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!

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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!

Ravens wrap up 2018 draft with five picks in last three rounds

Round 5 – pick #162 overall: Jordan Lasley – WR, UCLA

The Ravens were lined up to have the 152nd overall pick but traded back once again to give themselves an extra sixth round pick. Jordan Lasley joins Jaleel Scott as the newest members of the Ravens receiving core.

Lasley is a smaller target than Scott but has more speed. He spent all four years of his college career at UCLA but struggled to stay out of trouble while there. Lasley was arrested twice in 2016 for alcohol possession as a minor and presenting a fake I.D at a club. He also received a three game suspension in 2017 that put a damper on an otherwise impressive senior year. Lasley accumulated 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games.

The potential is certainly there but there are also concerns surrounding his hands. Lasley dropped 21 passes between his junior and senior year and struggles to haul in passes away from his body.

Round 6 – pick #190 overall: DeShon Elliott – S, Texas

The Ravens continued to add to their already strong secondary by selecting DeShone Elliot in the sixth round. Elliott is coming off of a spectacular junior season where he picked up 63 tackles, nine pass deflections and three forced fumbles. The numbers are good but Elliot also received a great deal of accolades in his first season as a starter, including a first team All-American and All-Big 12 honors.

The Ravens don’t have a desperate need for a safety but Elliot was projected by many to go somewhere in the fourth or fifth round. Scouts note his physicality and tackling ability but also credit his football IQ and on field leadership. While playing at Texas, Elliot often took charge and got the rest of the defense lined up properly.

His strengths will likely make him most useful against the run and in the zone. Elliott has had trouble in one-on-one coverage but rarely misses a play in front of him.

Round 6 – pick #212 overall: Greg Senat – OT, Wagner

If you didn’t know who Greg Senat was before the Ravens selected him in the sixth round, you’re not alone. The 23-year-old offensive tackle comes from Wagner College, a small private school in Staten Island. Prior to football, Senat was a basketball player at Wagner. He made the transition after two years and started all 11 games for the Seahawks in 2016 and 2017.

Scouts note Senat has a lot of raw talent but his size could be better. Adding some muscle over the next few years will be necessary though if he wants to stay in the league. Veterans on the Ravens line like Marshall Yanda and James Hurst will be great mentors for Senat as he prepares to transition to the next level.

Round 6 – pick #215 overall: Bradley Bozeman – C, Alabama

Selecting a center in the sixth round is about as least flashy as you can get with a pick but Bradley Bozeman is a strong blocker with a good amount of experience in one of the top programs in the country, Alabama. He spent his senior season as one of the anchors on the Crimson Tide’s line, helping them capture another national title earlier this year.

You probably recognize him as the guy who proposed to his girlfriend on the field after winning the national title in January. Don’t let that be the only thing you like about Bozeman though. The new Raven is NFL ready with good core strength and the ability to adjust mid-play.

Round 7 – pick #238 overall: Zach Sieler – DE, Ferris State

Ozzie Newsome’s final draft pick as the Ravens general manager came late Saturday afternoon. Zach Sieler was selected from a division II school in Michigan called Ferris State. When scouts look at division II players, they want above average physical traits that allow them to dominate against their small school competition. That certainly applies to Zach Sieler who started his college career as a walk on and now becomes the first player drafted out of the school in program history.

In his final two seasons with the Bulldogs, Sieler racked up over 50 tackles for a loss and 26.5 sacks. The only thing working against him is his lack of experience against top-tier competition. Sieler will have to prove himself among an aggressive Ravens defensive line ,but who better to learn from than guys like Brandon Williams and Terrell Suggs?

Photo credits: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images, Jay Janner / Austin American Statesman, @Wagner_Football on Twitter, Marvin Gentry / USA Today Sports, Ferris State Athletics

Round 4 recap: Ravens make first defensive selections

The Ravens entered the final day of the 2018 draft with a surplus of picks. After trading back four times between Thursday and Friday, Ozzie Newsome and company had stockpiled seven picks for the final three rounds, three of which came in the fourth round.

