Reviewing the Ravens Youth Movement
While the Ravens season in the midst of a free fall, one thing worth paying attention to is the youth movement. Our youth is our future. That notion applies in sports as well. The Ravens are already asking a lot of some young guys. Here is a review of the youth on this team and their potential roles as the team rolls along.
For this exercise I’ll define youth and the Ravens future as everyone age 25 and under, that also is not an unrestricted free agent for 2017. Guys who haven’t reached their prime, who could contribute in upcoming seasons.
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The first group of youth we’ll call “non-impact players on injured reserve”. They’ll maybe compete for spots in next year’s camp. Anything good they provide is simply a bonus.
Maurice Canady, Kalien Clay, Cavellis Luckett, Stephane Nembot, Sheldon Price, De’Ondre Wesley.
The next group includes “injured reserve guys we have a little higher hopes for”. It’s a shame they have had their development impinged.
Carl Davis – Sidelined since the final preseason game where he suffered an ankle injury. With undrafted Michael Pierce playing well behind Brandon Williams, Davis was passed over in favor of Matt Elam as the lone IR player allowed to return. Potentially, Davis will compete with Pierce next year for starting nose tackle duties if Brandon Williams is lost in free agency. He’ll likely come with a pretty steep price tag.
Bronson Kafusi – The next in a long line of rookies over the years to have their season ended before it starts. The 2016 3rd round pick has a couple years to make a name on the D-line as a hybrid pass rusher out of BYU. Size is exciting at a ripped 6’7″ 290 pounds. Skills though, we’ll have to wait and see.
Maxx Williams – Maxx was “brought here to catch passes”, as coach John Harbaugh put it during the 2015 2nd round picks rookie training camp. At a young 21-years old, he spent his rookie year developing and bulking up. But a log jam at tight end came up as Dennis Pitta unexpectedly returned for 2016. Ben Watson was also signed to a two-year deal in free agency. Fellow 2015 rookie Darren Waller converted to tight end from wide out. Crockett Gillmore’s shoulder ailments were not as bad as advertised and Nick Boyle saw a large amount of preseason snaps. Hard for Williams to develop from the bench, and we won’t see him for the remainder of 2016. Best case scenario he gets to see the field enough in 2018 to draw an accurate picture of the player he could be. Everything you read about him he is doing all the right things as a young player and teammate.
In the “suspended group”, all alone is Nick Boyle. The Ravens are three games away from being able to activate yet another tight end. Boyle is serving 10 games for a second PED violation. He earned more early 2015 reps than Maxx Williams did who was drafted much higher. He’s got two strikes against him now though. It seems unknown what a player can do without putting stuff in his body he shouldn’t,
Now we get to the youth on the active roster. Breaking it down into offense and defense. Then breaking that into starters, role players and reserves.
Buck Allen – Nothing to hang your hat on here. In Harbaugh’s dog house for some reason. Went from starting some as a rookie when Justin Forsett hit IR in 2015, to barely seeing action, even in the preseason.
Kenneth Dixon – Dixon shined in preseason action but missed the beginning of the season due to a knee injury. He’s been used sparingly, but the future could be bright for the rookie. He’s got a special skillset, excels in open space. We’ll see if the Ravens utilize that.
James Hurst – I don’t know. You tell me why he’s still on the team. He’s got to be black mailing someone on the staff.
Ryan Jensen – He’s already been cut from his rookie contract and re-signed to a year by year basis. Nothing special. Between Hurst and Jensen, and multiple years trying out Wesley and Nembot, O-line should be targeted heavily by the Ravens in the upcoming draft. Rick Wagner may need to replaced at right tackle as a free agent to be.
Lorenzo Taliaferro – After three years, he still hasn’t been healthy long enough to prove himself. Just recently activated from the PUP list. With three other options in the backfield, the senior member of the group could be the odd man out. The Ravens don’t run the ball enough to warrant having four RBs on the roster. His nearly $700k in cap savings makes him expendable.
Offensive Role Players
Crockett Gillmore – Viewed as more of a blocking TE, but at times with the ball in his hands he’s been seen to take on defenders like a battering ram. The red zone threat has scored a touchdown this year. Ravens, please don’t add another tight end this offseason. You’re good. Ben Watson, Pitta, Gillmore, Williams, Darren Waller, Boyle are all under contract for next year.
Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman – I grouped these two together as they are currently about the same player. Role players who get few targets, but usually deep ones. Perriman comes with the higher expectations but both have had issues with drops. Perriman’s oddly coming more in the short passing game. Rookies are going to do rookie things (2016 is essentially a rookie year for Perriman). With a Steve Smith retirement looming, both Moore and Perriman could be counted on, battling for a starters job. Maybe the competition enables one to hang on the ball better as they progress into 2017.
Darren Waller – Intriguing prospect coming out of one time WR factory Georgia Tech. I believe that honor goes to Clemson now. 6’6″, 4.4 straight line speed. But in and out of cuts he looks slower than his WR counterparts, which is a reason he switched to TE in 2016. Not afraid of contact playing in the Yellow Jackets triple option system. Waller has been maybe the only special teamer worth pat on the back. He’s excelling as a gunner and being first in the scene. He’ll earn receiver reps if he keeps it up on special teams and see if he can put his 6’6″ frame to good use in the red zone.
