What to watch: Ravens vs. Panthers

The Baltimore Ravens will open their preseason schedule Thursday when they host the Carolina Panthers (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

Here are three things the AFC North blog is monitoring:

  • First-team offense: Don't expect Ravens coach John Harbaugh to keep this unit in for long. But because there's a lot of hype surrounding the offense, I want to closely monitor how it meshes. Every starting offensive skill player with the exception of quarterback Joe Flacco has been to the Pro Bowl.

  • Can the Ravens' secondary cover? Starters Ed Reed (hip), Lardarius Webb (knee) and possibly Fabian Washington (knee) will miss the game. Baltimore's depth is being tested in the secondary, which is one of its few glaring weaknesses. I want to see if backup cornerback Chris Carr and safeties Tom Zbikowski and Ken Hamlin are prepared to fill in if necessary.

  • Who will kick? Baltimore and the Cincinnati Bengals are the only teams in the division with a kicking competition. Expect a hot battle between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff. Graham has the pedigree -- he's one of the most accurate active kickers in the NFL, making 85.2 percent of his field goals during his nine-year career. Cundiff, the incumbent, performed fairly well for Baltimore in seven games last season. He made 12 of 17 field goals for Baltimore and was 6-for-6 in five games with the Cleveland Browns. Every kick will be monitored closely.

Also, don't forget to check out the AFC North blog after the game for observations.