Pick #18 (#118 overall): Anthony Averett – CB, Alabama

Cue the Alabama jokes. It’s no secret that Ozzie loves defensive players from his alma mater, but Averett provides the Ravens secondary with even more depth. Last year Baltimore added Brandon Carr in free agency and drafted Marlon Humphrey from Alabama. Both pick ups helped bolster a secondary that suffered from injuries in previous seasons and allowed the defense to withstand the test of a full season. With Jimmy Smith likely sidelined for a portion of the 2018 season, this pick makes a lot of sense.

The Ravens dedicated their first four picks to helping the offense but ending the weekend with another unbalanced draft would not do the team any favors. We saw this last year when the Ravens went all in on the defense.

Averett did not see any play time in his first two years at Alabama due to a stacked depth chart and some injuries. When he finally made it on the field as a junior and senior, Averett showed good consistency. Scouts commend his athleticism but note that he could become a target for QB’s to pick on.

Fun fact: Averett is the nephew of Bryant McKinnie, the former Ravens left tackle who was a part of the 2012-13 super bowl run.

Pick #22 (#122 overall): Kenny Young – ILB, UCLA

Just a few picks later the Ravens added another defensive player. Kenny Young really started turning heads during his senior year when he led the Bruins with 110 tackles and was named a first-team All-Pac-12 linebacker.

The Ravens already have their anchor at the linebacker position with C.J. Mosley but Young could come in and compete with the likes of Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor and Kamalei Correa for play time. His speed and agility makes him a valuable defender against the run but scouts question his physicality.

Pick #32 (#132 overall): Jaleel Scott – WR, New Mexico St.

After missing out on and passing up some receivers in the first three rounds, the Ravens finally selected one in the fourth. Jaleel Scott is not a big name like D.J. Moore or Calvin Ridley but he will join a diverse receiving core with good veteran leadership and talent around him.

Scott struggled academically out of high school making him ineligible for many of the D1 schools that were recruiting him. After redshirting his first year at Ellsworth Community College, Scott made an immediate impact and finished with all conference honors in 2015. Scott was able to transfer to New Mexico State in 2016 and played his final two years there. Scouts started to take notice during his senior season when he racked up 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns on just 76 receptions.

The Ravens were likely attracted to Scott’s size and reach. Standing at 6’5″ and weighing 218 pounds, Scott is a physical receiver with the ability to battle defenders for the ball. He doesn’t shy away from contact but lacks the speed and route running ability of other receivers drafted before him.

Photo credits: Rick Scuteri / Associated Press, Harry How / Getty Images, Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports

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 defensive coordinator Dean Pees plans to retire following 2017 season

BALTIMORE, MD — As many Ravens fans were sleeping on early Sunday morning, reports surfaced that defensive coordinator Dean Pees intends to retire following the 2017 season. ESPN Ravens Reporter Jamison Hensley was among the first to break the story online.

Pees, 68, is in his eighth season with the Ravens; the sixth as defensive coordinator. He spent his first two seasons with the Ravens as the linebackers coach. Prior to Baltimore, Pees held the same two roles with the New England Patriots from 2004-2009. Pees has also held several coaching positions at the collegiate level, the most notable being his head coaching stint with Kent State from 1997-2003.

How soon Pees can start enjoying retirement depends on when the Ravens’ season ends. The Ravens host the Cincinnati Bengals on New Year’s Eve, and can clinch a playoff berth and the #5 seed in the AFC with a win. If the Ravens lose, they can still make the postseason, but will have to rely on either the Titans to lose to the Jaguars, or the Bills to lose to the Dolphins to make that happen.

With Pees at the helm through the first 16 games, the Ravens’ defense ranks first in the NFL with 33 turnovers, fourth in points allowed (272), and ninth in yards allowed (4842). The unit is sending three starters to the Pro Bowl – outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (7X), safety Eric Weddle (5X), and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (3X). Had it not been for this Ravens defense, the early portion of the Ravens’ schedule could have played out a lot differently.

🔥HOT TAKE🔥This is a big blow for the Ravens. According to many reports, this has been planned for a long time, but out of respect to Pees the Ravens did not make the announcement public until now. While the Ravens will certainly wish Pees a happy retirement, they will need to replace one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL. It will also be interesting to see how Suggs, now 35 and in his 14th season, reacts to this announcement. Would Suggs want to stick around and learn a new playbook at this point in his career?

