Matthew Judon Is Ravens' Most Underappreciated Player
While the Ravens and their fans certainly know how valuable Matthew Judon is, the outside linebacker has not gotten the recognition he deserves, according to NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund, who identified one player from every team who is underappreciated.
"Judon's value goes beyond his raw totals in pressures (though his 33 QB hits did rank fourth in the NFL in 2019) and sacks (9.5). His play must be contextualized based on what he is asked to do," Frelund wrote. "First of all, you must focus on his production as a true outside linebacker (where more than 80 percent of his snaps take place), especially now that Calais Campbell is on the team.
"Secondly, you have to use data to help understand the strategy of when his key pressures occurred. Five of Judon's sacks came on third down. With the way the Ravens worked last season – specifically, the uniqueness of their offense – the value Judon brought, especially after the loss of Za'Darius Smith, shored up a key spot in the front. With Campbell up front this season, look for Baltimore's overall sacks and pressures to increase."
Judon, who had the franchise tag placed on him during the offseason, was a stabilizing presence on the Ravens defense last season after Smith, Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley departed in free agency. Judon challenged himself to prove he could still produce without those other Pro Bowlers around him. He did, totaling a career-high in sacks.
Now with more threats demanding attention in Campbell, Derek Wolfe and rookie inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, Judon could make another leap in 2020. If Judon continues on the path he's been on, he won't be underrated much longer, Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote.
"Judon's best football could very well be in front of him," Schisler wrote in February. "The take home point is that simply looking at Judon's statistics is a good way to undervalue him. With context and a fair evaluation of his game, he's a valuable player."
Other Than Chiefs, Steelers Could Be Biggest AFC Threat to Ravens' Super Bowl Quest
The general consensus is that the Ravens are going to have to beat the Kansas City Chiefs if they're going to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. However, there are other teams in the conference who could stand in the way of the Ravens' pursuit of the franchise's third Lombardi Trophy, including theirarchrival.
As you may have seen, the Pittsburgh Steelers posted a video of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing to teammates and then sitting in a barber's chairfora haircut and beard trim. Roethlisberger, who underwent surgery on his throwing elbow eight months ago, had vowed not to cut his hair or beard until he could throw a football again.
At the end of the video, Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster says ominously, "He's baaack. Stay tuned."
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora identified three teams in the AFC as bona fide Super Bowl contenders: the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers.
"Maybe the best defense in the NFL and they get Big Ben back," La Canfora wrote.
The Ravens won the AFC North last year by six games over Pittsburgh (8-8) – which lost Roethlisberger for the season in Week 2 and also played without running back James Conner and Smith-Schuster for multiple games – but no one should assume it'll be as easy to win the division in 2020.
"While Baltimore no doubt inches toward the season as the clear-cut favorite in the AFC North, there's reason to believe the Steelers present a formidable challenge," Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "Sure, Baltimore buried Pittsburgh in Week 17 last year with a slew of backups on the field. But don't forget that the Steelers took the Ravens into overtime at Heinz Field in Week 5 despite playing the final 20 minutes of the game with an undrafted, third-string quarterback behind center.
"The Steelers' defense is loaded with young talent and has the speed at linebacker — both on the edge and in the middle — to contend with [Lamar] Jackson's unique running ability to some degree. If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can return to form, the Ravens might not be able to run away with another division crown. They'll need to scrap for it."
In addition to the Steelers, the Tennessee Titans, who dashed the Ravens' Super Bowl hopes in the playoffs last season, remain a threat.
"Quarterback Ryan Tannehill signed a new contract, and Tennessee used the franchise tag to keep hard-running postseason hero Derrick Henry in the backfield," Kasinitz wrote.
That said, Kasinitz acknowledged that the Ravens are better equipped to beat the Titans in 2020 thanks to a revamped defensive front seven. The Ravens will have an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge against the Titans when they play them at home in November.
Other teams Kasinitz believes the Ravens need towatch in the AFC include the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. It also goes without saying that no team should ever overlook Head Coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, even without Tom Brady.
Non-Rookies Who Are Most Affected By Lack of Minicamps, OTAs
Rookies figure to be the players most affected by the likely cancellation of minicamps and organized team activities, but there are veterans and returning players who will be impacted as well.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec identified 11 such players on the Ravens' roster. Here's a look at some of them, along with Zrebiec's comments on each:
CBs Anthony Averett and Iman Marshall: "It's easy to group them because both are recent fourth-round picks and will compete for that fifth cornerback spot behind Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith. … Ultimately, the Ravens could find room for both players on the regular-season roster if they are among the top special-teamers. However, there are certainly no guarantees given the team's roster depth, which makes this spring and summer pivotal for both."
OLB Tyus Bowser: "There's a decent chance that Matthew Judon wouldn't participate in voluntary workouts even if the Ravens had them, as he hopes for a long-term contract extension. That could lead to first-team reps for Bowser, who is entering an important season. Bowser is due to hit free agency next year and could elevate his status significantly by building off last season's five-sack campaign."
OLB Jaylon Ferguson: "A third-round pick last year, Ferguson showed some flashes as a rookie, starting nine games and registering 2.5 sacks, but he also showed that he needed to get stronger and more explosive. … Not getting the opportunity to work out under the direction of the team's strength-and-conditioning staff and losing on-field repetitions is a setback for the rush linebacker, of whom much more is expected in 2020."
OG Ben Powers: "If the Ravens see Powers as the successor to retired right guard Marshal Yanda, they seem determined to make the 2019 fourth-round pick earn it. Not only did they use third- and fourth-round picks on guards Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson, but they also signed D.J. Fluker after the draft. Powers got first-team reps at guard early in last year's training camp, then was a healthy scratch for all but one game in the regular season. The Ravens wanted him to use this offseason to get stronger and more explosive. He'll still have some time to distinguish himself from the other guard candidates, but getting fewer practice reps cuts into his opportunity."
The other players on Zrebiec's list were: RB Justice Hill, DT Daylon Mack, QB Trace McSorley, ILB Jake Ryan, WR Jaleel Scott, and OT Andre Smith.
Trade for Calais Campbell Was Most Underrated Move of NFL Offseason
Speaking of underrated, ESPN asked its NFL writers what the most underrated move of the offseason was, and Mina Kimes said it was the Ravens' acquisition of five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Campbell for a fifth-round pick and signing him to a one-year extension.
"The Ravens defense was excellent last season, but it struggled at times to stop the run, as we saw in the playoffs. Enter Campbell, one of the best run-stuffing linemen in football," Kimes wrote. "This was a huge acquisition at little cost."
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski expressed a similar sentiment. In his rankings of the 25 best moves of the offseason, he placed the Campbell trade at No. 9.
"When an opportunity arose to acquire Calais Campbell, the Ravens weren't reticent to flip a fifth-round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman," Sobleski wrote. "Pro Football Focus named Campbell the 2019 Run Defender of the Year. The 33-year-old lineman consistently disrupts blocking schemes and resets the line of scrimmage. His addition alongside Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe should make Baltimore one of the league's most difficult fronts to move."
By the way, the Ravens' selection of running back J.K. Dobbins with the 55th-overall pick in the draft was No. 24 on Sobleski's list.
"Second-round picks don't usually find their way into the best offseason moves, but the Baltimore Ravens couldn't have made a better selection than they did in Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins," Sobleski wrote. "The Ravens already featured the best ground attack in NFL history, yet they could be even better with Dobbins in the lineup. … Dobbins' inclusion in the Ravens lineup is a masterstroke of drafting."