Podcast Episode 4: Pop the champagne, Chris Davis has been benched!

Welcome to Episode 4 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with Nolan McGraw and Jake McDonnell. Things sound a little different this week with Nolan hosting the show as Jake enjoys his vacation.

The podcast begins with a look at a few of the famous figures in Baltimore to wear the number four in their career. The guys follow that up by diving right into a few of the big Orioles stories from this past weekend, including Chris Davis being benched and the Orioles interviewing Ned Colletti.

After discussing the tough news surrounding Richard Bleier and his injury, the guys transition into some Ravens talk. Lamar Jackson got the opportunity to run the offense during practice this past Thursday which quickly caught the attention of the national media. Nolan and Jake give their opinions on Jackson’s progress thus far and comment on the media circus forming around the rookie QB and starter, Joe Flacco.

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Podcast Episode 3: Nothing can JUSTIFY how bad the Orioles are

Welcome to Episode 3 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell and editor Nolan McGraw.

The guys kick off the show today talking about two monumental events in the Baltimore/D.C. sports community – the Washington Capitals winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and Justify becoming the 13’th Triple Crown winner.

Ravens mandatory minicamp is underway this week, with the team holding three mandatory practices through Thursday. What did Nolan and Jake take away from the first day of camp?

Not much changes through the weeks when it comes to the Baltimore Orioles. The team now holds a 19-47 record, but no changes have been made as of now. The Charm City Bird Watch gang discusses Buck Showalter’s questionable managing decisions and the returns of both Zach Britton and Darren O’Day.

Last but not least, the return of one of our many new segments, Don’t Be A Jerk! Which sports figure will Jake call out this week for being a jerk? Listen and find out!

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!

Podcast Episode 1: It’s time for a yard sale at the warehouse

Welcome to Episode 1 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell and editor Nolan McGraw.

Last week, the NFL released a new set of rules for players to follow during the National Anthem. Without going into the political side of the discussion, Jake and Nolan ponder what impact the new rules will likely have on the NFL and potentially the country.

Also last week, organized team activities (OTA’s) began for the Ravens in Owings Mills. After hearing from Joe Flacco, the CCBW crew analyze Flacco’s response to the Lamar Jackson questions after the two were on the practice field together for the first time.

With the Orioles now 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East, Nolan and Jake reinforce the importance of a rebuild that the franchise continues to put off. The two also discuss Jim Palmer’s comments about Chris Davis last week on MASN, and question what the Orioles should do with their slumping $160 man.

Last but not least, we end the episode by introducing a new segment called Don’t Be A Jerk! Who will Jake and Nolan call out this week? Listen and find out!

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!

Podcast: Jake and Nolan analyze where the Orioles are, and talk Ravens as OTA’S begin

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell and author Nolan McGraw.

With the Orioles 17.5 games back in the American League East, some decisions need to be made in the warehouse. At what percentage do Jake and Nolan think players like Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach could be moved? The guys also ponder what to do with Chris Davis, and look ahead to this week’s series against the White Sox.

On Monday, Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) begin for the Ravens in Owings Mills. The CCBW duo go over the biggest storylines surrounding the Ravens at this point in the offseason, including the relationship between Joe Flacco & Lamar Jackson, the retooled receiving core, the position battles along the offensive line, and the impact of concession price reductions at M&T Bank Stadium.

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!

Ravens trade up to pick 32 and draft Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson

Seven picks after drafting South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst 25’th overall, the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, acquiring the 32’nd overall pick and selecting Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

For the 32’nd pick, the Ravens sent pick #52 (second round), pick #125 (fourth round), and a 2019 second-round pick to the Eagles.

Jackson stands at 6’2″, 216 pounds. A native of Pompano Beach, Florida, Jackson played in 38 games over three seasons at Louisville, where he threw for 9,043 yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in that span.

Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, becoming the youngest player ever to win the award. Jackson is just 21-years-old, and will not turn 22 until Jan. 17, 2019. In his Heisman-winning season, Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns.

For a quarterback, Jackson resembles a speedy play-maker who relies on his ability to move out of the pocket and make plays with both his arms and his legs. He has a powerful arm and can easily avoid defenders with his speed. He’s a touchdown machine  both as a runner and a thrower, reminiscent of Michael Vick.

As the case is with any scrambling quarterback, the big concern with Jackson will be whether or not be can stay healthy at the NFL level. Although he did not miss a start over his last two seasons at Louisville, collegiate superstar quarterbacks, like Robert Griffin III, saw their professional careers fall apart due to injuries. With Jackson being less than 220 pounds, that’s definitely something to worry about. The more Jackson runs, the better chance he has of getting hurt.

