Kyle Hamilton Making Strong Case for First-Team All-Pro Selection
The Ravens have the No. 2 defense in the league and it's truly been a group effort, as Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald has excelled at getting the most out of his players and putting them in a position to succeed.
One of Macdonald's most valuable chess pieces has been safety Kyle Hamilton, who has taken his game to a higher level in his second season after a strong rookie campaign in which he was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded safety since 2014.
"In many ways, Hamilton has been the key to the Ravens' tremendous success on defense and even more consistently dominant than All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith," Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed wrote. "His breakout campaign already includes career highs in interceptions (two), pass deflections (eight), tackles for loss (six), and sacks (three) in 11 games."
As he did last season, the versatile Hamilton is playing a hybrid role that utilizes his blend of size and athleticism and allows him to play all over the field.
"After the Ravens traded away veteran strong safety Chuck Clark in the offseason, it was assumed that Hamilton would transition into a more traditional safety role to replace him," Reed wrote. "Thanks to the emergence of fourth-year pro Geno Stone as an elite ball hawk and the presence of veteran free safety Marcus Williams when he's been available, that hasn't had to be the case. Hamilton has been able to continue playing the hybrid role that made him a rising star and is playing at an even higher level than he did down the stretch as a rookie, especially when it comes to coverage."
Per PFF's Dan Pizzuta, Hamilton has the lowest yards per coverage snap (0.39) among the 38 cornerbacks and safeties with at least 100 coverage snaps in the slot this season.
Reed said that Hamilton "should be a lock to make the Pro Bowl this year and be in serious contention for First-Team All-Pro as well."
"The amazing aspect of Hamilton's game is that he still has room to improve through experience, film study, physical maturation at 22 years old, and further creative innovation of deployment by his coaches," Reed wrote. "He has already been compared to NBA rookie sensation and 2023 first overall pick Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs by Cleveland Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski because of his insane length and wingspan that helped him record his first career pick-six on the first pass attempt of their Week 10 matchup."
Yesterday, Hamilton said one of the safeties he looked up to and studied when he was in college is versatile Chargers safety Derwin James. Like Hamilton, James was a first-round pick (2018) who had instant success and has gone on to be a two-time First-Team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler.
"That's definitely one of the goals – to get those accolades [and the] recognition," Hamilton said. "But at the same time, everybody goes at their own pace, and I'm not comparing myself to anybody. I just do what I do, and when I do it, and how I do it; I feel like I'm confident in that. But at the same time, I can still give homage and respect to those who have done good stuff before me."
How Ravens Can Overcome Loss of Mark Andrews
It goes without saying that losing a player of tight end Mark Andrews' caliber is significant, but there is reason to believe the Ravens can overcome his absence.
According to PFF's Judah Fortgang, the Ravens and Lamar Jackson rank among the NFL's best in terms of receivers getting open and the quarterback getting the ball to them.
The Ravens invested heavily at wide receiver this offseason, and now Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman, and Nelson Agholor will have an opportunity to step up.
"The Ravens employing four competent NFL wide receivers this year was a total revelation and limited the ability for defenses to send overwhelming coverage in the direction of Andrews," Press Box’s Glenn Clark wrote. "As such, the Ravens are converting on third down at a 44.6 percent clip, which is the sixth-best conversion rate in the NFL. That's up from 41.05 percent a year ago, which was just 12th. They're also catching the ball (save for one particular trip to Pittsburgh we're all trying to continue to forget). Their 69.35 completion percentage is fifth in the league, up 8 percentage points from a season ago when they finished in the bottom third of the league.
"Flowers has been exceptional. Beckham has of late looked like the player that helped push the Rams to a Super Bowl LVI title. And in doses, Bateman has looked like the most overall complete talent of the three. Bateman is probably the receiver whose performance most represents the fulcrum for the team's ability to overcome the loss of Andrews. Given his skill set, Bateman could join Beckham as a top third-down and red-zone target. Neither quite matches Andrews physically, but both offer a little bit of everything to make them dangerous weapons. … And none of this should make it seem like the transition to post-Andrews life will be easy or simple. But it's nice to think that the Ravens potentially can overcome the loss of a top pass-catcher, which is just so different than what we're used to around here."
New Brown Joe Flacco: 'I Definitely Believe I Can Still Play'
It was weird seeing Joe Flacco wearing another team's uniform after the Ravens traded him to the Denver Broncos in 2019, but when he subsequently went to the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, Ravens fans had gotten used to the image of their Super Bowl-winning quarterback clad in colors other than purple.
However, it was jarring to see Flacco wearing a Cleveland Browns hoodie and standing in front of the team's logo when he spoke to the media yesterday.
With starting quarterback Deshaun Watson out for the season after suffering a fractured shoulder against the Ravens in Week 10, the Browns brought in Flacco for a workout on Friday and signed him on Monday. Flacco, 38, will back up rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Flacco, who started four games with the Jets last season, said he wanted to continue his career this season but was starting to think he wouldn't get an opportunity.
"As I sat at home for most of this year, I was probably beginning to lose a little bit of faith in that," he said.
Flacco, who threw 14 touchdown passes to six interceptions in 12 games with the Jets over three seasons, said: "I definitely believe I can still play."
Flacco went 17-3 against the Browns during his 11 seasons with the Ravens. When asked yesterday how strange it felt to be wearing a Browns hoodie, Flacco replied: "I think it would probably be a little bit different if I was coming here four or five years ago, but having bounced around a few spots now it's probably not quite as different."
Flacco, who is 3-14 as a starter since leaving Baltimore, started for the Jets against the Ravens in Week 1 last season. He threw for 309 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Ravens' 24-9 victory.
The Ravens and Browns won't meet again this season unless it's in the playoffs.
Kevin Zeitler Nominated for Sportsmanship Award
Guard Kevin Zeitler is the Ravens' nominee for the 2023 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
The award recognizes those who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field. Calais Campbell won the award last season as a member of the Ravens.
When center Tyler Linderbaum was asked yesterday about Zeitler being nominated for the award, he said: "He's awesome – just the way he works, the way he treats other people. … Once he steps on the field, [he plays] the game the right way, but then once he's off of it, he's a good guy."
Former Ravens C.J. Mosley (Jets) and Kyle Juszczyk (49ers) were their team's nominees.