Odell Beckham Jr. Showing He Can Be Counted on in Big Moments
The weather is getting colder but Odell Beckham Jr. is getting hotter.
The superstar wide receiver got off to a slow start this season, but has been heating up as the Ravens look to hold onto the No. 1 seed in the AFC heading into the final four weeks.
After recording four catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens' 37-31 overtime win over his former team, the Los Angeles Rams, this past Sunday, Beckham has 17 catches for 343 yards and three touchdowns over his past five games and has averaged 82.3 yards per game in his past three. He had just 14 catches for 159 yards and no touchdowns in his first six games as a Raven, as he dealt with ankle and shoulder injuries.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said Beckham's performance against the Rams was further affirmation of what the Ravens were getting for their money when they signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a one-year, $15 million contract.
"They didn't know how well Beckham could still run after his knee issues. But they knew he still was a precise route runner," Zrebiec wrote. "They knew he'd still be able to make adjustments to the ball in the air. And they knew he'd catch just about everything that hit his hands. The nifty touchdown catch Sunday displayed all those examples and showed he can still run a little bit, too.
"The other thing the Ravens knew? That Beckham loves the stage and can be counted on in big moments. … The 46-yard touchdown gave the Ravens a 14-10 lead. His three other receptions gave Baltimore first downs. His final catch, a 14-yarder, was on the Ravens' go-ahead scoring drive late in the fourth quarter."
Russell Street Report’s Darin McCann said he was skeptical about the Ravens' decision to sign Beckham to a contract considered well above market value, but Beckham has won him over.
"I eventually came around to the transaction, believing that, if nothing else, Beckham would be a veteran presence in the locker room, and it made Lamar Jackson happy while the team was negotiating for his services," McCann wrote. "If the Ravens had to overpay a little for that, so be it. They needed a guy in the room who knew what good play looked like, and understood what it takes to win a championship. And they needed Jackson's signature on the line. And while he had a bit of a rocky start, Beckham has shown to be worth the money as of late — actually on the field, not just in the locker room."
Nelson Agholor's Smart, Unselfish Approach Has Made Him a Valuable Addition
Nelson Agholor may not transcend the sport like Beckham does, but the veteran wide receiver has proven to be a valuable addition to the Ravens' revamped wide receiver corps.
Agholor isn't putting up gaudy stats, nor was he expected to. He was signed this offseason for more than just his physical skills, and his savviness played a key role in the Ravens' go-ahead touchdown — a 21-yard pass from Jackson to Zay Flowers — late in Sunday's game.
"Cameras caught Jackson and Agholor having a discussion in the huddle before the play," Zrebiec wrote. "What was said? When Agholor learned of the play call on third-and-17, he told Jackson he was going to run his route a little longer and predicted that he'd be able to engage safety John Johnson III and take him out of the throwing window to Flowers. That's exactly what happened. Johnson followed Agholor toward the sideline, leaving Fuller alone on Flowers.
"It was a smart and unselfish approach by Agholor, and it reminded me of General Manager Eric DeCosta's comments before the start of the season about signing the veteran wideout. He felt the Ravens needed to add another unselfish and smart professional to their receiver room. Agholor will finish the season with modest numbers, but he's been a nice addition."
What Will Malik Cunningham's Role Be With Ravens?
Pundits speculated on what the Ravens' reported signing of quarterback Malik Cunningham off the New England Patriots' practice squad and onto the 53-man roster could mean going forward.
"His addition gives the Ravens four quarterbacks, along with Tyler Huntley and veteran Josh Johnson, both of whom are on the active roster," The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker wrote. "It's more likely Cunningham could have an impact on Baltimore's roster next season. Huntley, the Ravens' backup quarterback, is an unrestricted free agent after this season and bringing him back next year would be a more expensive option."
There's also a chance Cunningham could find his way onto the field for the Ravens this season, and not necessarily under center.
A starting quarterback at Louisville, where he was a teammate of Jackson's in 2017, Cunningham went undrafted this year before signing with the Patriots. With New England, he took snaps in the preseason and in one regular-season game at both quarterback and wide receiver.
"Patriots Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien said later that he could see New England using him in different spots within the offense given his versatility," Wacker wrote. "If [returner] Devin Duvernay is out for an extended period, Cunningham's speed could come in handy for Baltimore. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound quarterback ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the NFL scouting combine earlier this year."
According to Zrebiec, the Ravens liked Cunningham in the draft and tried to sign him as an undrafted free agent. The Patriots reportedly gave Cunningham $170,000 in total guarantees, including a $30,000 signing bonus. Only seven undrafted free agents received more than $200,000 in guaranteed money last year, according to AtoZ Sports Doug Kyed.
At Louisville, Cunningham completed 691 of 1,104 passes for 9,660 yards and 70 touchdowns and was a four-year starter. He also rushed for 3,170 yards and 50 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Marcus Williams Returning to Form
Marcus Williams clearly wasn't himself when he returned to action last month after being sidelined by pectoral and hamstring injuries, leading some pundits to question whether the talented safety had become a liability.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the time that Williams is "going to be just fine" and is "a big part of what we're doing." Williams has proven him right.
"A lot was made of Williams' struggles as he returned from an injury earlier in the year, but he has come into his own over the past three games, earning PFF coverage grades above 70.0 in each outing," Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness wrote. "Against the Rams, he allowed two receptions for 12 yards and a touchdown in coverage and recorded a pass breakup. Over the past three games, Williams' five pass breakups are tied for second most in the NFL."
Williams' return to form has become more significant in light of safety Kyle Hamilton's knee injury. Hamilton is day-to-day after suffering what is reportedly a sprained MCL.