021 preview and predictions