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Mailbag: Who Has the Best Chance to Become a First-Time Pro Bowler?

S Marcus Williams
S Marcus Williams

Mink: There are several good Ravens candidates to become first-time Pro Bowlers. If I'm ranking them in order of likelihood, I'll say safety Marcus Williams, center Tyler Linderbaum, running back J.K. Dobbins, inside linebacker Patrick Queen, and guard Kevin Zeitler.

Williams got off to an incredibly hot start last season with three interceptions in his first two games. A fractured wrist suffered early in Week 5, however, limited Williams' season. He grabbed another interception in his first game back but being sidelined for seven games meant he wasn't going to the Pro Bowl. If Williams stays healthy and plays as well as he did last season, and there's no reason to think he won't, then he will be in the running. The Ravens made Williams one of the league's highest-paid safeties last offseason, and he's highly respected around the NFL.

Linderbaum was one of the league's best centers as a rookie and should be even better as a sophomore. If the Ravens offense thrives and Linderbaum continues to grow, the 2022 first-round pick will be firmly in the conversation as one of the AFC's best centers.

I think Dobbins could be in for a monster season. He's always shown his talent in terms of yards per carry and big plays. If fully healthy and given a larger role in the Ravens offense, Dobbins could fill the stat sheet and make highlight reels every week. A season with 1,500 total yards is not out of the question. Dobbins does have stiff AFC competition with Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb and others, but Dobbins is every bit as talented and driven as his peers.

Queen is also extremely talented and could emerge as one of the best inside linebackers in the league. Could he and Roquan Smith both go to the Pro Bowl? Zeitler has long been one of the AFC's top guards who deserves Pro Bowl honors.

Downing: This is a big year for both 2021 first-round picks. They need to have strong seasons if the Ravens are going to pick up their fifth-year options after this season. But I'm not writing off either player. They both have immense talent and have shown flashes of their potential. At this point a year ago, Oweh was a popular projection to have a breakout season and Bateman was the team's clear cut No. 1 receiving option. The foot injury derailed Bateman's season, so health will be major factor for this year. A Lisfranc injury is a challenging, and Bateman has not yet returned to full strength. He was sidelined at mandatory minicamp earlier this month after getting a cortisone injection in his foot, and the Ravens will bring him along slowly during training camp. The Ravens have a much deeper receiving corps after the additions of Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, and Nelson Agholor, so Bateman won't have as much on his plate this season. The Ravens have been encouraged by his progress throughout his recovery, and if he returns to pre-injury form he could show he deserves to have the fifth-year option exercised.

Oweh didn't have the pass-rush production last year that he hoped for with three sacks. He's talked about improving this consistency and developing a signature move, and I think he'll be aided by having his good friend David Ojabo on the opposite side rushing the passer. Oweh and Ojabo are athletic freaks, and the two of them looked like a dangerous tandem during offseason practices. Plenty of people thought Oweh could get into the double-digit sack range last season, and if he puts up that kind of production in 2023 then the Ravens would gladly pick up that fifth-year option.

Mink: I do think Tavius Robinson could play a hybrid kind of role for the Ravens, but I don't think any of it would be at inside linebacker. He'll be on the edge and could rennduce to a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in pass rush situations. That's mostly what I expect his role to be as a rookie. That's what Za'Darius Smith did as a fourth-round rookie outside linebacker in 2015, and it's what Matthew Judon did as a fifth-round rookie outside linebacker in 2016.

If he earns it in training camp, the Ravens will likely deploy Robinson as a rotational backup when the other three outside linebackers you mentioned (Tyus Bowser, Oweh and David) need a breather, and possibly in conjunction with them when Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald is looking to load up the formation with pass rushers.

Downing: The knee injury that cost Lamar Jackson the final six games of the season didn't seem to bother him throughout OTAs and minicamp. He moved well and didn't favor the leg at all. He told reporters when he signed his contract this offseason that it took until about March to fully recover from the injury, but that he was 100% healthy by the time the deal was done in late April. The injury did not require surgery. The good news is that Jackson is full-go, and a top priority for him is staying healthy all year.

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