A name to keep an eye on in the coming days is Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. After almost six seasons with Indy, Pagano appears to be on the way out. The 3-12 Colts are expected to part ways with Pagano following their game against the Houston Texans tomorrow, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Of course, Ravens fans are all too familiar with Pagano, as he served on Baltimore’s coaching staff from 2008-2011 (secondary coach ’08-’10, defensive coordinator ’11). It remains to be seen whether Pagano would want to find another head coaching gig elsewhere, or return to a coordinator role, potentially with his former team.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun 

Preview: Ravens, facing win-and-in situation, wrap up regular season against Bengals

BALTIMORE, MD — It all comes down to one game. After an injury-filled training camp and 15 games filled with plenty of ups and downs, the Ravens find themselves just one win away from the playoffs. If Baltimore defeats the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon, they will be heading to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

There are other ways for the Ravens to make the playoffs but they all rely on others to lose. As long as Baltimore wins they are guaranteed the 5th seed and a trip to Kansas City in the Wild Card round. If the Ravens can not get the job done against Cincinnati, either a Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans loss will be enough to earn them a spot in January. The Bills travel to Miami to face the Dolphins, and the Titans host an angry Jaguars team that will most likely not rest their starters.  All four games carry Wild Card implications.

Following the games this past holiday weekend, the NFL announced that the week 17 schedule would have some major changes. The Ravens were one of a handful of teams who had their game moved from 1:00 pm to 4:25 pm. This ensures that the Ravens and all of the other AFC Wild Card contenders will play at the same time.

The Ravens have been in this scenario before but it has been a while since the team has been able to close out the year on their home field. The opportunity to clinch a playoff appearance in front of their own fans certainly had the team hopeful for a larger crowd. However, after the time change, it is likely that the game will interfere with the New Year’s Eve plans that some fans made prior to the kickoff time change.

John Harbaugh expressed his frustration with this earlier in the week by saying the NFL didn’t do the team any favors. “It’s kinda tough for the fans,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know what the considerations are at the league office and I don’t really care, other than the fact that I hope our fans are ok with it.”

When it comes to head coaches, Cincinnati has their own issues. Just a few weeks ago Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis announced that he would be steeping away from the team at the end of this season. Lewis has been wearing the headset in Cincinnati for 15 seasons but has failed to win a playoff game in seven tries.

Even if Bengals fans are cheering on this exit, the team is certainly playing hard for their coach. Last week Cincinnati knocked the Detroit Lions out of playoff contention and they would love nothing more than to possibly knock a division opponent out as well. Let’s not forget that Lewis was Baltimore’s Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator from 1996-2001.

Last Meeting: The Ravens opened their 2017 season on the road in Cincinnati with an impressive 20-0 win. In the weeks following that win, the media downplayed the Ravens performance as the Bengals looked like one of the leagues basement dwellers. Even if that ended up being true, a shutout against a division rival should not be overlooked. The Ravens will look to replicate that performance again on Sunday.

Details:

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, MD.

When: Saturday, Dec. 23, 4:25 pm

Radio: WBAL-109098 Rock

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Stan White, Jarrett Johnson

TV: CBS/WJZ-TV13

Commentators: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn

Notes on the Bengals:

  • Since being drafted in 2011, A.J. Green has been a thorn in the Ravens side. In nine career games against Baltimore, Green has racked up 800 yards and six touchdowns on 46 receptions. He has also averaged 169 yards in his last three games at M&T Bank Stadium.

Notes on the Ravens:

  • After throwing for 237 yards in Saturday’s win over Indianapolis, Joe Flacco entered the top 25 of all-time passing yards leaders. Currently in his tenth year, Flacco has averaged roughly 3,557 yards a season.
  • Undrafted free agent receiver Quincy Adeboyejo was promoted from the practice squad earlier this week. With Jeremy Maclin still questionable, Adeboyejo will get a chance to prove himself after suffering a knee injury in the preseason.

 

Image Credit:  John Grieshop/Getty Images