Ravens vs. Eagles: Pre-Season Game Preview and What to watch for

Time: 7:00 PM

Place: Baltimore, MD

Venue: M&T Bank Stadium, Capacity: 70,107, Built 1997

Playing Surface: Grass

Television: 6 ABC in Philadelphia

OVERVIEW:

Eagles – The Eagles enter the game ready to hit another team’s jersey after two long hard grueling weeks at Lehigh University. The team will try and use the first preseason game to work out the kinks on offense, defense, and special teams plus they will want to get through the game without anyone getting hurt. The Eagles already have a substantial injury list including veteran S Brian Dawkins (Achilles), CB Lito Sheppard (Abdominal Strain), LJ Smith (Groin) and others. One player they will not have to be concerned about in the game is QB Donovan McNabb, who will sit the game out as he recovers from knee surgery. AJ Feeley will start in McNabb’s place and will look to get the ball to 3rd year WR Reggie Brown. On defense look for the return of DE Jevon Kearse, the renewed play of both DT Brodrick Bunkely and MLB Jeremiah Trotter, and the debut of former All-Pro OLB Takeo Spikes.

Ravens – The Ravens will also be looking forward to hitting another team’s jersey and they will want to wipe the bad taste of their home divisional playoff loss to the Colts. Coach Brian Billick has been preaching fundamentals this pre-season and the Ravens seem poised to fight the Steelers and Bengals again for the AFC North title. On offense, look for 34-year old veteran QB Steve McNair to try and rebound from a bad playoff game (18-29, 173 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT).  However he will only be playing playing in the first quarter.  Also look for improved play on the O-Line with the additions of 2007 first round pick road grader G Ben Gruggs and OT Jared Gaither (5th Rd Pick in Supplemental Draft) and the debut of RB Willis McGahee. On defense, Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan will look for his unit to continue their stellar play. The unit allowed only 201 points in 2006 and captain MLB Ray Lewis will look to fire up his troops.

VETERANS:

Eagles – The Eagles veterans that I am most interested in seeing are the team’s 2nd year players (WR Hank Baskett, OT Winston Justice, DT Brodrick Bunkley, LB Omar Gaither, WR/KR Jeremy Bloom and others) and players returning from injuries in 2006 (DE Jevon Kearse, LB Chris Gcong, and others). These two groups have something to prove and if they are ready the Eagles should go a long way in 2007.

Ravens – I want to see if Ravens QB Kyle Boller wants to play for a new contract. The former first-round pick and five-year veteran is expected to be a free agent after the season and he will need to impress either the Ravens or another team this pre-season. Expect him to relieve starter Steve McNair in the first quarter and play most of the first half. Boller has looked confident this training camp and has showed off his strong arm with several long throws, but I want see how he does in game situations. Also pay particular attention to MLB Ray Lewis, who is the heart and soul of the team and is entering his 11th Season with the Ravens. He lost 15 pounds and looks younger and faster in training camp.

ROOKIES:

Eagles – Now that the “baby” Birds have survived training camp look for their maturation to continue in their first game situations. I am sure that their maybe some mistakes, but the game is another step to making the team for the seven draftees. We all will want to see if QB Kevin Kolb was worth his high second round draft status and he will get his chance playing the entire second half. Watch for TE Brent Celek to get a lot of snaps with the first team with the groin injury to LJ Smith. Celek has been the most impressive rookie so far in camp. I also will be looking for RB Tony Hunt to have some good inside runs and DE Victor Abiamri to play hard, because he is returning to his hometown of Baltimore.  A side note “rookie” to watch will be 30-something punter Sav Rocca, who is making his NFL debut as a punter after being a high profile Australian rules football player down under.

Ravens – Two Ravens that I will have my eye on in the game are Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes and 2006 Heisman Trophy winner QB Troy Smith. Barnes was fourth-round pick from Florida International and has become a favorite of the coaching staff with his speed coming off the edge. In 2007, he should make an impact pressuring the quarterback and will be looked upon to help in replacing departed LB Addalius Thomas’ production (10 Sacks in ’06). Smith fell during the draft, because of his height (6’) and a perceived cocky attitude by some. The fifth round draft pick has been working hard in camp to learn from Steve McNair and trying to find his passing lanes, but he will need to show the NFL that he is not just another over hyped heisman winner and that he is ready to play quarterback at the highest level.

