Podcast Episode 15: Empire Writes Back’s John Carroll Jr. helps us break down Ravens’ season opener vs. Bills

Welcome to Episode 15 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

Fake football is finally over, and on Sunday at 1:00 pm the Ravens will kick off the 2018 season against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium for the second time in three years. After the guys give their final thoughts on the Ravens’ 53-man roster (3:00) and react to the scary Kaare Vedvik incident from Labor Day Weekend (13:02), they tell you what to watch for during Sunday’s game (16:08).

Up next, we welcome in our special guest this week, John Carroll Jr. of Empire Writes Back, to help us break down Sunday’s game from the enemy’s perspective (28:13). Carroll Jr. is a college friend of Jake and the two spend several Sundays together in Bloomsburg watching their teams. Carroll fills us in on Nathan Peterman and goes over the 2018 outlook for Buffalo. You’ll also hear his predictions for the game.

Following the interview with Carroll Jr., the guys dive into the recent Orioles headlines (41:15) as Chance Sisco returns to the big league club hoping to end a disappointing 2018 season on a respectable note. The crew also talked about Josh Rogers and how he configures into the rebuild of the O’s.

After the Orioles segment, Jake, Nolan, and Ian recap the Terps’ 34-29 victory over Texas that opened up the 2018 season in a positive way after an absolutely terrible summer (48:16).

To wrap up the show, we dive into our weekly numbers segment, taking a look at the best Ravens & Orioles players to wear the number 15 (54:07).

You can find the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloudiTunes, and now Google Play. Please leave us a review on iTunes, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

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Ravens: Why letting Breshad Perriman go could turn costly this season

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens announced their roster cuts on Saturday and much to the joy of Ravens nation, the list included former 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman.

The wide receiver didn’t make the 53-man roster despite leading the team in catches and receiving yards this preseason. Perriman’s dismissal ends what has been a disappointing tenure for the 24-year-old out of the University of Central Florida.

Perriman missed his entire rookie season with the Ravens due to injury and that quickly drew the ire of Ravens fans. In his 2016 return, he only started one game but tallied 33 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns including this gem against the Dolphins.

Perriman’s 2016 season gave his supporters hope that 2017 could be the year he realized his untapped potential. Unfortunately he caught just ten passes in 2017 for 77 total yards and no touchdowns. He also had several prominent drops that brought out the haters in full force.

It didn’t get any better for Perriman when this happened on the first pass of the 2018 preseason in the Hall of Fame Game against the Bears:

The above exploits represent the case for why Perriman is no longer a Baltimore Raven and I for one am not at all surprised that he was cut.

While the evidence agrees with this decision, I believe that Perriman should have made the 53-man roster. I will now try to convince you why the player who was most likely your most-hated Raven should have been on this team for the 2018 season.

Listen. Everyone in Baltimore is understandably excited for yet another new look receiving corps this season.  And while it is certainly possible that Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead can spark the Ravens passing game, it is equally as likely that this could once again be a unit that struggles for the Ravens.

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Michael Crabtree signed a 3 year $21 million contract and will be the Ravens #1 WR. Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Crabtree is the closest thing to an impact player in the passing game for the Ravens. He is their number-one wide receiver and will be looking for his fourth straight eight plus touchdown season. But don’t forget that the Oakland Raiders cut Crabtree which opened the door for the 30-year-old to sign Baltimore. As far as number-one receivers are concerned, Crabtree is in the bottom 25% of the NFL.

A quick rundown of teams that undoubtedly have a number-one WR that is better than Crabtree: NE, PIT, CIN, CLE, HOU, IND, OAK, DEN, KC, SD, NYG, MIN, GB, CHI, NO, TB, ATL, ARI, LA, SEA. Some of these teams have multiple guys that are better. Arguments can be made that BUF, MIA, PHI, DET also possess a better number-one option than Crabtree.

I like Crabtree. I liked him coming out of the draft and I loved him when he became a free agent after the 2014 season and signed with the Raiders. At this point, however, Crabtree is not a top 20 wide receiver in the NFL.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp

John Brown is the only speed threat in the Ravens new WR corps. Image Credit: USA Today

Brown has impressed throughout training camp and has been the star of the offseason in Baltimore. Brown has struggled throughout his career to stay healthy, missing multiple games with hamstring and quad injuries among other ailments. Brown played just ten games last year, starting five, and only tallied 21 catches for 299 yards and three touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals allowed Brown to leave via free agency this offseason to sign a one-year $5 million contract with the Ravens. The Cardinals have opted to go with Chad Williams (who?), rookie Christian Kirk and veteran  J.J. Nelson at WR to assist Larry Fitzgerald.  The Cardinals believe that players with a combined 32 NFL receptions last season offer them more than the departed Brown. With that being said, let’s tamper our expectations of Brown’s potential impact in Baltimore.

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Willie Snead will be looking for a bounce back year in Baltimore. Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Snead has been the quietest of the offseason receiver additions this preseason. He is coming off of a season in which he caught just eight passes for 92 yards and zero touchdowns. Snead signed an offer sheet with the Ravens for two years and $10.4 million and the New Orleans Saints declined to match the offer which landed him with the Ravens.

