NFL Baltimore Ravens

Five Baltimore Ravens Players to Watch vs. Denver Broncos

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Five Baltimore Ravens to Watch Against the Denver Broncos

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It is finally here. The Baltimore Ravens are set to defend their Super Bowl title in Denver against the Denver Broncos -- one of the teams they eliminated during their historic run.

Both of these teams appear to be retooled and ready for yet another solid campaign as experts everywhere are picking both of these squads to finish near the top of the AFC playoff picture.

The Broncos are looking to avenge what was an ugly double-overtime loss in the Divisional Round to the Ravens and among other things remind the Ravens of their Week 15 matchup where Denver dominated on the road in Baltimore.

Baltimore comes into the game with three key storylines:

First, this is the first season in franchise history where Ray Lewis will not be calling the shots and playing in the middle of that defense.

Second, the Ravens are looking to defend their Super Bowl title while replacing nine starters on both sides of the ball.

Third, despite quarterback Joe Flacco being paid a hefty sum of money during the offseason to be the face of the franchise, he will look to take the next step during the regular season and prove that his run during the 2013 NFL Playoffs was not a hoax.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will look to resort back to the Ravens' ways of old and rely on a solid running game, good, physical defense and quality special teams performances to propel the organization to back-to-back AFC North Division titles.

When watching Thursday night's opening game, here are a few players that could catch your eye.

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Lardarius Webb

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Cornerback Lardarius Webb has had an interesting offseason to say the least. He has spent most of 2013 not basking in the glory of the Super Bowl victory but working and rehabbing to try and recover from his torn ACL injury he suffered back in Week 6 of the 2012 season against the Dallas Cowboys.

The 27-year-old played well during his only action of the preseason against the Carolina Panthers and displayed his ability to be physical and break on the ball like the top-flight corner he truly is. He will have a plethora of tests in Week 1 coming from the likes of Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. If you want to see if the Nicholls State product is back to form, there isn't a better way to see than this matchup.

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Chris Canty

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Defensive lineman Chris Canty is the biggest and most important addition to this Ravens defense. The 30-year-old comes over from the New York Giants looking to further prove his worth in the NFL on one of the better front sevens in the league. At 6-foot-7, 317-pounds, Canty is a force to be reckoned with, and his large presence along defensive coordinator Dean Pees' defensive line can only help Haloti Ngata. With Broncos center Dan Koppen out for the season for the Broncos, expect the former Virginia Cavalier to have a stellar opening contest.

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Ed Dickson

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Tight end Ed Dickson has missed most of the preseason with a nagging hamstring injury, but that doesn't keep the former Oregon Duck off of my watch list. Dickson possesses the best athleticism out of any of the tight ends on the roster, and as we saw last season, Flacco loves throwing to his tight end as a security blanket. Despite his history of dropped passes, expect the 26-year-old to play a significant role in this game.

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Torrey Smith

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

I give to you, the new No. 1 receiver for the Baltimore Ravens: Torrey Smith. The former Maryland Terrapins standout has the traditional mantra of a No. 2: Great speed, runs deep routes well, needs to be more consistent in catching the ball and running routes. However, the 24-year-old was still 4th in the NFL last season in YPC (17.4) and is looking to excel in the YAC game once again. His role has no doubt changed, and if Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey isn't at 100 percent or even playing, look out for Torrey to get behind that Denver secondary much like he did during the 2012 postseason.

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Jacoby Jones

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

He's no longer "Dancing with the Stars"; he is back to doing what he does best. Jacoby Jones is the best return man in the league bar none. The speed he attacks with when the ball is in his hands is second to none. Now, his role has slightly increased as he is going to be relied on as a No. 2 receiver in the Ravens offense. He was given this opportunity once before in 2010 with the Houston Texans and amassed 51 catches, 562 yards and three touchdowns. As long as he can catch the football consistently and beat defenders with his wheels, the Ravens can't ask for much more out of the 29-year-old.