The Ravens had several young players step up in key roles in 2011. When the team dumped half of it's core veteran players last off season many fans were left wondering how this team would compete in the toughest division in football. Well, we found out how. The Ravens' brass seemingly knew what they had in their young studs and knew they would be good enough, if not better than the veteran players they were replacing.
Torrey Smith started the season slowly with some preseason drops and seemed to be lacking in the confidence department for a while there in the beginning as well. He sure made up for that as he went on to have the best season by a Ravens rookie wide receiver ever. Torrey finished the season with 50 receptions for 841 yards and seven touchdowns, tying a Ravens rookie record. Smith actually started a few games at the end of the season as the teams number one receiver. A role he should probably start to get used to.
Corner back Lardarius Webb came back from a disappointing, injury marred 2010 with a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2011. Webb was not only the Ravens best return man but proved to be their best cover corner as well. Webb ended the season with 54 tackles, one sack, a touchdown on a punt return and five interceptions. Including three in the playoffs. With Webb stepping up and playing at the highest of levels it gives the team some breathing room at the corner position while Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith learn the game at an NFL level. Who knows? By the end of his career he may be one of the best corners this team has ever had.
then there is rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee. Man, I love this guy. Seriously though, where does Ozzie Newsome find these guys? McPhee was a fifth round draft pick considered a project by most NFL draft pundits. He was said to be a high motor guy who was very raw and a few years from being able to contribute at an NFL level. Let's see that must make the score Ozzie 376, NFL draft analysts 2... Seriously though, this guy is a beast. I love the fact that he is getting by on purely his physical ability at this point. That means if he can learn a thing or two over the off season he will be just nasty in 2012. McPhee finished the season with six sacks and a forced fumble playing in limited time. He was mainly used on third downs as a pass rushing specialist.
We talked about this guy yesterday but I must say it again... Dennis Pitta is the man. Slated as the number two tight end to start the season, Pitta didn't set the world on fire right out of the gates. He slowly worked himself into the line up however, as he and quarterback Joe Flacco are fast becoming friends. Pitta has shown that he is faster and more athletic than most knew he could be. He has also shown to have the best hands on the roster. If you go back and look at his college film you will find this should not be a surprise. Pitta has been making amazing catches his entire football career. It seems all he needed was the opportunity to get on the field and play. Thanks for finally getting the picture Cam!