Key Contributions From the Rookie Class
The COVID pandemic limited rookies in their preparation for the NFL, but the Ravens are still seeing strong returns from their first-year class. That was evident in Sunday's win against the Indianapolis Colts.
"How did the Ravens hold Indianapolis well under 300 yards until the game's final possession?" The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "[Marcus] Peters and [Chuck] Clark helped. So did [Wink] Martindale. But crucial contributions from two rookies and a longtime starter can't be overlooked, either."
Linebacker Malik Harrison and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike were key contributors to one of the Ravens' best wins of the season.
Harrison finished with nine total tackles and the third-round pick impressed on defense and special teams. One of his best plays of the game came against All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
"Harrison had an outstanding game, and not only in the box score," Russell Street Report's Dev Panchwagh wrote. "He was consistently around the ball, not giving up on plays (even when he was baited out of position on a jet sweep), and violently finishing tackles. Against a Colts offense that really forces defenses to make sure tackles in space, his ability to wrap up and bring ball-carriers down was a major edge."
Madubuike also had his best game as a rookie in the eyes of pundits. After missing the beginning of the season with a knee injury, he totaled five tackles and a half sack. His most impressive play came on a screen pass to Jonathan Taylor.
"Madubuike not only read the play, he came from behind to chase Taylor down in space and stop him for a short gain," Panchwagh wrote. "That's a play you see linebackers make. You don't see 300-pounders do that."
All 10 Ravens rookies have played meaningful snaps this season. That not only bodes well for the future, but also the present for a Super Bowl contender.
How the Ravens Opened Up Cap Space for More Moves
The Ravens added more depth to the secondary on Tuesday when they signed veteran cornerback Tramon Williams. It became possible after Baltimore reportedly restructured Tavon Young's contract, according to ESPN's Field Yates.
"This agreement also increases the chances of the often-injured Young remaining with the team next season," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "He has only played one full game since signing his three-year, $25.8 million extension before the 2019 season, which made him the NFL's highest-paid nickelback at the time.
"The Ravens converted $2.514 million of his base salary for 2020 into a signing bonus. That will create more room for Baltimore, which had $1.5 million in cap space this season, according to the ESPN Roster Management System."
Young was placed on season-ending injured reserve after suffering a knee injury against the Houston Texans. Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland reported that Young's restructure gave the Ravens $4.6 million in cap space to work with, a win-win for both parties.
Ravens Rise in Power Rankings After Comeback Win
After finishing last week as a consensus top-five team in the power rankings, the Ravens continued to rise following their 24-10 win over the Colts.
Baltimore was ranked fourth or better in five of the six publications we looked at this week. The common praise among pundits? Resiliency.
"[A] hellish eight-day stretch for the Ravens, one that included a bitter defeat to the Steelers, the loss of star left tackle Ronnie Stanley to injury, Marlon Humphrey's positive coronavirus test and the ensuing march of six Ravens to the COVID-19 list under the 'close contact' designation," NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote. "That's a lot of obstacles, but Baltimore still delivered a win over the Colts in Indianapolis. The Ravens had just 55 total yards of offense in the first half, but Jackson and Co. got hot after the intermission, while the Ravens defense gave Philip Rivers and the Colts attack no path to success. A win to build off."
The Ravens had lost 20 straight games when trailing at halftime heading into Sunday, but this time was different. Baltimore scored 17 unanswered points to overcome a 10-7 deficit and improve to 6-2 on the season.
"That team that showed up in the second half against the Colts is the one we expected to see this season. Maybe that will get the offense cranked up," CBS Sports' Pete Prisco wrote.
The Ravens made their biggest jump in ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and CBS Sports' rankings, moving up two spots from No. 5 to No. 3. They moved up one spot from No. 5 to No. 4 in NFL.com and USA Today's rankings.
The Ravens have consistently ranked as a top-five team, and it could continue that way. According to ESPN Analytics, they have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.
But despite confidence from most pundits, Bleacher Report isn't as bullish. They moved the Ravens back one spot in their rankings from No. 5 to No. 6
"Baltimore got back to winning with a fairly convincing victory, but the win didn't do much to erase concerns about its ability to hang with the big dogs in the AFC," BR wrote.
|Source||Ranking||Last Week's Ranking||Comments|
|ESPN||No. 3||No. 5||“Baltimore will make the playoffs, but it will likely have to take a different route this time. Trailing the Steelers by two games in the AFC North, the Ravens will probably have to take to the road in the postseason after winning the division the previous two years.”|
|NFL.com||No. 4||No. 5||“The Ravens had just 55 total yards of offense in the first half, but Jackson and Co. got hot after the intermission, while the Ravens defense gave Philip Rivers and the Colts attack no path to success. A win to build off.”|
|Bleacher Report||No. 6||No. 5||“Baltimore got back to winning with a fairly convincing victory, but the win didn't do much to erase concerns about its ability to hang with the big dogs in the AFC.”|
|USA Today||No. 4||No. 5||“Sunday's triumph at Indianapolis wasn't pretty, but it was the first time Jackson brought Baltimore back from a halftime deficit.”|
|Sports Illustrated||No. 3||No. 5||“The Ravens seem a little under the radar, with Jackson failing to post the eye-popping numbers he did a year ago, but the team has still won every game except against the two AFC teams above them here.”|
|CBS Sports||No. 3||No. 5||“That team that showed up in the second half against the Colts is the one we expected to see this season. Maybe that will get the offense cranked up.”|
Mark Ingram Defends Jackson and Ravens in Big Games
Last week in Late for Work, we separated fact from fiction about Jackson in big games. One of Jackson's biggest critics was ESPN's Max Kellerman, but Mark Ingram II isn't having any of it.
Ingram appeared on "The Max Kellerman Show" this week and defended Jackson, fighting the narrative that the Ravens can't win big games.
"We've got the team," Ingram said. "We've got the ability. We just have to go execute and that's what it comes down to it. Those must-have games, we've got to pay big attention to the details. … When you play great teams like that in must-win situations, you've got to be playing your best football.
"It's a team game. It's not on one person. There's multiple times you can look back at the games [and say], 'If this unit had done better, if this guy made this play it would've been a lot better off.' As a unit, as a team, we've just got to execute. We have to rise to the occasion when the lights are the brightest, when the games mean the most. We will do that."
The Colts are considered one of the contenders in the AFC this season, and entered Sunday allowing the second-fewest yards per game in the NFL. Not to mention, the Ravens beat the Steelers in every category except turnovers the previous week.
"Of course [the Ravens are] contenders until someone else proves them otherwise," Fox Sports' Marcellus Wiley said.
- NFL owners unanimously approved a plan to expand the playoff field from 14 to 16 teams if meaningful games are canceled because of COVID-19.