Three things to watch for as the Baltimore Ravens preseason begins

The Baltimore Ravens will head to Canton Ohio to kick off their 2018 preseason schedule against the Chicago Bears in the NFL Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night.

It will mark the first time the Ravens take the field since their heartbreaking 31-27 season-ending defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2017. That loss landed Baltimore out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

With most of the starters not expected to play on Thursday, here are three things I am watching for as the Ravens start their 2018 campaign.

1. Lamar Jackson

The buzz around Baltimore has been significant surrounding Lamar Jackson ever since the Ravens traded back into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select the 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback out of Louisville 32nd overall.

Jackson’s accolades and statistics in the collegiate ranks are unprecedented. To go along with his Heisman Trophy, Jackson was the 2016 and 2017 ACC Player of the Year. He was also a unanimous first team All-American in 2016. In Jackson’s final two years at Louisville he amassed 10,375 total yards and 96 total TD’S.

So what does all of this mean at the next level? Absolutely nothing. The learning curve for Jackson begins for real this Thursday night and I cannot wait to see how the “future” of the quarterback position in Baltimore looks in his first test as an NFL quarterback. It will be interesting to see who starts the game, but it is expected that both Jackson and Robert Griffin III will receive significant playing time.

Jackson channeled his inner Bart Scott when asked about his debut:

2. Wide receiver corps

While nothing has been announced as of yet, it is unlikely that the Ravens new look receiving corps of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown will see much action in Thursday’s opener.

That means the spotlight will be on Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, and rookies Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley as they look to establish themselves as contributing members of what has recently been a very disappointing position group of late for the Ravens.

Moore has the inside track to be the number four receiver and is looking to improve upon his numbers from last season (18 catches 248 yards and 3 touchdowns). Moore is entering his third season in Baltimore out of the University of Cincinnati and Thursday could prove a key moment for him as he looks to gain a stranglehold on that fourth receiver spot.

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Breshad Perriman is fighting for a roster spot. Image Credit: Sporting News

The much maligned Perriman is entering his fourth season with the Ravens. The first- round draft pick in 2015 missed his entire rookie season with injuries and has struggled in his two seasons since, tallying just 43 catches and three touchdowns. After the Ravens picked up his roster bonus, he is now battling to make the week one roster. This could be Perriman’s last chance is Baltimore and a good showing on Thursday night could relieve some of the pressure he is sure to be feeling.

Scott and Lasley appear poised for significant reps at receiver in the preseason opener as well. Scott, a fourth-round pick out of New Mexico State has struggled out of the gate at training camp. Lasley was drafted in the fifth round out of UCLA and has been the more impressive of the two in training camp so far. Look for both to be featured prominently in the Ravens offense on Thursday night.

3. New Defensive Coordinator

While the 2017 Baltimore Ravens defense finished sixth in the NFL in points-per-game allowed (18.9), many Ravens fans, myself included, were excited when Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees retired one day after the 2017 season ended.

Often times Pees would sink into a “prevent” style defense when the team had the lead late in games.  This was a contributing factor in the Ravens inability to hold on to a 38-29 lead in the fourth quarter of what became an AFC North division clinching loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Enter Don “Wink” Martindale who was promoted to Defensive Coordinator this off-season. Martindale struggled in his only prior stint as an NFL defensive coordinator when he guided the Denver Broncos to a last place finish in total defense.  That hasn’t stopped many Ravens including Tony Jefferson from raving about him this offseason:

While it is just the first preseason game, the excitement around town is noticeable. Amid the Orioles fire sale, the Ravens will look to provide a welcomed distraction for Charm City as they get their 2018 campaign underway on Thursday night.

Image Credit: Associated Press

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Podcast Episode 7: As Joe Angel would say, time to wave Manny Machado ‘bye bye’

Welcome to Episode 7 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

After the Charm City Bird Watch crew goes over the top #7’s in Ravens & Orioles history (2:30), the guys dissect the latest trade rumors surrounding Manny Machado (12:15). There’s reportedly been some hesitation within Orioles’ ownership to trade Machado to a division rival like the Yankees, as well as letting him go before next week’s All-Star game in Washington, D.C. You’ll find out why the O’s should change their way of thinking when it comes to these scenarios.

With Ravens training camp kicking off next week, the next part of Episode 7 features a full breakdown of the Baltimore’s offense (25:16). Jake, Ian, and Nolan break down each position on the offensive side of the football, and end the segment by picking one player for Ravens offensive MVP.

The guys wrap up the show with their thoughts on the recent news surrounding Maryland basketball (47:07). Last week Maryland turned over documents to the FBI that included details on the recruitment process of Diamond Stone and Silvio De Sousa. Sources have reported that Stone was allegedly payed over $14,000 to come to Maryland while De Sousa was lured away from the Terps after being compensated by Adidas.

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!

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.

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 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