Although scouts praised Jackson for his arm strength, his accuracy needs some improvement. He needs to lower the height on his deep balls, adjust his low release point, and stop staring receivers down. These types of things lead to tipped passes and interceptions, and Jackson has thrown 27 of them in his collegiate career.

For a team who’s owner said a few weeks after the 2017 season ended that the Ravens “had bigger fish to fry” than finding Joe Flacco‘s potential replacement in the 2018 draft, this is a stunner. Most expected the Ravens to take a quarterback in the mid rounds, but not this early. Although John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ brass said after the pick that Flacco is still their quarterback going forward, the writing is on the wall. Jackson will likely need some time to develop under Flacco, but if the 11-year veteran fails to lead the Ravens back to the postseason for the first time in four years, the Lamar Jackson era could very well begin in Baltimore. After all, Flacco has no more guaranteed money on his contract after the 2018 season.

The drafting of Jackson likely means that RGIII will not make the 53-man roster as training camp progresses. Jackson and Griffin are virtually the same quarterback, and the Ravens’ intentions are clear with this pick. Griffin will need an outstanding summer performance to even warrant the Ravens keeping a third quarterback on the roster.

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Image Credit: Houston Chronicle 

Five takeaways from John Harbaugh’s season review press conference

OWINGS MILLS — On Thursday morning, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh addressed the media for his season review press conference. A variety of topics were discussed including the recent retirement of Dean Pees and the upcoming draft.

Overall this was a typical press conference that we have come to expect from Harbaugh. Many of the more detailed issues and answers will come from the annual state of the Ravens address when Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti take questions from the media.

Here are five highlights from the 40-minute press conference, which you can watch here.

1. 2017 season in review:

Harbaugh opened up the press conference by reflecting on the season and all the adversity the team faced since starting back in the spring. “When it’s all said and done, you look at your people and the job they did,” Harbaugh said.” How did we do as a team? How did we compete? How did we handle adversity? How did we respond? In the end, I’m really proud of our people.”

Continuing off of this, Harbaugh complimented his team on their journey since day one and their work ethic to be the best possible team. “From April 15th through this week, we had a bunch of veteran leaders that came to work everyday to be the best they could be,” Harbaugh said.” In the end that’s what you ask of people, so I’m happy with that and I’m excited about where we are going forward.”

As the press conference continued, Harbaugh went into depth about the way the season ended and how disappointing it was. He mentioned how the team went into half time against the Bengals kicking themselves over how poorly they played but were still able to regroup and take the lead in the second half. The Ravens coach hinted at this being a microcosm of their entire season but when it came down to the last play, they couldn’t get the job done.

Harbaugh seemed reluctant to place all the blame on the now infamous 4th and 12 play. He mentioned the punt prior to that drive and how that could have easily bounced in their favor as well as the two defensive penalties on that drive that could have been avoided.

2. The coaching staff:

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Ravens moving forward is the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has already announced his retirement but Harbaugh said he doesn’t anticipate having to replace anyone else.

“We will find a defensive coordinator somewhere, inside or out,” Harbaugh said. “We are in the process of doing that right now. I’m happy with the coaches that we have and we are building going forward.”

This idea of “building” would come up again later as Harbaugh mentioned how important consistency is from season-to-season. The offensive coordinator job has been a revolving door for many seasons now, so it’s not surprising that they want to try to improve with Marty Mornhinweg instead of starting over again.

“We have great coaches. You can look at the stats but the bottom line is we improved tremendously and faced a great deal of adversity on offense,” Harbaugh said. He admitted that the beginning of the season was slow and frustrating at times for the offense but they kept working and just focused on winning the next game in front of them.

As Flacco returned to full strength and the makeshift offensive line started to gain some traction, there were clear improvements. So it sounds like carrying this finish into next season while continuing to build will be Harbaugh’s goal for improving the offense.

3. Protesting and empty seats:

This has been one of the more anticipated issues for Harbaugh and others to speak on this offseason but I have a feeling the bulk of it is still to come. Harbaugh did speak about this for a while during his press conference but didn’t jump to any grand conclusions.

“Whether it’s the anthem, the kneeling, or the social [issues], those are complicated and tough conversations that you have,” Harbaugh said. He went on to say that he had many talks with his players about the issues they have faced outside of football and how difficult those can be when you are in the middle of a season.

“As a coach it’s tough because I want them thinking about the game, but this was something that really hit the league [as a whole],” Harbaugh said. “That’s a bigger picture than I can stand up here and address.”

Harbaugh did emphasize how the team is always active in the community and many players care deeply about things outside the game. With that being said, the Ravens head coach continued to hammer home how it’s his job to have them ready on Sunday no matter what.

4. Upcoming draft:

It has become apparent that the Ravens haven’t had the best success in recent drafts. For the most part, their first round picks have been consistent but as a whole there have been some busts. This upcoming draft will be especially important for the offense after 2017 focused heavily on the defense.