Snead was suspended for the first three games of last season with a violation of the NFL’S personal conduct policy. He also battled injuries throughout much of last season, appearing in just 11 games all year. Additionally, he had the benefit of playing with a top five quarterback in Drew Brees during his first two years in the NFL where he posted averages of 70 catches and 939 yards. There are also no players on the Ravens that match the ability of Michael Thomas or Brandin Cooks who were the top targets in New Orleans during Snead’s tenure. He is a wild card at this point in his career.

The point is while the excitement could be validated with huge years from the Ravens offseason additions, the possibility definitely exists that this group could flop and become an issue for the Ravens. The depth behind the starters is currently Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley and Janarion Grant.

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Chris Moore could be thrust into the starting lineup if John Brown or Willie Snead prove unable to stay on the field. Image Credit: Pressbox

Moore, a fourth-round pick in 2016 is looking to build off his best season in the NFL where he tallied 18 grabs for 248 yards and three touchdowns. He is the only backup wide receiver on the roster with NFL experience and in what was a poor group for the Ravens last year, Moore produced minimal impact at best.

Lasley is a 2018 fifth-round pick out of UCLA and has struggled throughout the preseason.  He looks to be more of a project at this point, but could be pressed into action if the aforementioned starters struggle to stay on the field which has often proven to be the case with Brown and Snead.

Grant is an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers who projects to be the leading candidate to return punts and kicks this season. He does not figure to factor into the receiving game and did fumble a kick in the preseason. He had just 99 catches in his four-year collegiate career.

These are your wide receivers, Ravens fans. Three starters that were jettisoned from their previous teams, a player who made minimal impact in a poor receiving group last year, and two rookies.

I know that Perriman was a very unpopular player in Baltimore. I have conceded that I believed he would be cut. I will concur that he has not developed into the NFL wide receiver we all hoped he would be when he was drafted. I will further agree that perhaps his time in Baltimore had to come to an end because of all of the above facts.

I ask that you consider the points that I have made on behalf of Perriman and ask yourself this question: If Brown and/or Snead gets hurt or struggle (their past few seasons have indicated they will), what are the Ravens going to look like at wide receiver with Crabtree, Moore, Lasley and Grant?

They are going to look a lot like last year’s Ravens offense. And while we may disagree on Perriman, we can all agree that nobody wants to see that.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Ravens: Five thoughts on the 53-man roster

BALTIMORE — The NFL’s roster deadline has passed, and the Baltimore Ravens have trimmed their team down to 53 players. The 53 guys the Ravens retained will continue their work at the castle to prepare for next Sunday’s season opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.

Between Friday and Saturday, the Ravens waived 27 players and placed four on the injured reserve list. The Ravens also shipped Kamalei Correa to the Tennessee Titans last week for a sixth-round draft pick. This year’s roster cuts saw a different trend than previous seasons, as a handful of high-round draft picks were either released or traded.

Now that the roster cuts are finalized, here are five thoughts.

1. Keeping three quarterbacks was the right move

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Ravens’ 53-man roster is Baltimore’s decision to keep three quarterbacks – Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson, and Robert Griffin III. The Ravens have not done so since 2009, when they kept Flacco, Troy Smith, and John Beck.

After watching both Griffin and Jackson throughout the preseason, this was the right call. Even though Jackson looked much better in the final two preseason games than he did in the first two, his arm is still very raw and he still needs to learn when and when not to put his body on the line and absorb hits.

RGIII spent a whole season out of football after a five-year run in the NFL, much of which was spent on injured reserve. Several of Griffin’s injuries were a direct result of taking too many hits. In the preseason, Griffin was willing to throw from the pocket and only run when absolutely necessary. He even displayed an ability to slide, a skill that Griffin said he picked up during his time out of the NFL.

Without a doubt, Flacco is the Ravens’ starting quarterback, and Jackson will likely back him up. Just because the Ravens have three quarterbacks on the roster does not mean that all three will be active on every single gameday. That sounds like a waste, but keeping Griffin in the fold will pay off huge dividends for Jackson’s development. Who knows, if the Ravens get to October or November and feel like Jackson has made huge strides, maybe they shop Griffin around and see if a team in need of a quarterback would consider a trade.

And in the event that Flacco goes down, they already have a Plan B with two quarterbacks and won’t need to sign a backup.

2. Breshad Perriman is officially the Ravens’ biggest draft bust

It’s never fun to point something like this out, especially considering how genuine a guy like Breshad Perriman is, but now that he’s been cut he is now the Ravens’ biggest draft bust in franchise history.

Perriman never got going during his time in Baltimore. After being drafted 26th overall in the 2015 Draft, Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a PCL sprain. Then in a 2016 minicamp practice, he suffered a partially-torn ACL and did not return until late in training camp. He also missed the entire 2017 preseason with a strained hamstring.

