Three things to watch for as the Ravens take on the Rams Thursday night

The Baltimore Ravens will take on the Los Angeles Rams Thursday evening at M&T Stadium in their week one preseason matchup.

The Ravens look to build off of their preseason-opening 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame game last week in Canton Ohio.

Here are three things watch for during Thursday night’s contest.

1) Who plays and for how long? 

According to ESPN‘s Jamison Hensley, Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco said that he expects to play in Thursday’s game. If Flacco does play, could this mean the debuts of the revamped starting receiving corps of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown?

If any of these guys see the field on Thursday night it is unknown how long they will play. Traditionally Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has had his starters play a series or two in the first preseason game. It would mark the first preseason action for Flacco since Aug. 27, 2016 versus Detroit as he missed all of last year’s games with a herniated disk in his back.

What impact will Flacco’s apperarance have on the playing time of the other Ravens quarterbacks? Robert Griffin III performed well in the preseason opener while Lamar Jackson struggled and looked like a quarterback who needs as many reps as he can get this preseason.

It will also be intriguing to see if veteran defensive stalwarts Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle see the field Thursday night. Suggs is entering his 16th season and has looked great in camp this summer. Weddle is entering his 12th season but you wouldn’t know it from this clip after joint practice with the Rams on Monday as he seems as charged up as ever.

2) Who keeps their momentum going and who bounces back?

The toast of the town late last week was Ravens third-year linebacker Kamalei Correa. Correa was a beast against the Bears, finishing with six tackles, three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. His effort earned him some praise from Harbaugh.

Going into the contest, I was anxious to see what impact new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale would have on the defense and Correa’s big night was a product of returning to outside linebacker, his natural position. It will be interesting to see if Correa can provide another big night and continue to remove himself from the roster bubble.

Looking to bounce back for the Ravens would be wide receiver Breshad Perriman. The trials and tribulations of Perriman have been well documented and on the Ravens first possession last Thursday night, Perriman provided another moment to his list.

This interception led Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus to take still frames of two plays from Perriman’s last two games against the Bears.

Perriman finished the night with two catches for 19 yards and has quite a mountain to climb to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

3) Offensive Line play

Ravens quarterbacks were sacked eight times last Thursday night. Six of the eight sacks were endured by mobile quarterbacks Griffin and Jackson.  This is an alarming trend considering both players move significantly better in getting away from pressure than Flacco does.

Orlando Brown Jr led the group in total snaps and performed satisfactorily in his first taste of NFL action.  It’s worth noting that the remaining leaders in offensive linemen snaps (Jermaine Eluemunor, Bradley Bozeman, Maurquice Shakir, and Randin Crecelius) are not anticipated to be starters for the Ravens but it leaves the offensive line’s depth in doubt.

Given Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda’s injury history, this is a definite area of improvement for the Ravens this Thursday night. Lewis returned to practice on July 28 after sitting out a few sessions with a nagging ankle injury. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.

Yanda came off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Monday and returned to practice on a limited basis. This is a great sign for the Ravens as he is working his way back from a fractured ankle he suffered in week two last season. He also suffered a partially-torn rotator cuff while lifting weights in December and underwent a procedure to fix it up. The shoulder injury is actually what’s held Yanda out to this point. He is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

The Details:

Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens

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Podcast Episode 8: Orioles mid-season awards & Ravens defensive preview

Welcome to Episode 8 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell and editor Nolan McGraw.

As usual the podcast opens with the weekly numbers segment (1:55). This week Jake and Nolan dive into the famous and not so famous number 8’s in Baltimore sports history. After this the duo transitions into a brief recap of the Orioles recent wins over the Texas Rangers as well as some more developments in the Manny Machado trade news (19:45). Be sure to check out Jake’s article highlighting the top 10 moments of Manny Machado’s career in Baltimore.

Last week on the podcast the Ravens offense was examined in depth so this week Nolan and Jake put the defense under the microscope and give their thoughts as the season approaches (50:00). The podcast concludes with a story from Jake about his recent vacation but the conversation quickly dissolves into a rant about the frustrations of driving (1:16:45).

