Ravens Have Three of NFL's Most Thrilling Players, Including No. 1
Lamar Jackson has been referred to as a human cheat code, a player whose actual moves are as breathtaking as his virtual ones.
So it comes as no surprise that Jackson is at the top of NFL.com's Greg Shook's list of the 32 most thrilling players in the league.
"Lamar is as close as the current NFL gets to a legit human highlight reel," Shook wrote. "The Ravens quarterback commands a rare type of attention from NFL fans, one that demands viewers stop everything they're doing to watch Jackson when he receives the snap because he carries the constant potential to make a memory. Jackson has already established himself as a master of the big play, making scores of defenders look hopelessly silly in the process, and the former Heisman Trophy winner doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon."
Shook divided the top 32 highlight-reel talents into two, 16-player groups: "The Pantheon" (Players who require your attention whenever they're on the field) and "Coming for the Throne" (They've proven they have what it takes to be considered among the league's true eye-poppers — they just have to keep doing it to earn a spot in the Pantheon's hallowed halls).
All-Pro cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey were placed in the latter group.
"One statistical total tells you all you need to know about Peters' play: 31 career interceptions," Shook wrote. "Peters took three of those back for scores in 2019, including two with his new team in Baltimore, and he's an ever-present threat to turn a pass into six for the Ravens. It's not as if one needs any more reason to watch Baltimore on a weekly basis beyond the Lamar-led offense, but if you're still searching for one, Peters has an answer for you."
Peters' panache was on full display at yesterday's practice, as he brought back memories of Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. Peters intercepted a pass from Trace McSorley, weaved his way across the field, then lateraled to Chuck Clark, who ran into the end zone.
On Humphrey, Shook wrote: "Humphrey lands on this list because of his blanket coverage, but more so because of his ability to swing the momentum in a game with the way he tackles ball carriers. Nobody in the NFL forced more fumbles than Humphrey last season, leading the league with eight of them and helping Baltimore quickly flip the direction of multiple games. His 11 passes defensed only added to the impact he made on the field in 2020, and if the opposition learned anything from last season, it's to take extra care of the ball when Humphrey is nearby."
Analyst Notes Impact of Justin Houston Signing, Sammy Watkins' Apparent Return to Form
As highlighted in yesterday's Late for Work, the Ravens' signing of Justin Houston has received a positive reaction from pundits. Add NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal to the list of analysts who believe the addition of the four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher will pay dividends for Baltimore.
"The Ravens' signing of the 32-year-old Justin Houston, like the Steelers' signing of the 32-year-old Melvin Ingram, shouldn't be overlooked," Rosenthal wrote. "Houston was still a capable starter last year for the Colts, and the Ravens have a way of getting the best out of a savvy veteran like Houston. Between Houston, second-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and rookie first-rounder Odafe Oweh, the Ravens may find some pressures in surprising places for their seemingly depleted pass rush."
Another veteran free-agent signing that shouldn't be overlooked is the Ravens' acquisition of wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins has looked good in practices and he's healthy, which is encouraging, especially with Marquise "Hollywood" Brown suffering from a hamstring injury and Rashod Bateman missing practice yesterday with muscle tightness. Bateman is back on the field this morning.
"Sammy Watkins is looking like he's back to form in Ravens camp by all accounts," Rosenthal wrote. "Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said he was one of the best receivers in the league! I'm hesitant to buy into too much Watkins offseason hype after hearing it all before, but that sort of belief from the Ravens coaching staff shows what type of role Watkins can expect if he stays healthy."
Justin Madubuike, Devin Duvernay Among Top Young Players Who Could Level Up in 2021
Two players who could level up for the Ravens this season are Madubuike and wide receiver Devin Duvernay, Football Outsiders' Rivers McCown wrote for ESPN.com.
McCown compiled a list of 25 players "who have a real chance to make an impact in the NFL despite their lack of draft stock and the fact that they weren't immediate NFL starters."
Madubuike was the No. 3 prospect on the list, while Duvernay came in at No. 21. Both are 2020 third-round picks.
To be eligible for the rankings, players had to be drafted in the third round or later, or signed as an undrafted free agent; have fewer than 500 career offensive or defensive snaps (except running backs, who are allowed just 300 offensive snaps); and be 26 or younger as of September 1, 2021.
"The interior line in Baltimore is by far the oldest part of the team. Calais Campbell is 35, Derek Wolfe 31 and Brandon Williams 32," McCown wrote. "Madubuike was going to figure to get some extra playing time anyway with Jihad Ward off to Jacksonville, but as the draft came and went with no extra investment, it became clear he's a huge part of Baltimore's plans going forward."
McCown is one of several pundits who believe Madubuike could be in store for a breakout season. The Ravens are excited about him as well.
"The way he played last year to where he is right now is very encouraging," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "So, I'm excited about him. I can tell you the defensive line is excited about him, too. I saw Derek Wolfe over there celebrating with him a couple times on some things he did well. So, yes — we're fired up about Madubuike."
Duvernay, who made his biggest impact as a kick returner last season, is a member of a crowded wide receivers room, but he has the ability to be more of a factor in the passing game.
"It's hard to see Duvernay growing much out of his 2020 role in 2021 because there are people in front of him," McCown wrote. "But he does have a little more talent than the 2020 flash might have shown you, and if the Ravens can't get Lamar Jackson a little more focused on the sidelines, Duvernay does profile to be in Jackson's high-usage target areas frequently."
- J.K. Dobbins was named one of six running backs poised for a Year 2 breakout by NFL.com's Maurice Jones-Drew.