Nov 10, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman (18) runs for a t gain after a catch against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
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The Baltimore Ravens have a ton of young talent. If these five players can step up to the next level, the Ravens will be a tough out next season.
The Baltimore Ravens have an impossible amount of work to do this offseason. It’s like a college kid who procrastinated and had to do an entire project in one night. Believe me, I’ve been there, and it’s not a good situation to be in. The purple and black need help left and right, up and down. Right now, they look like they’ll go 7-9 next year. John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta have seven months to change that.
I know it’s hopeful thinking, but maybe we misread the rubric. Maybe there is less work to do through the spring and the summer than we thought. If the Ravens have young players step up, they have less problems than they think. They have a good bit of work to do, no matter what. It would be nice to be able to bet on the up and coming Ravens to make the workload possible.
With that in mind, let’s look at the players that could change the Ravens circumstances. These Baltimore Ravens could be the difference between another unbearable offseason or a playoff spot.
Sep 1, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa (51) waits for play to resume during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Ravens won 23-14. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
5. Kamalei Correa:
The Ravens second round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft made next to no impact this season. Correa moved from the outside linebacker spot, and ended up as Zach Orr’s backup. With Orr’s shocking and sad retirement, Correa has a golden opportunity. If the Ravens don’t add another interior linebacker to the mix, Orr’s job is Correa’s to lose.
Correa has a ton of potential. He has a thick 6’3″ 245 pound linebacker with a very aggressive mindset. If the Ravens coaching staff can find a way to funnel his energy into productivity, he could be a dominant player. Correa is a really good athlete. If he gets the starting job, he will be a great match with C.J. Mosley.
The Ravens have many pressing needs. They may not find a better option at inside linebacker. The Ravens also have an incentive to seeing if their second round pick was worth the investment. If Correa ends up meeting his potential, the Ravens won’t be hurting for a linebacker.
Nov 6, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon (91) in the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
4. Matt Judon:
2016 was Judon’s rookie campaign. We knew he would be a little raw as he took the leap from Grand Valley State to the NFL. Judon showed flashes of brilliance in 2016. He recorded 4 sacks and was a key contributor off the bench. The Ravens have to hope Judon can become a full time starter. They have to hope he can be their next great outside linebacker.
Judon has all the physical trait you look for in an outside linebacker. He has a thick 6’3″ frame. When he gets a full head of steam he is a hard 275 pound man to handle. In many ways Judon reminds me of a young Terrell Suggs. Suggs came into the league as a confident pass rusher who needed to work on his run stuffing abilities. Judon needs to develop and he’s more raw than Suggs was at this point. There is a big difference between playing at Grand Valley State and Arizona State.
The one thing we know is that Judon belongs on the NFL stage. He has the potential to be a great player. What the Ravens do at outside linebacker this offseason, will show you how much they value Judon. Elvis Dumervil is presumably out the door. If they don’t bring in another outside linebacker, Judon has a golden opportunity.
Oct 16, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Baltimore Ravens corner back Tavon Young (36) intercepts a pass intended for New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
3. Tavon Young:
The Ravens found a special player in Tavon Young. As a fourth round pick, out of Temple, Young became the Ravens second best cornerback. Young was projected to be nothing more than a slot corner. He is one of the smallest players in the NFL at 5’9″ 183 pounds. Young will always have to work harder corners with longer wingspans but he plays a lot bigger than his stature suggests.
Young had two interceptions this past season. He was a sure tackler, which is an extra surprising thing. When Young got beat, he didn’t sulk. Instead he learned from it and he didn’t make the same mistake again. Young displays all the traits of somebody who just gets the game. His technique and his efforts is very noticeable.
Young is a player that I love to root for. When you consider what he was supposed to bring to the table, he over delivered. Young figures to be a really good defensive back for a really long time. He has something that the Ravens desperately need; he has heart for miles. Young can take a step forward and become a better cornerback in his second season. I have nothing but confidence in this player.
Sep 1, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce (78) celebrates his fumble recovery for a touchdown with teammates Matt Judon (91) and Willie Henry (69) during the second quarter of their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
2. Michael Pierce:
The Ravens can very easily go into the next season without their star nose guard, Brandon Williams. Michael Pierce, who was an undrafted free agent from Samford, may be the next great nose guard for the Ravens. Pierce has one of the biggest motors that I have ever seen on a 339 pound defensive lineman. This is the hungriest young player on the Ravens and it’s not even close.
Pierce assisted on 35 tackles and had 19 solo tackles in his rookie year. He also had two sacks and even got to start a game. This is a player who had to scratch and claw his way onto the roster with dominant performances in the preseason. I think Pierce can end up being better than Williams in the long run. Williams is a run clogging defensive tackle. Pierce is as well, but he has more potential as a pass rusher.
The Ravens may need Pierce to step up in his sophomore season. Pierce has a ton of talent and gets a ton of push off the line of scrimmage. If Pierce stays this hungry, he’s in for a monster career.
Nov 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman (18) catches a touchdown over Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard (21) in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
1. Breshad Perriman:
In 2016, the Ravens finally got to take a look at Breshad Perriman. Perriman caught 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns in what was basically his rookie season. Perriman was raw in his rookie season. He struggled with drops and route running. When he got the ball in the open field, he showed that he is a play-maker. Perriman had a few circus catches, but he hasn’t proven to be a consistent target.
The Ravens need to see more from their 2015 first round pick. He can’t just be a player who makes the occasional big play. Instead, Perriman must become a game changing talent. If the Ravens use him right, he can make a big impact. We need to see more than just the go route from Perriman. Speed makes it’s biggest impact when defensive backs are chasing it laterally. Slants, crossing routes, dig routes, these are the things Perriman needs to be doing more of.
Right now, Perriman has to show if he is going to be a star or Travis Taylor 2.0. Perriman has plenty of potential. He has speed and he has the size. Now Perriman must work on his craft to take the next step.