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes. Please leave us a review, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

Ravens defense picks apart Hundley and Packers offense in 23-0 win

GREEN BAY, WI — Coming out of a bye week the Ravens needed a strong performance to kick-start the final stretch of their season. If the Ravens are to make the postseason, the window is still open but there is not much room left for error. However, a 23-0 road win against the Green Bay Packers is an awfully good start.

In terms of health the Ravens were not exactly better off than they were a few weeks ago. Getting running back Danny Woodhead back was certainly a big difference maker for the anemic offense. The Ravens found themselves down another offensive lineman as second-year man Ronnie Stanley was unable to suit up as he deals with a concussion. The Ravens also had two healthy scratches – Terrance West and Breshad Perriman – that could have been attributed to Woodhead’s return.

After winning the coin toss the Ravens chose to kick and send their defense out first. This would end up paying off as Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle picked up a pair of interceptions on the first two Green Bay possessions. Brett Hundley and the Packers offense had gone their last two games without a turnover.

The defense continued to feast on the Packers at the beginning of the second quarter. Patrick Onwuasor got to Green Bay running back Devante Mays and force a fumble. The turnover marked the Packers first fumble by a running back this season.

Despite forcing three turnovers after just eighteen minutes of play, the Ravens only put three points on the board. Marty Mornhinweg continued to show how incompetent of a play-caller he is with more head-scratching decisions. Joe Flacco was 13-for-17 on completions at the half but only averaged 5.8 yards-per-completion. Even in third-and-long situations, there was absolutely no urgency to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage.

The screen pass is an important piece in running a successful offense but that’s because you should only be calling it a handful of times per game, not a handful of times per drive. I don’t care how banged up you offensive line is, this is unacceptable on Mornhinweg’s part.

These mind-numbing play calls were not reserved to the pass game. Alex Collins got off to a hot start by running up the middle, yet Mornhinweg decided to call some pitch runs to the outside in third and short scenarios. All of this, combined with an ugly Flacco interception, resulted in a slim 6-0 Ravens lead at halftime.

The Ravens offense looked completely rejuvenated coming out of the half. Chris Moore set the offense up nicely after returning the kick 59 yards. Flacco took over from there, completing three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Mike Wallace brought in Flacco’s precise pass with one arm while fighting with the defender for space.

Considering how well the defense performed in the first half, the new 13-0 lead felt twice as large. Even with a larger lead, the defense did not let up, forcing the Packers to punt or turn the ball over on eight straight drives. Hundley was under pressure for a majority of the second half. When he did manage to escape the Ravens defenders, he was forced to throw it away.

The Ravens offense was just as lost as the Packers following their touchdown but the pressure was not on them. Just one score would have been enough to officially put the game away but the offense didn’t look too concerned with closing it out themselves. Luckily, the defense remained on point, forcing one more turnover while keeping Green Bay scoreless.

Had it not been for this forced fumble by Terrell Suggs, the offense likely would have run out the clock without another score, but excellent field position allowed them to finally put more points on the board in the final minutes of the game.

The Ravens defense finished the 23-0 win with five forced turnovers and six sacks for their third shutout performance of the season.

The Ravens will get a little extra rest before returning home for a Monday Night game against the Texans next week. Earlier this year, this matchup looked like it could be trouble for the Ravens but injuries have decimated the Texans to the point where they are no longer contenders. With that being said, the Ravens will have to make some changes on offense if they want to avoid the upset.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press

Preview: Ravens desperate for win in prime time matchup against Dolphins

BALTIMORE — Despite losing four of their last five and suffering a handful of injuries, the Baltimore Ravens are favored by three points to win their Thursday night matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

We all know that the Ravens have a magnitude of different problems that go beyond injuries, but if  they bounce-back on a short week they are going to need some key players back.

Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman were ruled out of Sunday’s game against Minnesota and Mike Wallace was forced to join them after suffering a concussion in the first quarter. With all three starting receivers out, Joe Flacco was tasked with delivering the ball to a group of highly unreliable players. Getting at least two of those three starting receivers back will be huge for Flacco and the offense as a whole.

Defensively, the Ravens are relatively healthy. But, the level of play in recent weeks has not lived up to the hype. One of the most notable disappointments is the secondary. The once feared safety duo of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson has been reduced to a pair of unreliable and mistake-prone defenders.

Let’s not overlook the defensive line. Brandon Williams returned to action against the Vikings, but the run defense was not good enough to keep Minnesota off the field. The Ravens also failed to record a sack against backup quarterback Case Keenum. Both of these stats need to change. With the Dolphins likely resorting to a backup quarterback this week, pressure will be essential in creating more turnover opportunities and taking some weight off of an under-performing secondary

Previous matchup: This year the Ravens and Dolphins are facing a rare scenario. The teams squared off in the preseason and will now meet again in the regular season. while the preseason means absolutely nothing and both teams have changed drastically since then, Baltimore did dominate their way to a 31-7 win back in August.

Notes on Miami:

  • The Dolphins looked sluggish a few weeks ago after suffering back-to-back loses, but since then they have won three in a row against some good competition.
  • Matt Moore is expected to get the start this week in place of an injured Jay Cutler. Moore had to enter Sunday’s game against the Jets after Cutler took a big hit and suffered cracked ribs. The 33-year-old Moore threw for 188 yards with two touchdowns while leading his team to a 31-28 win over the New York Jets.
  • As usual, expect turnovers to be a big factor on Thursday. During their three-game win streak, the Dolphins have generated five turnovers, making them a defense to look out for. However, Miami has also turned the ball over five times in those games, giving themselves a turnover margin of zero.

Details:

Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland

When: Thursday, Oct. 26, 8:25 pm EST

Networks: CBS / NFL Network / Amazon Prime 

Image Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ravens Acquire Safety Tony Jefferson

OWINGS MILLS, MD – It’s official. Safety Tony Jefferson is going to be a Baltimore Raven.

On Thursday afternoon, right after the official NFL signing period began at 4 p.m., it was announced that Jefferson and the Ravens had reached a four-year, $36 million contract. Jefferson and the Ravens agreed to terms on Monday night, but the deal was not made public or official until Thursday.

ESPN‘s Adam Schefter was the first to break the news.

As Schefter alluded to, Jefferson will be teaming with current Ravens safety Eric Weddle.  Together, Weddle and Jefferson could be one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. Last season, Jefferson was ranked the fifth-best safety in the NFL, while Weddle was ranked second. It appears that Weddle had a part in recruiting Jefferson to Baltimore, based on this tweet from a few weeks ago:

Jefferson, formally an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma, played his first four seasons in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals. He has never made the Pro Bowl, but has been a solid player alongside superstar safety Tyrann Mathieu.

In his time with the Cardinals, Jefferson totaled 220 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and six forced fumbles. He is a hard hitter who will fit in perfectly with the Ravens’ defensive mentality. Right now, three of the starters in Baltimore’s secondary are Jefferson, Weddle, and Jimmy Smith. If all three are healthy, that is a very nice unit.

With the signing of Jefferson, the Ravens will now have to make a decision on what to do with safety Lardarius Webb. Webb has been with the Ravens since 2009, and had a decent season last year in his first stint at safety. However, he has a $7.5 million cap hit this season. Releasing Webb would create $5.5 million in cap space.

Baltimore’s interest in Jefferson had been there for weeks. The Ravens are not expected to be a major aggressor in free agency, but acquiring Jefferson is a solid move. With the picture at safety now becoming clearer, the Ravens now need to upgrade at corner-back. It was reported earlier today that the Ravens have interest in Cowboys free agent corner Morris Claiborne. Whether it is in free agency or the draft, cornerback is a position that the Ravens will be looking to improve.