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Mailbag: Predicting the Under-the-Radar Breakout Star

CB Tavon young
CB Tavon young

Mink: Tavon Young is a great selection. He's expected to be back on the field after a neck injury that eventually resulted in surgery and ended his season before it got off the ground. But Ravens reporters at practice last summer saw a dominant cornerback who hardly allowed any completions his way.

If Tavon can stay healthy, he is one of the top nickel corners in the game. He's physical, sticky, smart, an excellent blitzer, and a playmaker. He earned the name the "Scoop and Score King" in 2018 after he recovered three fumbles and returned two for touchdowns (and also had one interception). Young will make some splash plays in 2020, especially if Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale keeps blitzing so much.

There's a reason the Ravens signed Young to a three-year extension worth a reported $25.8 million last offseason. They envision him as a key piece of their secondary, and I expect Young to be right back in what's essentially a starting spot alongside Pro Bowlers Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. Those guys got the accolades last season, but if Young can stay healthy, people may be talking about his return as the final piece that made the Ravens' already loaded secondary complete.

Two other players I'll mention so I'm not just stealing your answer is safety Chuck Clark and wide receiver Miles Boykin. Clark was fantastic last season, but I think he could become a "star" by making some more big plays – something we didn't see a lot of last year. Clark has always had a nose for the football, and now he'll be a starter from the jump. Boykin will certainly have a chance to do a lot of damage if he earns a starting wide receiver role, which I expect he will.

Downing: Keeping a fourth running back will make the path to the 53-man roster a bit more challenging for players on the bubble. It's also worth mentioning that the Ravens really have a fifth "running back" with Patrick Ricard at fullback, which plenty of teams don't carry. I'll point to two positions that could be impacted by this extra running back: quarterback and wide receiver. The Ravens kept three quarterbacks on the active roster last year – Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley – and it was one of the few times they've done that under Head Coach John Harbaugh. Jackson stayed healthy all season, so will the Ravens feel the need to keep three quarterbacks again? They may make the decision to keep only one backup this year. 

At wide receiver, a standard number to keep is six. The receiving corps is mostly set with Hollywood Brown, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin and the rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche. The Ravens may opt to only keep those five receivers on the 53-man roster. Veteran Chris Moore, who was re-signed this offseason, could also make the team based on his special-teams ability, but that extra spot may need to go to the extra running back if the Ravens decide to keep three quarterbacks again.

Mink: Since when did the Ravens carry two fullbacks? Are we counting undrafted rookie Bronson Rechsteiner? As far as who the third tight end will be this season following the Hayden Hurst trade, I fully expect either Jacob Breeland or Eli Wolf to make the team. The Ravens were very excited to get the pair of undrafted tight ends and Head Coach John Harbaugh flat-out said he expects one, or maybe even both, to be on the 53-man roster. Harbaugh compared Wolf to Hurst and said Breeland is like a mixture of Hurst and Mark Andrews.

Downing: That sure would be sweet, but I'd say it's unlikely for both Harbaugh and Jackson to bring home those awards again this year. And that's really by no fault of their own. The Coach of the Year award often goes to the coach who turns the team around most significantly from the previous season. It's not necessarily that often that it goes to the coach of the team with the best record. Just look at Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who has won six Super Bowls but only three Coach of the Year awards. The Ravens could win 14 games again this year but that doesn't mean Harbaugh would win Coach of the Year.

As far as the MVP, Jackson still has a good shot at that award. As of right now, Patrick Mahomes is the favorite, but Jackson has the second-best odds. If the Ravens put together a regular season anywhere close to what they did last season, then Jackson will likely be right in the middle of the MVP conversation again.

Mink: Interesting question. Every offseason always feels like the most important for some reason or another. Last offseason, we were all saying it would be massive to see how Lamar Jackson progressed as a passer (that turned out pretty well). I can see the argument that this is the most important because the Ravens are obviously a Super Bowl contender and it's a very strange offseason given COVID-19 and the massive social justice discussions going on around the country and in the NFL. There's a lot to deal with. Under Harbaugh, who as we mentioned above is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, I expect the Ravens come out ahead of their peers when it comes to preparation this offseason.

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