This summer,  Perriman participated in the entire offseason program for the first time in his career. Although reporters say that this offseason was Perriman’s best, the problems that have plagued Perriman in the past – drops leading to interceptions, lack of aggressiveness on 50/50 passes – continued during preseason games. He did catch a 32-yard touchdown pass from RGIII in the Ravens’ 33-7 win over the Rams on Aug. 9, but that was Perriman’s one shining moment. The rest just was not good enough.

Perriman finishes his Ravens career with 43 receptions for 576 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, he failed to reach 100 reception yards with 77 yards on just 10 receptions. No touchdowns.

Prior to Perriman, Sergio Kindle held the honor as the Ravens’ biggest draft bust. After the Ravens took him in the second round (43rd overall) in the 2010 Draft, Kindle fell down two flights of stairs in the summer and fractured his skull. He played in three games over two seasons for the Ravens with one career tackle. But considering he was a second-round pick, Perriman takes the cake as Baltimore’s biggest bust.

The Ravens and many close to the team will hope for nothing but the best for Perriman. Hopefully he receives (pun intended) an opportunity somewhere else and improves his game. It simply wasn’t working in Baltimore.

3. Keeping Janarion Grant takes Chris Moore and Willie Snead out of ‘danger zone’

After Janarion Grant and Tim White battled it out throughout camp at returner, the Ravens elected to keep Grant, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers. Both White and Grant coughed the ball up in the second preseason game against the Colts, but Grant rebounded to the point where the coaching staff felt comfortable enough to give him the returner job.

Over the last few weeks, it was rumored that if the Ravens were to cut both Grant and White, wide receivers Chris Moore and Willie Snead would handle the duties at returner. This scenario would have put Moore and Snead into the ‘danger zone’, meaning that running them out to return kicks and punts would increase their chances of suffering an injury.

Both Moore and Snead are expected to take on pivotal roles in the Ravens’ offense this season. Simply put, keeping five receivers with Moore and Snead handling additional return duties was not necessary, especially since Grant proved that he’s capable. Barring injuries, Grant will not see much time on offense. This allows him to put all of his efforts into being a returner.

The Ravens have lacked a consistent returner since Jacoby Jones was in town. Grant has a long way to go, but the Ravens may have found something in him.

4. Inside linebacker and tight end are team’s thinnest positions

For the most part, the Ravens’ roster is pretty stacked, but there are still weak areas. The two that stick out the most are inside linebacker and tight end. Both positions have four players listed, but only three are healthy.

At tight end, the Ravens will count on Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle to step up while Hayden Hurst recovers from a foot surgery. At inside linebacker, Kenny Young hurt his knee during the first half of Thursday’s game against the Redskins and was spotted on the sideline with a brace on the knee during the second half. If Young’s injury is a multi-week ailment, C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, and undrafted rookie Chris Board will carry the load.

Both Hurst and Young’s injuries are big blows. The Ravens drafted Hurst 25th overall and wanted to plug him into the offense right away. Now they likely won’t have him until October, and even then he will probably not be at full speed. Baltimore took Young in the fourth round and he challenged Onwuasor throughout camp, appearing to be one of the most athletic players on the roster. The status of Young’s knee is unknown, but Baltimore keeping him on the 53 probably means that the injury is not long-term.

The depth at tight end and inside linebacker will improve once Young and Hurst return. For now, and likely the first few weeks of the regular season, it’s definitely shaky.

5. Fingers crossed that Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown stay healthy

The Ravens offensive line, along with many other offensive lines in the NFL, struggled in the preseason. Injuries also took a toll, as starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley suffered a knee strain against the Colts and Greg Senat injured his foot against the Dolphins and sequentially went on injured reserve. Stanley returned to practice this past week and all signs point to him playing on September 9, but he’s already dealt with a handful of minor injuries in his short NFL career.

Orlando Brown Jr. held his own in his extended preseason action. He played more snaps than anyone on the team and will likely start at right tackle against Buffalo. His technique and footwork need to improve, but he makes up for it with his 6’8″, 345-pound frame.

The Ravens will cross their fingers that Stanley and Brown remain healthy throughout the season, because the backup options at tackle appear to be James Hurst and Jermaine Eluemunor. Hurst’s history at left tackle does not bode nearly as well as his time at left guard. Eluemunor has struggled at both tackle and guard in his playing time to-date. If any of Baltimore’s starting tackles, notably Stanley, suffers an injury and misses games, Joe Flacco may have to run for his life.

An interesting piece of news that came out on Saturday was the Colts releasing Austin Howard, who started 16 games at right tackle for the Ravens last year. Howard was worthy of starting last season, but nothing he did made you excited; he was average. His level of play went down further this preseason, and now he’s back on the free agent market.

Given the Ravens’ lack of serviceable depth at tackle, a reunion with Howard sounds intriguing. However, Howard being cut right before the regular season says a lot about what the Colts thought about his play. Remember when the Ravens re-signed Jeremy Zuttah last offseason and then cut him less than a month later?

The Ravens should certainly consider giving Howard a workout, but don’t count on them reaching for his services.

Image Credit: Scoopnest