John Urschel – He missed enough time in camp and preseason to lose his opportunity at staring at left guard to rookie Alex Lewis. He has started there in the absence of Ronnie Stanley of late and hasn’t stuck out. Which could be a good thing. A starting role on a line at full strength isn’t out of the question. Versatile enough to play center, but has trouble making shotgun snaps.
Alex Lewis – A tackle in college at Nebraska, but converting to guard because of shorter than preferable arms for a tackle at the NFL level. In the running game he shows some of those mobile tackle skills on zone-stretch runs. Getting out in front like a plow. But his pass blocking leaves a bit to be desired. Expected in a transition period and for a rookie. Pile on asking him to play left tackle while Ronnie Stanley is sidelined in a walking boot. His experience early on here should pay dividends later.
Ronnie Stanley – Speak of the devil. The first round of this past NFL draft went Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliot, Jalen Ramsey, Ronnie Stanley. Aside from Goff, the next four have been difference makers on their respective teams and Stanley displays the same potential. An unfortunate foot injury has held him out for about a month now. The difference is night and day when he is in there though. We noticed it watching James Hurst last year, and the first glimpse we saw Stanley in preseason this year. Not to say he hasn’t had some rookie moments. 99% of them will. But when healthy he’s been every bit what you expect from a top ten pick. Hope to see him back at full strength soon, as being durable was one of his draft traits.
Terrance West – I wrote about West a couple weeks ago. To sum it up, he has upped his maturity level and his commitment to bettering himself. If he can keep it up through the season, and offseason, the Ravens could have a nice between the tackles runner at their disposal for at least a couple more years.
Robertson Daniel – Don’t trust a guy with two first names. Except me. I have two first names. But really don’t trust a guy with a last name for a first name and a first name for a last name. Who are we talking about again? I forgot.
Willie Henry – Another rookie, a Harbaugh family product out of Michigan. He has time to develop with Lawrence Guy and Timmy Jernigan manning the front bookends of the 3-4 base set. Looked solid in limited snaps in preseason though.
Marqueston Huff – I don’t know. Michael Huff’s mustached evil twin? Or maybe Michael had the mustache. He’s the evil one, right? Remember that week 1 effort in Denver 2013? Cost him his job.
Patrick Onwuasor – One of the undrafted free agents this past season. He was signed off the practice squad last week. Some see potential. Let’s see if he ever plays first.
Brent Urban – Urban is showing upin dime packages lately. He’s a tall man and gets his big mitts up on blocking teams with the field goal units. Makes sense to put him in the dime sets where you assume the QB is throwing. He can disrupt the throwing lane. Urban hasn’t played enough to warrant gaining more and more playing time. Injuries slowed the first year and a half of his career. Urban might have a chance in 2017 to make a difference, but the competition will be tough.
Defensive Role Players
Kamalei Correa and Matt Judon – Sub package edge rusher. 3-4 inside linebacker. We still don’t know for sure how the Ravens want to use Correa. The rookie is slowly seeing his snap count increase by the week. For Judon, he comes in with the chip in his shoulder of coming from a D-II school, Grand Valley State. Judon was a standout at the combine and for once, it shows up on the field. He flashes an excellent football IQ, with rush and edge setting skills. With aging vets Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil battling injuries. We should see more of this tandem. It could very well be the starting duo in 2017.
Michael Pierce – Another undrafted sensation from Ozzie Newsome and company. When pundits grade draft classes they often leave out the undrafted picks. Ones the Ravens always seem to make a solid starter out of. Pierce has a good bull rush and has a knack for penetrating the O-line. Something not often asked of a 3-4 nose tackle, as they are tasked with taking up space, gaps. Pierce backs up Brandon Williams nicely and could be starting if Williams walks as eligible in 2017.
Za’Darius Smith – Smith saw himself getting the start last week with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil inactive. He’s been having trouble getting pressure on quarterbacks. He’s getting plenty of reps but will soon be losing them to rookies Correa and Judon if he doesn’t improve.
Timmy Jernigan and C.J. Mosley – Both men come from the 2014 draft class. Mosley in the first round, Jernigan in the second. Both men have had roller coaster seasons to this point. Both played at a high level as rookies, regressed in 2015, and are back on the uptick in 2016. Mosley may have solved his coverage problem issues as he has snagged three interceptions this season. Jernigan looks noticeably leaner, stronger, and it’s showing up on the field. Two guys who will find themselves leaders on the defense in 2017.
Zachary Orr – Orr was surprisingly anointed starter alongside C.J. Mosley in his third year with the Ravens. You guessed it, undrafted. Orr leads the team in tackles by a landslide, and ranks sixth in the NFL in tackles. He’s finding the football often also with an INT, a forced fumbles and a two fumbles recovered. Orr can be retained for low restricted free agent salary in 2017 making him one of the greatest value players on the team.
Tavon Young – Like West, I recently wrote an article on Tavon Young. In summary, he’s graduated faster than many fourth round draft picks, going from rookie special teamer to starting cornerback in about six weeks. A position no one thought he could man outside of the slot at a small 5’9”. He looks like an aggressive, fun player to watch. With the safety position in dire need as Lardarius Webb looks like toast, and they resorted to Matt Elam as their choice to come off IR, it’ll be a huge boost if Young can man his spot on the corner opposite Jimmy Smith, one less problem to worry about.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]