Ravens have had a great year in player development, even if they miss playoffs

Ravens have had a great year in player development, even if they miss playoffs

Ravens

Ravens have had a great year in player development, even if they miss playoffs

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Few NFL teams can match the Ravens’ recent history in drafting and developing personnel, or bringing in competitive free agents. The possibility that the 2020 Ravens could go 11-5 and still not make the playoffs does not detract from the good things accomplished by the current roster.

For example, the Ravens join the Chiefs, Packers and Seahawks with seven Pro Bowlers this season.

Here are Baltimore’s Pro Bowlers, in alphabetical order:

  • OT Orlando Brown Jr.
  • DE Calais Campbell
  • LS Morgan Cox
  • CB Marlon Humphrey
  • OLB Matthew Judon
  • FB Patrick Ricard
  • K Justin Tucker

These guys have been good, but so have other developing players who didn’t make the Pro Bowl.  Lamar Jackson, the league’s reigning MVP and one of its biggest stars did not make the Pro Bowl, as the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Bills’ Josh Allen and Texans’ Deshaun Watson made it ahead of him.

Cornerback Marcus Peters, who was a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler last season, also didn’t make it. He was beat out by the Dolphins’ Xavien Howard, Bills’ Tre’Davious White and Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore. Tight end Mark Andrews was topped by the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and Raiders’ Darren Waller.

Linebacker Chris Board was the leading fan vote-getter for the AFC’s special teams position, but Patriots veteran Matthew Slater got his ninth Pro Bowl instead.

The Ravens rookies have been panning out well, too. As the Ravens make their push toward a possible playoff berth, the major contributions of the 2020 rookie class are impossible to ignore. Their adjustment to the NFL was made more challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they have responded to make an immediate impact.

Baltimore’s first-round pick, Patrick Queen, is a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Queen was expected to be a starter from Week 1 and he has played every game and leads the team in tackles with 98, to go along with three sacks, eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown.

J.K. Dobbins is an electric running back who has taken over as the Ravens’ lead back in a talented group. His speed and ability to avoid going down on first contact makes him effective as both an inside and outside runner. Dobbins has run for a touchdown in four consecutive games, setting a franchise record for most consecutive game with a touchdown by a rookie.

The Ravens have two rookie defensive linemen who’ve made an impact, Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington. With Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams both missing some games due to injuries and illness, the presence of Madubuike and Washington has become more important. With Campbell out of the lineup against Jacksonville, Baltimore’s defensive front didn’t miss a beat.

Tyre Phillips began the season as the starting right guard, and he has recently shared time with D.J. Fluker as the starting right tackle. But what people will talk about most is Phillips’ runaway freight train run on Sunday after he picked up Lamar Jackson’s fumble. Phillips’ collision with Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack was epic, an effort that earned Phillips a game ball and the “Angry Run” of the week from “Good Morning Football.”

Rookie inside linebacker Malik Harrison has been part of the inside linebacker rotation every game, and he has also been a standout on special teams. When inside linebacker L.J. Fort was out of the lineup against the Indianapolis Colts, Harrison started and had his best game of the season.

Two other rookies are important players on special teams. Devin Duvernay has been the kick returner all year and took a 93-yarder the distance in Week 3, while James Proche II has been a sure-handed punt returner. Duvernay has seen fewer offensive snaps the past couple weeks, going from 80 percent against Dallas to 15 percent versus Cleveland and six percent against Jacksonville.

Second-year and third-year guys are blossoming, too.  WR Hollywood Brown has come on strong in recent weeks, and his play has helped rejuvenate the Ravens’ passing game as the team makes a playoff push.

Since failing to catch any of his three targets in a Week 11 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Brown has 17 receptions for 272 yards (16.0 yards per catch) and three touchdowns in his past four games.

“Slowly but surely, though, Brown is starting to assert himself as the big-play threat the Ravens expected him to be this season,” The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote.

The third-year story of offensive tackle Orlando Brown is even more gratifying in terms of development.  Brown, who had played right tackle since his rookie season in 2018, moved to left tackle after a season-ending injury to All-Pro Ronnie Stanley in Week 8 and has done an outstanding job.

“When Ronnie Stanley went down with a season-ending ankle injury, Baltimore turned to Orlando Brown Jr. to take over the left tackle spot and anchor it. ‘Zeus Jr.’ ran away with the opportunity and has proven he can start on either side of the line,” Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wrote. “Brown Jr. has been far and away the Ravens best offensive lineman and rightfully gets his second career Pro Bowl.”

It all adds up to a rousing year of player development, playoffs or not.

 

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