Ravens Eye View: Rookies Stepped Up in Regular-Season Finale

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Tre Flowers (33) tackles Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely (80) as he runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Cincinnati.

The Ravens' decision to rest some starters for the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals gave rookies who hadn't played all that much an opportunity to show what they've got.

Undrafted rookie Anthony Brown started his first NFL game. Second-round outside linebacker David Ojabo and fourth-round tight end Charlie Kolar played in their second games and saw their first extensive action.

Tight end Isaiah Likely stepped into Mark Andrews' role and was the most targeted player on the team (13). First-round picks Kyle Hamilton and Tyler Linderbaum had the team's highest grades from Pro Football Focus on defense and offense, respectively.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens have a lot of rookies who are "learning on the job right now," and they proved they're ready for more in the playoffs if needed.

"Rookies, they make plays a lot of times and they flash their potential future, but sometimes they learn too. They learn on the job, and you have to put them out there and give them a chance to learn," Harbaugh said. "Those guys have all proven that they can play, and they have a valuable role for us."

Here's a look at the rookies' tape:

On the first play from scrimmage, the Ravens and Linderbaum made a statement. Much of the talk about Linderbaum entering the year was about whether the rookie center would be able to hold up against monster defensive tackles.

At 6-foot-3, 335 pounds, Reader is one of the best. He didn't play in the Ravens-Bengals Week 5 contest, and his presence in the rematch was expected to change the tenor and Baltimore's ability to run the ball. Without J.K. Dobbins and after Gus Edwards left early with a head injury, the Ravens still ran for 110 yards on 27 carries.

Hamilton was a major reason why the Ravens only gave up 215 passing yards to Joe Burrow, who connected on 25 of 42 passes and one touchdown. It was Burrow's second-lowest quarterback rating (81.0) of the season.

Likely had his biggest game yet, hauling in eight passes for 103 yards. He has good feel for uncovering in zone coverage and made a couple tight catches in traffic in this game, showing he could be a relied upon weapon in the playoffs, especially given the state of the Ravens' wide receiver corps.

Once the Ravens have Andrews back on the field, they'll be loaded again at tight end. The emergence of Kolar could lead Baltimore to lean more heavily on heavy tight end packages.

Brown had a tough first half with three turnovers, but he settled in as the game went on, including hitting a pair of back-shoulder deep balls to Sammy Watkins.

Ojabo got his first true chance to pass rush in an NFL game and made the most of it with a sack and forced fumble when he hit Burrow from behind. He wasn't the only young pass rusher to get Burrow, as second-year outside linebacker Odafe Oweh also got on the board.

In more non-rookie clips, Roquan Smith was all over the field with 16 tackles, showing (once again) his value that was rewarded two days later with a reported five-year, $100 million contract.

Related Content