Panthers vs. Ravens: Blogger Q&A

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Butt with Baltimore Beatdown was kind enough to answer five questions from me regarding our Thursday Night Football preseason match-up.

So here we go:

Question 1: So what’s the past year been like blogging as the defending Super Bowl champs? Does any part of it get tiring or it all confetti and parades?

JB: Funny you ask, as I'm new to the SB Nation family. However, I was writing for as a Ravens correspondent the last two years. I don't have any Ravens allegiances as I'm a college football nut from Georgia that wound up living in the Baltimore/D.C. area. But to answer your question, writing about the good stuff doesn't get old. Especially when I, along with other writers in this area, spent the last five weeks of the 2012 season covering four Ravens losses. People like to read about their team win they win, I'd think.

Just as I had hoped.

Question 2: What do feel are the Ravens chances of repeating as SB champs? What’s the biggest question mark right now?

JB: They coaches and players both are trying not to think about repeating as champions because of the difficulty it takes to actually achieve that goal. In their mind, that was 2012 and this is 2013. The biggest question mark is finding out who steps up at receiver. The Ravens have one proven guy in Torrey Smith but about eight others that are on an equal playing field. Can any of them step up and become reliable options?

I guess we will have to watch and see who stands out at WR for the Ravens.

Question 3: Who is going to replace LB Ray Lewis both on the field and in the locker room?

JB: The on-the-field answer is Daryl Smith, the former Jaguars inside linebacker that Baltimore signed this offseason. He's stepping into that inside middle linebacker role and has had a great preseason so far. The Ravens are really happy with this transaction. As far as in the locker room, that duty will be split between Terrell Suggs and Joe Flacco. Suggs is a more vocal, in-your-face kind of guy, who also likes to keep the mood light with jokes and humor. Flacco's more of a quiet type, which is perfect for leading this kind of offense. There aren't a lot of extroverts on offense, so Flacco fits that group perfectly.

Smith has had a nice career so far and should have a couple good seasons left in him. Now whether he can replace Ray Lewis after playing in a 4-3 for years is another story.

Question 4: The Ravens appear to have taken a hit in the passing game with the FA departures and Dennis Pitta injury? Who do you think will step up and fill the void?

JB: The Ravens signed both Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark to take the spot. I'd have to think Clark gets the early nod, with Shiancoe fighting for the No. 3 tight end spot with Ed Dickson a clear No. 1 tight end now. The Ravens could also get some production from a bevy of inside receivers, such as Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson and Brandon Stokley. Stokley's the favorite for the slot receiver job, which raises questions about what Doss' role will be in 2013. Thompson has been dealing with a foot sprain so the jury's out on whether he'll produce in that role this season.

Stokley has been a serviceable receiver in the past. Other than that it looks a little thin.

Question 5: How long with the Ravens starters play Thursday? What key players will sit out?

JB: The starters will play at least a half, with some playing well into the third quarter. My guess is guys like Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs play a little bit into the third quarter, if they even make it that far, and are then pulled. However, younger starters will probably play three quarters or close to that length. Dickson (hamstring) and Thompson (foot) won't play Thursday. However, there's a chance cornerback Lardarius Webb (ACL) and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) see their first preseason game action.

So both teams should play their starters to at least the first half.

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