The dark days are almost over. That’s right. Football is back, baby!
At this point in the year, fans are going through withdrawals so severe that they will do anything to catch a glimpse of football. They will even gladly submit themselves to the fiasco that is preseason football.
Like every year this one will open with the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday. The Bears and Ravens will square off against one another, which is fitting considering former Bears and Ravens players, Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis, are set to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
The Bears have been lounging around the basement of the NFL for most of this decade. However, they have recently undergone a rebuild that appears to have them set up to win a fair amount of ball games. Most of the remaining uncertainty lies in the fact that second-year signal caller, Mitch Trubisky, is unproven. He will also have to face the task of learning a brand-new offense for the second year in a row with newcomer Matt Nagy now calling the offensive plays.
All eyes should be on rookie linebacker out of Georgia, Roquan Smith. He was an integral part of the Bulldogs run to the National Championship game last season. The Bears thought highly enough of him to draft him with their first pick. He’s been in the headlines a few times for various reasons, mostly contractual. I’m not willing to label him someone with character concerns just yet. I think his play on the field will quiet most of the naysayers. His style of play will fit well with Chicago fans.
A player who I am excited to watch play is newly signed tight end, Trey Burton. The former Florida Gator spent the beginning of his NFL career with the Eagles. But, after their Super Bowl win last year, he decided to bolt for an opportunity to get more play time. He was used sparingly in a deep tight end rotation at Philadelphia. His skill set is ridiculous for his position though. He threw a touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl if that tells you anything. Burton may be a player that explodes onto the scene, much like Delaney Walker did with the Titans after spending the beginning of his career in San Francisco shadowing Vernon Davis.
The only thing that I’m sure of with this team is that the “Is Joe Flacco elite?” question has been finally laid to rest. The answer is no. Absolutely no. The Ravens front office appears to concur as they brought rookie phenom Lamar Jackson, as well as veteran Robert Griffin into the quarterback fold. Flacco will likely play out this season as the nominal starter. Barring an “elite” season from Flacco, he’ll be leaving by the end of the year.
Hayden Hurst should be one of the offensive players to watch for. The first round selection out of South Carolina is a versatile tight end that will be an integral part of the revamped offense. Hurst is one of a slew of new weapons that Flacco will have at his disposal. Hurst has been dealing with a soft tissue issue during practice, but he says he is back to 100%, which is good news for the Ravens.
On the defensive side of the ball, we have Alabama. It appears Ozzie Newsome is a great fan of the product that Nick Saban has been developing in Tuscaloosa. Tim Williams and CJ Mosley are both standout linebackers. Mosely is the probably one of the best linebackers they’ve had since Ray-Ray retired. Williams had a tough rookie season but is looking to bounce back.
What you see is what you get with those guys. On the outsides, at cornerback, we have Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett. Both of whom are proven playmakers and ballhawks. Humphrey is heading into his second year and is poised to have an outstanding season. Averett is a rookie that has been turning heads at practice so far and is looking to make an impact early.
In this one, my money is on the Ravens and their new-look offense. I’m not fully convinced by Trubisky yet, and I think the Bear’s offense will struggle at times because of his inconsistency. Final Score: 38-28
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