3 New Baltimore Ravens Making A Big Difference
Three New Baltimore Ravens Are Making A Big Impact This Season
Despite being just above .500 in the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens have a rare opportunity to win the division and reach the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a close game to the Cowboys Sunday. Then the Cincinnati Bengals became 3-5-1 after losing to the New York Giants 21-20 Monday night.
When the Ravens take on the Cowboys, they begin the toughest portion of their schedule. This is when things get interesting. The Ravens have had a fair share of both glory and agonizing defeat this season. The good that has come is largely due to a strong offseason.
Although it is a long shot for the Ravens to make the Super Bowl this season, just getting into the playoffs gives them a shot. Baltimore has matched their total wins for 2015. It is clear this roster has more talent than in the last two seasons. With that being said, a mid season evaluation shows there are three newcomers primed to help this franchise make a playoff run.
Fourth round pick, Tavon Young, is showing the most promise of any pick from the 2016 draft class. Young was recently awarded a game ball for shutting down wide receiver Antonio Brown in Baltimore’s vicotry over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He earned a spot as one of the defense’s highest grades in Pro Football Focus‘s rankings against the Cleveland Browns at 81.4.
Young has been making plays in the secondary every week. He has two interceptions and a blocked field goal return for two points in the Ravens’ first win over the Cleveland Browns. He also has a fumble recovery against the Oakland Raiders. Although Young is the smallest player on the Ravens’ defense the former Temple Owl is reminiscent of Ed Reed. He is a play-maker.
When number two corner Shareece Wright went down with a thigh injury, John Harbaugh confidently turned to Young to fill in Wright’s absence. Since then, the rookie corner has played the position with the skill of a seasoned veteran. Young plays larger then his 5’10” 176 lb frame. The sky is the limit as long as small defender can stay healthy.
The most significant veteran free agent addition is wide out Mike Wallace. The Ravens signed Wallace to add a deep threat to their game. When Wallace is in the game, the defense has to respect his speed.
Wallace has already exceeded his 2015 season production in Minnesota and doubled his touchdowns over last season with four after just 9 games. The former third round pick out of Ole Miss signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract with Baltimore and has been a bright spot in a struggling Ravens’ offense.
Along with feeling a critical need in the passing game, the 30 year old has taken it upon himself to mentor the team’s younger receivers Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore. Wallace has stated that he wants to finish his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. He couldn’t have come at a better time. Although Baltimore’s passing offense was ranked eight in net passing yards last season, the team was in desperate need of new weapons in the receiving core.
Rookie Michael Pierce has been a phenomenal contributor. He may be the best UDFA the Raven’s have added since the signing of Justin Tucker in 2012. The big defensive tackle is batting down passes, collapsing pockets, and stuffing the run week after week. Pierce was recently ranked 9th in Pro Football Focus’s Top Ten Rookies with RB Ezekial Elliot, QB Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott rounding out the top three. This Samford star also made Mel Kiper Jr.’s midseason all-rookie team with the likes of first round picks Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner, which is no small feat for the 24 year old out of Samford.
Pierce, working the middle of the defensive line with Brandon Williams, has been a revelation to the Baltimore Ravens’ coaching staff. The two tackles make up two of the better run-stopping linemen in the league. The Ravens are currently number one in rushing defense with opposing running backs averaging only 3.3 yards per attempt and 71.3 yards per game. Furthermore, Pierce has helped hold teams to only four touchdowns on the ground thus far in 2016.
The Ravens are ranked fourth in pass defense, however they are ranked first in overall defense. This is a tremendous improvement over the 2015 Ravens. Although the season is not over, it is hard to over estimate the contribution to the interior that Micheal Pierce has made. With Brandon Williams likely in his last year because of salary cap restraints, it appears as though Ozzie has found his new nose tackle for 2017.