11: Ravens HOF weekend recap & a look at the new NFL helmet rules

Welcome to Episode 11 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

This week the podcast is heavily focused on the Ravens as they come off of an eventful weekend. The guys don’t waste any time diving right into Ray Lewis and his Hall Of Fame speech (5:00). After that the conversation switches over the Ravens 17-16 win over the Bears in the HOF game (15:25). Jake, Nolan, and Ian all give their opinion on which players they think are trending up and trending down after the first preseason game.

Before turning their attention to this coming week’s matchup with the Rams, the guys spend some time dissecting the new NFL rules involving helmet hits (34:38). The issue has made headlines everywhere since Thursday and the Charm City Bird Watch crew is eager to give their takes as well.

The Ravens discussion concludes with a look ahead to the second preseason game. The Ravens and Rams will practice together this week in Owings Mills before meeting at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night (42:45)

The podcast concludes with some brief Orioles talk (50:23). The excitement of the trade deadline has passed and now we are left with an even more incomplete team. However, there are a handful of new Orioles that have made their debut in black and orange this past week. The weekly numbers segment is pushed back to the end of this weeks podcast, where you can hear some memories of former players like Robert Andino and Kamar Aiken (55:50).

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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

Ravens to play Bears in 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Game

On Tuesday morning, the NFL announced that the Baltimore Ravens will participate in the 2018 Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, Aug. 2 from Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium from Canton, Ohio.

The Ravens will play against the Chicago Bears, two days before legendary linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Every year, the Hall of Fame Game kicks off the NFL’s preseason slate. This marks the Ravens’ first appearance in the Hall of Fame Game. The Bears have made four appearances, the most recent being in 2005 against the Miami Dolphins.

Along with competing in the Hall of Fame Game, the Ravens and Bears will still play four normally-scheduled preseason season games along with the rest of the NFL. With that said, should we see any starters play in this game, it won’t be for long.

Ticket packages for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement week are already on sale at hofexperiences.com, or by calling 844-751-0532. Individual tickets for the Hall of Fame Game and Enshrinement Ceremony go on sale on Friday, Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. ET at profootballhof.com/tickets.

Image Credit: Dawgs by Nature