The Baltimore Ravens’ 2016 NFL Draft class has paid immediate dividends on a team that is fighting for its first division title since 2012. The Ravens came away with 11 draft picks, and already five rookies have made starts this season.
Of those 11 picks, five came from the fourth round, and four of those players have already carved out important roles on this squad. Along with the 11 draftees comes defensive tackle Michael Pierce, an undrafted player from Samford College.
Two rookies have started on Baltimore’s defense this year, and others have made solid contributions as well.
Canady played sparingly at cornerback until being placed on Injured Reserve after Week Four. Undrafted inside linebacker Onwuasor made headlines during the offseason with huge hits during training camp. He started the season on the practice squad, but was activated to the 53-man roster before Week Six. He has appeared at times (3 tackles in three games played), but needs more time to develop.
Judon, Young, Pierce, and Correa have had more prominent roles on the league’s No. 2 defense.
Judon, last year’s college leader in sacks, is tied for 4th among rookies this season with 3 sacks. He’s played in six games total, but has made more of an impact lately as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have been injured. All three of his sacks have come in the last two games. Judon has made strides in run defense as well, and is proving the NFL is not too big for the small-school stud.
Young started the season buried on the depth chart behind veterans Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, and Jerraud Powers. He has jumped both Wright and Powers, and is now the starter alongside Jimmy Smith. Some even say the starting duo is the best the Ravens have had in years. Young is one of two rookies in the NFL with more than 1 interception with 2 picks of his own. He has shown a great ability to tackle in one-on-one situations in space despite owning a 5’9” stature. The secondary is much more well-rounded with the emergence of Tavon Young this season.
This year’s biggest surprise of the rookie flock, Michael Pierce, has carved a role alongside underrated Nose Tackle Brandon Williams. The Pierce-Williams wall has helped the defense rank 2nd in run defense allowing only 76.1 yards/game. If the Ravens can (and they should) lock up Brandon Williams long-term, these two could lead a ferocious run defense for years to come. Pierce has also gotten to the quarterback in his situational role, bringing in 2 sacks already in his young career.
Correa, the highest drafted defensive rookie of the bunch (second round), has flashed big-play potential. Baltimore drafted him as a project, and he has shown that with proper coaching he can excel in the NFL. He made his initial impact on special teams, which is a good indication for a Baltimore rookie who can’t find the field early in their careers. See: Zachary Orr, Albert McClellan. Correa has made two memorable plays on the defense this year. One was a potential pick-six in Week Three in which he read Blake Bortles’ eyes and jumped in front of the ball. He dropped the pass (mental lapse), but showed the ability to read a play in coverage. The other was in Week Seven, in which he knocked the ball out of Matt Forte’s hands while making a goal-line stand. Correa can develop into a well-rounded linebacker than can play any position on Baltimore’s 3-4 defense.
The Ravens have rookies contributing on each level of the defense this season. They’re gaining meaningful experience early in their careers, and will grow and develop together.
Along with those who have played this season are defensive linemen Willie Henry and Bronson Kaufusi. Kaufusi, a third rounder, broke his ankle after showing promise early in training camp and is on Injured Reserve. Henry, a fourth round selection, has been a healthy scratch most of the season. With time Baltimore believes they can turn both linemen into contributors.
Baltimore has implemented young talent with veteran leadership this year, and it is proving a success. The No. 2 defense is winning games and turning the ball over, something the 2015 version could not do. This unit is carrying Baltimore just like it did in the early 2000s. If the Ravens want to win the AFC North, it starts with their young, talented defense.
Ravens’ Alex Collins Arrested
Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins was arrested early on Friday morning following a car crash about a mile from the Ravens’ team facility, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun.
Per the report: Officers responded to a report of a car that had crashed into a tree on the 10000 block of Dolfield Road at about 6:48 a.m. Friday morning, Baltimore County police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said.
Collins, 24, was arrested, however charges were not made public at the time of this writing.
Ravens vice president of public relations Chad Steele told The Baltimore Sun that the team has spoken with law enforcement and is aware of the situation involving Collins.
Collins is coming off a down year with Baltimore after a breakout campaign in 2017. Collins managed only 411 yards rushing in 2018 and was placed on injured reserve back in December, ending his season early.
Ray Rice Says He Is Done With Football
Former NFL running back Ray Rice, who had been working to try and get a second chance in the NFL over the past couple of years, is no longer pursuing a comeback.
“I’ll be the first one to say it; I don’t have to retire to tell you I’m done with football” Rice said, during an interview on CBS This Morning.
“The pressure I was under of being a star, that was the person I hated the most.”
Rice was suspended indefinitely back in 2014 when a video surfaces showing Rice punching his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Rice while the two were alone in an elevator.
Rice was never picked up by another team following the conclusion of his suspension, and his release from the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice said that he sees “similarities” between his situation and the one of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was recently cut loose by the team when a video surfaced showing him pushing and kicking a woman in a hallway.
“Somewhere down the line everybody who’s sayin’, ‘Does he deserve a second chance for football?’ And this that and the other— I actually got my second chance” Rice said of Hunt, who cleared waivers and is now a free agent.
“During my darkest moments, and I used to ask myself, ‘How could she even be—want to support me?’ … That’s understandable. But I think what’s misunderstood about us is that the friends we were before the incident. That’s why, like I said, when I look at Kareem Hunt, I wanna know what his life was like. I want to know what happened in life. I know Kareem has apologized, and has expressed remorse for survivors of domestic violence.”
Ravens Trying To Entice Fans With Lower Concession Prices
The Baltimore Ravens are attempting to win back fans and their latest plan is making a big step toward doing just that as the team announced on Tuesday that they will reduce concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium in 2018.
The Ravens have been on a mission to bring back fans who were angered by some players’ national anthem protests coupled with their 3-year playoff drought.
A series of moves have demonstrated their efforts. The team invited fans to ask questions at a media pre-draft news conference held a question-and-answer session with fans at the team facility with owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and also have had team president Dick Cass meet and talk to fan clubs.
While the team has sold out every game during their 20-year history at M&T Bank Stadium, empty seats grew in numbers as the 2017 season wore on, and the no-shows are very obvious.
The organization is taking this initiative very seriously.
“It’s something I would really like to take a hard look at, and at least, come up with select items that we can do,” Bisciotti said back in February of this year.
“If it means us … I can’t make Aramark do that with me, but I can make them go along as long as it’s my share of the profits that I’m waiving. Yeah, I’d like to take a look at that. I think we could probably do that.”
There is an official news conference scheduled for Thursday where the Ravens will officially announce price reductions on concessions.
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