Posted in Nest Talks

Baltimore Ravens: Top 5 preseason performers (Video)

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens preseason is over. I don’t think there is a single fan of the Baltimore Ravens (Or of the NFL) that is going to be asking for more preseason games. Preseason football is kind of funny. We’re super excited about each preseason game and yet we can’t wait for the real football to get going. Preseason football is like the bread you get for free at a restaurant. It keeps you satisfied before you get going with your meal.

J.K. Dobbins got hurt in the final preseason game. I figured a look on the positives from the preseason could lift the Ravens Flock a bit.

In this video, I discuss the top five most impressive players from the Ravens’ preseason efforts. There are a lot of ways to go in this kind of video. I could have talked about the Ravens players that did the most to win a job on the 53 man roster. I could have focused on the players that surprised us the most. In the end, I chose five players that just really brought their A-game. These are five players who either prominently or subtly were stars of the preseason.

Goose, the official mascot of The Purple and Black Nest decided that she should be involved in the video. I always like having my four-legged friend with me. If you asked Goose, I am sure she would tell you that she stole the show. She kind of did. I’m just glad that my dog actually behaved.

NEXT POST: J.K. Dobbins out for the year: How the Ravens move forward

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Posted in Uncategorized

Ravens vs. Panthers: 4 things we want to see in preseason game 2

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are about to take on the Carolina Panthers in preseason game number two. Now that the preseason is only three games, this is the most likely game for the Ravens to use as a dress rehearsal game. Considering that the Ravens have been dealing with numerous injuries and Lamar Jackson didn’t suit up for the preseason opener, don’t count on that. It’s a work night for the purple and black however it’s an exhibition game.

What can we expect to see and what should we want to see? Let’s get on those questions. Here are four things that the Baltimore Ravens ideally put on display in this preseason bout:

1. As much of the starting offense as possible, even if it’s only one drive:

The Ravens’ biggest problem for the 2021 training camp has been continuity on offense. To say that the offense hasn’t been able to gel together during practice and one preseason game is an understatement. When the Ravens came into the first game last Saturday, the projected starting offensive linemen hadn’t even been on the field together. Lamar Jackson’s positive Covid-19 test and the wide receivers’ injuries were unhelpful.

Now, we’re not on Dan-Orlovsky levels of panic time. Still, the Ravens have to start getting this thing together. It’s time to build some momentum towards the regular season. A couple of drives with the offensive line not looking lost, with Lamar Jackson looking sharp, and a little bit of fun with J.K. Dobbins could seriously calm some nerves. On the flip side, if the offense has some hitches, the preseason is a consequence-free chance to work on things in a game situation as long as the team stays healthy.

John Harbaugh has to feel this one out. If the offensive line is going to perform the way it did against the Saints, he probably won’t want to risk it with his MVP quarterback. If the Ravens have a chance to take a step forward and flip the script from this frustrating camp (at least for the offense) Harbaugh should let the offense get some work in.

2. Can somebody win the TE3 job already?

The Ravens got Josh Oliver plenty of playing time against the Saints. Oliver is probably leading the battle for the third tight-end spot. It still would be nice for Oliver to make it obvious on the field. Josh Oliver had four grabs in the past game for 22 yards. It would be nice to see if Oliver can stretch the field a bit with his athleticism. In practice, he’s made some eye-opening plays down the field, it would be good to see that in the game.

The number three tight end spot could very well be the number two spot at the beginning of the season, as the Ravens await the return of Nick Boyle. With Mark Andrews being the big playmaker of the position, blocking is the most important thing on display. Eric Wolfe has also shown himself to be a solid blocker. Ben Mason is listed as a tight end, despite looking and walking and playing like a fullback. Does he factor into the equation? In a perfect world, the second preseason game makes obvious answers for these questions.

3. Continued success for young defensive backs:

You can never have enough young talent at cornerback and the safety positions. With that in mind can the young defensive backs of the Ravens continue to impress. Against the New Orleans Saints, it was hard to find a single defensive back to put on the chopping block. Chris Westry made a solid impression as a cover corner despite a cringe-worthy taunting penalty.

Shaun Wade looked sealed the game with a nice interception. Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington were true speedsters doing a bit of everything and Geno Stone may have been the player of the game with two picks. Let’s see if the defensive backs can keep making roster cuts next to impossible in the backend of the defense.

