Thomas Is on the Comeback Trail
Earl Thomas’ 2018 season was cut short after just four games and now the veteran safety is making a comeback.
Pro Football Focus’ Mark Chichester named Thomas among 10 candidates to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.
“Since joining the Seahawks with the 14th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, Thomas’ work on the backend of the Seahawks’ secondary has put him among the very best to ever play the position,” Chichester wrote. “His coverage grade of 92.7 is the fifth-best mark among qualifying safeties in that nine-year span, while his 64 combined pass breakups and interceptions and his 80 total coverage stops rank second and fourth among safeties, respectively.
“While [Thomas] may be 30 years old and coming off another broken leg, he’s graded at 90.0-plus in each of the past two seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down. Now with a chip on his shoulder and a new home in the bruising AFC North, Thomas has a point to prove with a team that will allow him to do so.”
Thomas broke his leg in 2016 and returned the following season to earn Pro Bowl honors, totaling 88 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defensed.
Good Morning Football’s Nate Burleson picked Thomas as the player he’s most excited to see return from injury this season.
“If you think about Thomas, there’s really only a handful of teams that his type of style would fit on, and the Ravens are at the top of that list,” Burleson said. “... So they need an individual that can come in and help anchor that defense once again. That was the best defense in football. So, I’m looking at Thomas, man. I want to see if he still has it quite frankly.”
Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler concurred.
“If Thomas is healthy he is a true ball hawk in the back end of the defense,” Schisler wrote. “When you have shutdown cornerbacks and a free safety with this kind of instinctual feel for the game, quarterbacks are in trouble.”
Thomas was on the practice field for the Ravens’ offseason workout program in April and by all indications, the leg looks ready to go.
Nagy: Powers Could Push for Starting Job ‘Right Away’
Among one of the league’s most consistent offensive lines, the left guard position was a revolving door for the Ravens last season. James Hurst, Alex Lewis and Bradley Bozeman all saw time there and now fourth-round pick Ben Powers joins the mix.
Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy joined Glenn Clark Radio and said he believes Powers could make a push for serious playing time early on.
"... He was really an easy guy to scout,” Nagy said. “He was good at both phases of the game. He can pass protect. He was good in the run game. So do I think he can play center eventually? Yeah, I do, but if I were the Ravens, I would think of him as a guard first. And to me, he's a guy that can push for a starting job right away."
Nagy repeatedly said he views Powers as a guard, not a center, which makes sense considering it’s where Powers played primarily at Oklahoma. Plus, the Ravens feel confident in Matt Skura, who anchored the center spot and started all 16 games last season.
"If Ben started right now, by the time we got to the football season, he might be serviceable enough [at center] … and give him some flexibility in a pinch if they had to,” Nagy said. “But he's a guy, at least as a rookie, I would see as a guard-only type player for them but a guy that is going to start in the league.”
Powers brings a nasty mentality to the trenches, fitting for the physical style of play in the AFC North. He’ll compete with Hurst, Lewis and Bozeman in one of the looming position battles this offseason, according to PennLive’s Aaron Kasinitz.
“Powers arrives as a fourth-round pick who started for three seasons at Oklahoma and should have every chance to earn immediate playing time,” Kasinitz wrote.
The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec noted that Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris was “hands on and vocal” with Powers during the team’s rookie minicamp.
“Team officials haven’t come right out and said this, but I think they’d love either for Powers to prove himself ready to start at left guard as a rookie, or a finally healthy Lewis to seize the job,” Zrebiec wrote.
Zrebiec noted that if Powers were to win the starting job at left guard, it would allow Hurst to serve as a key reserve. Hurst signed a four-year deal in 2017 but missed six games last season with a back injury.
Undrafted Rookies Who Can Make an Immediate Impact
It’s no secret that the Ravens are one of the top teams when it comes to finding undrafted talent. At least one undrafted rookie has made the 53-man roster in Baltimore for 15 straight seasons and another talented class will hope to extend the streak.
But as good as the Ravens have been at finding undrafted gems, they’ve also seen an immediate impact from some of those players.
FanSided’s Nicholas Price named Gerald Willis, Otara Alaka and Markus Jones as three undrafted rookies in the Ravens’ 2019 class who could produce from the start.
After leading the ACC in tackles for loss last season, Willis has been picked by pundits as an early favorite to make the roster.
“Willis is a steal for the Ravens, it’s as simple as that,” Price wrote. “On film, he showed decent get-off with enough pass rush and run-stuffing ability to warrant being drafted. Standing a 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Willis has a great frame for Baltimore’s 3-4 scheme, adding a contrasting dynamic to [Michael] Pierce and [Brandon] Williams.”
Price pointed to Alaka and Jones as potential under-the-radar rookies given the need for depth at the inside linebacker and pass rush positions.
Jones totaled 17.5 sacks during his senior season at Division II Angelo State. The Ravens have had success with small-school talent in the pass rush department, most notably Matt Judon.
“If Jones impresses in training camp, he could find himself a roster spot as well as a potential role in the Ravens rotation,” Price wrote.
- Speaking of undrafted players, Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit named Pierce, Patrick Onwuasor and Tony Jefferson to his “All-Undrafted Team.”