ON THE BUBBLE:

Eagles – This game continues a make or break camp for three former high draft picks (LB Matt McCoy – 2nd Rd 2005, DE Jerome McDougle – 1st Rd 2003, and RB Ryan Moats – 3rd Rd 2005), who will need to make plays where ever they can to make the squad, especially on special teams. All three have had many chances to impress the coaching staff, but I believe patience is wearing thin on the coaches due to high expectations.

Ravens – The Ravens also have players, who will need to pick up their play to validate their draft status and make the team. Cornerback Derrick Martin comes to my mind as a player who needs to pick it up. A sixth-round pick from 2006, Martin has made significant strides, especially with his physical play. However he may be looking at the wrong side of the numbers game and he needs to do anything he can to stand out in a deep and talented secondary. Another Ravens player who is fighting an uphill battle is CB/KR BJ Sams. Sams is coming off an ankle injury from the end of 2006 and has had some off the field issues, so he will need to impress the Ravens with rookie speedster Yamon Figurs and 2nd year player Corey Ross breathing down his neck.

INJURY REPORT:

Eagles – Safety Brian Dawkins (achilles), Tight End LJ Smith (groin), Quarterback Donovan McNabb (knee), Guard Shawn Andrews (ankle), Lito Sheppard (abdomen), DT Montae Reagor (knee), DT Ian Scott (knee), LB Dedrick Roper (foot), CB Dustin Fox (achilles) and WR Bill Sampy (quad) are out.  Offensive Tackle John Runyan may not play due to a back injury suffered last week.

Ravens – Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (toe), Outside Linebacker Dan Cody (knee) and Inside Linebacker Mike Smith (shoulder) are out. Nose Tackle Kelly Gregg (thigh and knee) and Tight end Daniel Wilcox (ankle) are not expected to play.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • Back surgery to sideline Browns LB McGinest – The career of 3-time Super Champion Browns linebacker Willie McGinest may be in jeopardy. McGinest is scheduled to have back surgery and will miss at least six weeks. The surgery is another blow to a Cleveland team decimated by major injuries the past few seasons. The 35-year-old McGinest has made 159 starts during a 13-year NFL career, is scheduled to have the operation in Los Angeles. After a week of rest following the procedure on a bulging disk, he’ll begin rehab and the Browns will re-evaluate him in six weeks. Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel said there are no immediate plans to put McGinest on injured reserve.
  • Predicting Surprise Team – Predict who’ll make the NFL playoffs? It’s almost impossible! “The parity in this league is incredible,” says New York Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN.  Last season, seven teams – Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia and San Diego – made the playoffs that were not in the playoffs the year before. That marked the 11th consecutive season in which at least five teams (out of 12) accomplished the feat. (BTW: My Pick is the Arizona Cardinals)

List of Seasons and Teams that went from non-playoffs to the playoffs:

1996:  5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)

1997:  5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)

1998:  5 (Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)

1999:  7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)

2000:  6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)

2001:  6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)

2002:  5 (Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)

2003:  8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)

2004:  5 (Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)

2005:  7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)

2006:  7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)

  • TURK WILL BE COMING SOON (NFL Cuts) – This time of the year is tough on all bubble type players and injured players, because roster cuts are inevitable. It is one thing to not be the right fit for a team, but for injured players the process is extremely hard. Injured players want to be on the field, but just can’t and the business of the NFL is usually unforgiving with coaches subscribing to Buddy Ryan’s saying “You can’t make the team from the whirl pool”.
    •  
      • August 28th – Rosters cut down to 75 players
      • September 1st – Final Roster cut down to 53 players. Can designate 8 players on their practice squad and place injured players on I/R, but they cannot practice with the team.
      • Sept 6th – NFL Season Opens (Thurs – Falcons at Colts), 9th (Full Sunday) and 10th (Monday Night Football – Baltimore at Cincinnati)
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