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NFL Preseason Preview - Atlanta (0-1) at Baltimore (1-0)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Help is on the way for Joe Flacco as the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens open the home portion of their preseason schedule by welcoming NFC power Atlanta to the Charm City.
With move-the-chains wide receiver Anquan Boldin now in San Francisco and tight end Dennis Pitta likely sidelined for the season with a dislocated hip, Ravens personnel chief Ozzie Newsome understood he needed to give his Super Bowl MVP quarterback a few more proven options and did so by bringing in veterans Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark in recent days.
Stokley officially returned to the organization he started his career with, signing a one-year deal on Sunday. The 37-year-old slot receiver was originally selected by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL Draft and played for the club through the 2002 campaign. He caught the lone receiving touchdown in Baltimore's 34-7 romp of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
In 2012, Stokley hauled in 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns during a second stint with Denver, but was not re-signed by the Broncos after the team landed slot receiver Wes Welker in free agency.
Clark, a solid receiving tight end, spent the 2012 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following a nine-year stint with Indianapolis, He totaled 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns over 16 games with the Bucs in 2012. A Super Bowl winner with the Colts in 2006, Clark has accumulated 474 career receptions and 50 TDs in 131 appearances since arriving in the NFL for the 2003 season out of Iowa.
"We've got to be prepared for them to come and play, we are not going to be game planning, but we know what Brandon's strengths and weaknesses are as well as Dallas," Falcons coach Mike Smith said when asked about Baltimore's recent additions. "(Clark is) an outstanding pass catching tight end, and Brandon has been one of the better slot receivers, so I'm sure that's where they'll line up."
The moves come on the heels on an impressive preseason opener for the Ravens, a 44-16 drubbing of Tampa Bay in central Florida. LaQuan Williams scored a pair of touchdowns, one on offense and another on special teams, to help Baltimore in the rout.
Williams hauled in a 21-yard strike from QB Tyrod Taylor in the third quarter and recovered a punt blocked by Brynden Trawick in the end zone late in the second that gave the Ravens a 24-13 halftime lead.
Taylor also connected with Aaron Mellette on a 21-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and threw for 154 yards while completing 13-of-23 passes. Bernard Pierce scored Baltimore's first touchdown of the night with a 20-yard run in the second period, which came after Williams recovered a fumbled punt by Chris Owusu.
Flacco played the entire first quarter for Baltimore and hit on 7-of-9 attempts for 57 yards and an interception over two scoreless possessions.
The Falcons, on the other hand, were plastered in their preseason opener, a 34-10 setback to the Cincinnati Bengals in Dixie.
On the bright side for Atlanta, while neither first-team offense recorded a touchdown, the Falcons moved the ball somewhat more effectively.
Matt Ryan, tasked with justifying a hefty contract extension after bringing the Falcons within a game of the Super Bowl last season, led Atlanta to a field goal on the game's opening drive and finished with 89 yards on 6-of-9 passing.
Steven Jackson, who ran for 1,000-plus yards in eight consecutive seasons with the Rams, carried the ball five times for eight yards in his first game in a Falcons uniform after leaving St. Louis via free agency.
On the injury front for Atlanta, projected starting right tackle Mike Johnson is out for the season after the club placed him on injured reserve last Friday. The move came three days after Johnson fractured his left fibula and dislocated his ankle during a practice session. Second-year man Lamar Holmes, a third-round pick in 2012, will now be asked to step up in Johnson's absence.
The Falcons and Ravens have met nine times in the preseason with Baltimore holding a 6-3 advantage in the all-time series, including a 31-17 win at the Georgia Dome in 2012.
"It's going to be the first time they've played a game (in their home stadium since the Super Bowl)," Smith said. "I know the Baltimore crowds very well, having spent time there. They're great fans. For us, it's another step in us evaluating our roster, that's key. We're going up there to win the football game, don't get me wrong, but most importantly we want to get an opportunity to evaluate some of these players who did really good things in the first game."
08/14 09:52:38 ET