4. Odafe to get his Oweh

If you thought I could resist that play on words you don’t know me. Odafe Oweh looked really exciting in his first preseason action with the Ravens. Oweh is a very important player to the Ravens’ defense. The better Oweh performs, the better that Eric DeCosta’s plan looks.

I keep stressing that we don’t need to see Oweh be a sack master in his rookie season. Still, any pass rush the Ravens get from Oweh is a flash of what could be on the way. The Ravens Flock can’t get enough of that from their first-round pick.

NEXT POST: Lamar Jackson: 3 Common misconceptions about the MVP quarterback

That’s what we should be hoping to see on Saturday night. These are the four things to keep a lookout for. Just get through two more preseason games and the regular season is here.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints: Preseason preview (Offense)

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens take on the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night… kind of. It’s the first preseason game of the year for the Ravens and it should feature almost exclusively backups. This is an important evening for the Ravens. The importance of preseason games feels admittedly muted, but there is purpose in this process.

Let’s take a look at what we should watch for when the Ravens have the ball. I already wrote an article about the backup quarterbacks and their role in the bout with the Saints. I encourage you to check that out for a more fleshed-out take on the quarterback play. This is a look at the offense as a whole, and since we’ve already dived into the quarterbacks, let’s jump right into my favorite position grouping, the offensive line.

Offensive Line:

One reason the Ravens may not play their starters much in the opening preseason game is that the offensive line is caught up in the injury bug along with the wide receivers. According to Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore SunAlejandro Villanueva, Kevin Zeitler, and Ben Cleveland all missed practice Thursday. Ronnie Stanley just returned to practice recently. It wouldn’t be shocking if none of these players got involved on Saturday night.

The players to watch on the offensive line are Tyre Phillips and Trystan Colon-Castillo. Phillips could end up at left guard or right tackle. The fact that there are options for Phillips makes him the most interesting player for the offensive line. Phillips could either be a starter or the preferred backup at two different positions on the offensive line. We need to see if he made progress and where he lines up will be interesting.

Trystan Colon-Castillo is competing to be the backup center. I still don’t hate the idea of just keeping Bradley Bozeman at left guard and having Colon-Castillo as the starting center. I’d like for Colon-Castillo to sell me on that a bit more in this game.

He’s a player we’ve seen a small sample size out of. The postponed game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a nice showcase for Colon-Castillo. I want to see him dominate against backups. I want to see if he shows he’s a step ahead of the backup-level linemen on this team. If he does that, it makes the shaping of the offensive line a more interesting tale.

Let’s talk about tight ends now.

What do the Ravens have outside of Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle? Boyle still hasn’t returned from his injury and has had surgery to get ready for the season. The third tight end spot has become important, perhaps more important than it was this time last season.

The standout of training camp at tight end has been Josh Oliver. Oliver probably has the most talent as a pass-catcher. He certainly has a skill-set in the passing game that could help the Ravens. If Oliver can make some of the tough grabs he’s made at practice in the games, he’s going to help himself. Still, blocking is incredibly important.

It will be interesting to see who the best blocking tight end will be. Eric Tomlinson and Eli Wolfe are more in the mold of a Nick Boyle than a Mark Andrews. Tomlinson is the veteran the Ravens are familiar with. That makes a bigger impact than people tend to realize. So while Oliver has looked great at camp, the Ravens really need to see him as a blocker.

Now about the Baltimore Ravens’ receivers

At wide receiver it gets interesting. We know we won’t see Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, or Miles Boykin. It looks like we may not see Bateman until after week three of the regular season. We’ll see. Let’s focus on the players we will see on Saturday night: James Proche, Devin Duvernay, and Tylan Wallace.

As a blogger who hasn’t been at camp, I want to see the new look James Proche that everybody is raving about. This is a chance to see what Proche brings to the table. Devin Duvernay is a player I’ve been a big proponent of. With a lot of the main guys of the position out of the way, Baltimore needs to see his talent shine through.

Tylan Wallace is a player that also intrigues me. This is the first time he’s playing against another team at M&T Bank Stadium. His potential ceiling is very high. While I think he’s behind some of the players we’ve already talked about, I want to see how much of that positive potential shines through on Saturday night.

