We have live action football, folks.
The Hall of Fame Game is about as low as you can go in terms of watchability, but dammit, we’re still excited for fresh, live football reps.
Keep in mind that most of the starters won’t be playing in this game between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens. So if you’re tuning in for Mitchell Trubisky, Jordan Howard, or, uh, Joe Flacco, you’re probably out of luck.
But there are still a handful of interesting storylines surrounding this year’s Hall of Fame Game participants. Here are five players to keep an eye on throughout Thursday’s game.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens QB
We made it. The prodigal son has arrived to the NFL.
The Ravens have been adamant about Lamar Jackson sitting behind Flacco for his rookie season, but we’ll still get to see the electrifying former Heisman Trophy winner play a good amount of reps in the Hall of Fame Game.
What’s really interesting about the fit between Jackson and the Ravens is that they actually have coaches that have utilized similar skill sets. Assistant head coach Greg Roman has experience with mobile quarterbacks as he was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers with Colin Kaepernick at his peak, and he held the same position in Buffalo coaching Tyrod Taylor. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was in Philadelphia when Michael Vick was exploding back onto the scene after his two-year stint in prison.
There are some things for Jackson to iron out as a passer, but he’ll undoubtedly dazzle with his legs against guys just trying to make the final 53-man roster.
May he be protected in his first NFL action.
Anthony Miller, Bears WR
The Bears used one of their second-round picks on Anthony Miller from the University of Memphis to further bolster their wide receivers. Despite his size (5’11, 201 pounds at the combine), Miller was an absolute monster for Memphis in the red zone.
In his senior season, Miller caught 11 touchdowns in the red zone on just 14 catches; 79% of his catches in the red zone went for touchdowns. That likely won’t be replicable in the NFL, but with Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the fold as well, it’ll be interesting to see how Matt Nagy utilizes three-receiver sets.
John Brown, Ravens WR
John Brown is one of several wide receiver reclamation projects for the Ravens. When Brown entered the league as a third-round pick in 2014, he had the look of a future star. Brown racked up 113 catches for 1,699 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons, but struggled mightily with injuries in his final two years in Arizona.
Talent has never been the issue with Brown — it’s just a matter of his ability to stay on the field. Hopefully Brown will show off the dynamic ability we all know he has on Thursday night.
UPDATE: It turns out John Brown won’t be playing tonight. He’s sitting out with a handful of offensive players for the Ravens.
Ravens offensive players who don't appear to be playing: QB Joe Flacco, RBs Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, WRs Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, John Brown, Quincy Adeboyejo, TE Mark Andrews, OL Greg Senat, James Hurst, Marshal Yanda.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) August 2, 2018
Tarik Cohen, Bears RB
The highlights from Tarik Cohen’s rookie season are electric, but he fizzled out a bit toward the end of the year. Like the rest of the Bears’ offense, we’re all waiting to see what Nagy’s plan is for Cohen. Ingratiating Cohen into an offense featuring a brand new play caller and several new receivers might be a bit of a learning curve, but we should get an idea for the types of plays that Nagy has in mind for the second-year running back.
John Fox’s Bears almost relegated Cohen to a gadget player role as the 2017 season came to a close. He’s talented enough to be a real piece of the offense. Now it’s just about the plan and execution.
James Daniels, Bears OL
Offensive linemen aren’t usually the focus of broadcasts, but keep an eye out for Bears second-round pick James Daniels. Daniels is a freakishly athletic guard from Iowa and he should be a perfect fit for Nagy’s scheme. In a zone-centric scheme, Nagy’s offensive linemen have to be able to run and play in space; Daniels is already one of the most athletic offensive linemen the league has to offer.