Ravens’ all-under-25 team
With mandatory minicamp completed for every NFL team and training camps over a month away, June represents the rare quiet period for the league. Outside of the unfortunate legal issue or contract development, teams generate little real news for weeks.
The break in the action allows for a deep dive into a team’s composition, in this case the young players coming into their own. The Baltimore Ravens have a handful of talented pieces across their roster that have established themselves as core components or could do so in the near future, with five outshining the rest.
To qualify, players must not turn 25 or older prior to Sept. 5, the official kickoff of the 2019 NFL regular season. That means that young stalwarts such as left tackle Ronnie Stanley and Matt Judon just missed the cut. Additionally, while some rookies will likely establish themselves among the Ravens’ top players under 25, only players with NFL experience garnered consideration.
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5. Orlando Brown
Offensive tackle, age 23
Orlando Brown, the son of the former Ravens offensive lineman of the same name, entered the 2018 draft process as a presumptive first-round pick. After a historically terrible combine performance, Brown’s stock dropped to the third round where his father’s team snatched him up.
Despite the concerns about Brown’s athleticism, he posted respectable numbers as a pass protector during his rookie season, allowing zero sacks and just 16 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Surprisingly, Brown’s massive frame and mass didn’t lend itself as well to run blocking, though it seems reasonable to expect improvement in that area as he matures. Either way, Brown looks like a fixture at right tackle for the next few years at least.
4. Kenny Young
Inside linebacker, age 24
The defection of Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley left a massive hole in the center of Baltimore’s defense, he didn’t leave the unit without any talent at inside linebacker. The top remaining off-ball linebacker, Kenny Young, joined the team as a fourth-round pick last offseason and became a regular contributor to the defense. He racked up 51 total tackles and an impressive 2.5 sacks in a part-time role, offering promise for the future.
At this stage, Young offers just run defense and situational pass-rushing. He struggled in coverage and might lack the athleticism necessary to become an impact coverage linebacker. Even so, the Ravens could find themselves in a far worse situation after watching Mosley leave town.
3. Mark Andrews
Tight end, age 23
The Ravens selected three players including a tight end before taking Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews late on Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Andrews’ afterthought status didn’t prevent him from posting 34 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns, easily overshadowing every other rookie receiver on the team.
Now entering Year 2, Andrews looks primed for a breakout campaign. Though the Ravens would surely prefer that Andrews improve as a blocker, he can still thrive as a “Joker” or “move” tight end within the scheme.
2. Lamar Jackson
Quarterback, age 22
While not currently the Ravens’ best player under 25, Lamar Jackson inarguably ranks as their most critical component heading into 2018. Head coach John Harbaugh parted with longtime assistant Marty Mornhinweg in order to install Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator and play-caller, a move meant to feature Jackson’s strengths (athleticism and play-making skills) while presumably downplaying his present weaknesses (ball placement and accuracy).
Time will reveal whether Harbaugh made the right decision, but Jackson has already shown that he can overcome a burdensome scheme and lift an offense with his considerable talents. Before he replaced Joe Flacco as the starting quarterback, the Ravens ranked among the league’s worst rushing attacks. That changed immediately upon Jackson’s ascension, with the rookie signal-caller opening up the offense for himself and previously anonymous tailback Gus Edwards. And while Jackson’s throwing skills remain a work in progress, he still managed to top Flacco as a passer, registering more than a half yard better in adjusted yards per attempt (a metric accounting for passing yardage, touchdowns, and interceptions). That represents a promising starting point for a young QB in a new scheme.
1. Marlon Humphrey
Cornerback, age 22
Already the top cornerback on the Ravens, Marlon Humphrey established himself as a premier cover man across the league in 2018. Humphrey made opposing quarterback regret throwing in his direction, allowing completions on just 51.8 percent of his targets and posting a defensive passer rating of 74.8, according to Pro Football Focus. The corner’s robust production didn’t merely result from inaccurate signal-callers either; Humphrey forced 19 incompletions over the course of the year. Baltimore sported the best defense in the AFC, and Humphrey deserves a significant portion of the credit for the accolade.
Even so, Humphrey still has room to grow. His seven missed tackles led the secondary and he allowed a team-worst four touchdowns in 2018. Humphrey’s heavy workload inflates those figures, however, and he has the tools to improve in both areas regardless. Barring an unforeseeable change of fortune, Humphrey should earn a lengthy extension from the Ravens in the not-too-distant future.
Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. He has bylines at SB Nation, Sports on Earth, and other outlets. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.