These are the receivers we need to see something out of. These are the players of interest. The rest of the receivers, like Binjimen Victor, Jaylon Moore, and Deon Cain, have to give us a reason to be invested in their roster spot. That’s their mission, to just become relevant. That will matter when the first wave of roster cuts happens.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 10 predictions for the preseason

Hopefully, that gets you ready to watch the offense on Saturday night. Honing in on the big picture makes the preseason more enjoyable and more meaningful.

 

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions at the Tight End Position

By: Ashley Anderson

The Ravens are a team that has always heavily used their tight ends. From Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta, and now Mark Andrews, Baltimore demonstrates a knack for finding superb players at the position. This year, there are a few major questions looming over the tight end group.

3.) How will Mark Andrews perform in a contract year?

Lamar Jackson is about to get paid handsomely, and his contract will have a ripple effect on the entire Ravens roster. His favorite target so far, Mark Andrews, is in line for a new deal as well. The Jackson to Andrews connection showed pure chemistry from the word go, and this season is critical for both.

A former third-round pick out of Oklahoma, Andrews has become one of the top tight ends in the league. Despite living with type 1 diabetes, he amassed 2,105 yards and caught 20 touchdowns since becoming a starter his rookie year. Only five other tight ends in NFL history hit the 2,000 yards, 20-touchdowns mark in their first three seasons, so it is clear he is special.

One minor issue Andrews struggled with at times is drops. Some of that seems to be based on concentration, while other times it could relate to ball placement. After racking up 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019, Andrews’ production dipped a bit to 58 receptions for 701 yards and seven TDs last season. With a big payday on the line, will Andrews bounce back and have a career season?

 

2.) Who will emerge as the Baltimore Ravens’ third tight end?

There are several players competing for what will presumably be the third tight end role, one that cannot be overlooked. Fullback Patrick Ricard kind of filled that role last year following the departure of Hayden Hurst, but the three tight end sets that were so prolific in 2019 became scarcer in 2020. Now, the Ravens are looking to fill a pretty big void with some relative newcomers.

Early this offseason, Baltimore sent an undisclosed pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for Josh Oliver. A 2019 third-round pick from San Jose State, Oliver has yet to make an impact in his first two seasons due to various injuries. However, he appears healthy thus far, and at just 24-years old should have plenty of gas left in the tank. Standing in at 6-foot-5, 250-pounds, he certainly has the size to make a splash.

Baltimore also re-signed Eric Tomlinson to a one-year deal back in February. They then snagged undrafted free agent Tony Poljan after the Draft. Eli Wolf had some time to develop on the practice squad last year, and he made some plays in minicamp, while Jacob Breeland is still working to recover from a college knee injury.

Early odds are on Oliver winning the job, especially due to his receiving ability. However, Tomlinson played well when called upon last year, and he is a solid blocker. Someone else could rise from the pack during training camp and the preseason, so this is something to keep a close eye on over the next couple of months.

1.) Will Nick Boyle be ready for the Baltimore Ravens by Week 1?

Boyle is arguably the best blocking tight end in the NFL. Recognizing this, the Ravens inked him to a two-year, $13 million deal that keeps him in Baltimore through 2023. Unfortunately, Boyle suffered a horrific injury that cut his 2020 season short and put 2021 in jeopardy.

If you are squeamish, feel free to skip past this next part. In what was already a rough night for the Baltimore Ravens, finding themselves down 23-10 against New England, the Patriots added injury to insult. On a low tackle by Terez Hall, Boyle’s knee moved in ways nature never intended. He suffered PCL, MCL, and meniscus tears, a fractured tibia, and his hamstring was ripped from the bone.

It was the first major injury of Boyle’s career, and it was undoubtedly gruesome. There was a time when a torn ACL meant a player’s career, not just season, was in doubt. Modern medicine has largely eliminated that, but everyone responds and heals differently from knee issues.

For example, Joe Flacco, who was durable throughout his career till suffering a torn ACL and MCL, was never the same player once he came back. On the flip side, Tom Brady tore his ACL all the way back in 2008, and it was hardly a blip on the radar in his career. With no prior injury history to look back on, Boyle is facing plenty of firsts throughout this process.

NEXT POST: The NFL Covid-19 vaccine policy is a fair rule that makes sense

For a team that often uses not just two but three tight ends, Boyle’s health is crucial. No exact timeframe has been given for his return, and he is continuing to rehab at the Castle. If and when he returns is a huge question lingering over Baltimore’s offseason.