Harbaugh was quick to say that adding weapons on offense is the number one goal for the upcoming draft. “I don’t think its any secret that we need to add playmakers to the mix.”

The salary cap will be a concern as always so the draft could be the team’s best opportunity to really add weapons. Having a healthy offense is what’s really important but combining that with a solid draft will be the key, as always, for any Ravens success in 2018.

Harbaugh was also questioned about the possibility of drafting a quarterback after a couple shaly seasons from Joe Flacco. “It’s something we will be talking about for sure,” Harbaugh said. “When you have a veteran quarterback at this stage, that’s the time you’re looking for a young backup.”

5. Injury news:

Harbaugh closed out Thursdays press conference by talking about the handful of injuries the team suffered since April. According to Harbaugh, almost every player is on pace for a proper return next year. Marshall Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Tavon Young headline that group but there are many others who are on schedule and working hard to come back.

Jimmy Smith is a bit of a different story though. Since he suffered his injury in December, he will be behind everyone else in terms of recovery time. Harbaugh said that we all know the timetable for Achilles injuries but you just hope for the best.

“If you do the math, eight months will be September for Jimmy but that’s conservative. I’m hopeful but we are going to have a bunch of corners here as you know.”

Image Credit: Sporting News

Ravens regain control of season with 27-10 win over Browns

CLEVELAND — On Sunday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens traveled to Cleveland for their second matchup against the winless Browns this season. John Harbaugh and the Ravens put together a 27-10 win and walked out of Cleveland with a fresh morale.

Coming off of an overtime loss to the Packers, the Browns were looking more than overdue for their first win of the year. Quarterback DeShone Kizer played one of his best games of the year and star receiver Josh Gordon made his long-awaited return. With all of this in mind, this week’s matchup had all the makings of a trap game for the Ravens.

For all of you superstitious fans, Saturday was also the ten-year anniversary of the Ravens infamous loss to the Miami Dolphins. That would end up being the only win for Miami during their abysmal 2007 campaign but it saved them from what looked like an inevitable 0-16 season. Ten years later, the Browns found themselves winless with the same exact record (0-13) as the Dolphins. This time around the Ravens would handle their business, simultaneously saving themselves from embarrassment.

Baltimore’s offense didn’t pounce on the Browns in the early minutes of Sunday’s game but the defense certainly came looking to make a statement. The Terrell Suggs-led unit held Kizer and the Browns’ offense down early and never backed off. Up until the final drive of the first half, Kizer’s total passing yards were in the negatives. He finished the game with 146 passing yards on 20 completions.

The Ravens continued to look a little sloppy through most of the first half but finished strong with a pair of touchdowns to take a 17-10 lead. Given everything that went wrong for Cleveland in the first half, including a pair of turnovers, they only found themselves down by one possession at the break. The Ravens’ defense continued to do their job in the second half and kept the Browns off of the scoreboard for the reminder of the game.

Alex Collins had an uncharacteristically quiet game on the ground, possibly due to the stout run defense of Cleveland. After getting roughed up on a couple of plays throughout the game, the coaching staff decided to sit their starting running back instead of risking an injury. Javorius Allen picked up the work load in his absence and racked up 70 yards while running out the clock in the fourth quarter.

With Collins not running as well as he normally does, Joe Flacco ended up throwing over 40 passes in Sunday’s win. Despite only completing 26 of those passes, Flacco finished with 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The offensive line didn’t open many holes in the run game until garbage time, but they did keep Flacco on his feet. The Browns only sacked #5 once.

One of the unsung heroes of the day was punter Sam Koch. The 12-year veteran dropped three punts inside the Cleveland 5-yard line throughout the game. The first two made it difficult for Kizer and the Browns’ offense to get anything going but the third was the key to the game.

On the first play following Koch’s sensational punt, Kizer dropped back into his own endzone. Za’Darius Smith was all over the rookie QB before he could get a read on his receivers. Smith swiftly forced a fumble which Brandon Williams recovered for a touchdown. The score was reviewed, but it was upheld and the Ravens took complete control of the game with a 24-10 lead.

Williams’ touchdown marks the first of his career and the fifth of the year for the Ravens defense. This was just one of four turnovers forced by Baltimore on the day, giving them a differential of +17 for the year.

Following the heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh, the Ravens still had the chance to control their own destiny by winning out and this week was the first step toward a playoff berth. There are still two winnable games left. If the Ravens continue to take care of their own business, we will be seeing purple in the postseason.

The first of those final two games will be this coming Saturday when the Indianapolis Colts come to town for the first time since the 2012-13 playoffs.

Image Credit: Ron Schwane, Associated Press