The Baltimore Ravens were hoping for big things from this year’s rookie class. With ten selections from the 2013 draft, Ozzie Newsome put together a promising group of rookies to help revitalize a roster depleted by free agency and retirements. In their first debut, the majority of the Ravens’ rookies failed to make a meaningful impact.
Starting in round one, rookie safety Matt Elam played sparingly in his first regular season debut. He was beat out for the starting jobs by Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo. While on special teams, he constantly let the punting team’s gunner beat him inside, often leading to forced fair catches for the Ravens’ returners. When he got in on defense, he did little to slow down Peyton Manning’s 462 yard 7 touchdown barrage. Elam looked especially bad on Demaryius Thomas’ wide receiver screen that went 78 yards for a touchdown.
The Ravens’ second round pick, Arthur Brown, was expected to help ease the burden of replacing Ray Lewis. He, like Elam, was beat out for a starting middle linebacker spot by two veterans, Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes. When he reached the field, Brown also contributed little to the Ravens’ defense. Brown was also one of the players responsible for letting Sam Koch’s punt get blocked in the second half.
Third round pick Brandon Williams was inactive due to a toe injury, while fourth round pick John Simon was simply inactive.
The other fourth round pick, Kyle Jusckyk, failed to see the field on offense despite his supposed versatility in the run and pass game. He played well on special teams, however.
Fifth round pick Rick Wagner was thrust into the starting lineup when Marshall Yanda fell on Michael Oher’s ankle, effectively taking Oher out of the game in the second quarter. The inexperienced Wagner was no match for the veteran Shaun Phillips, as Phillips would manhandle him for 2.5 sacks of Joe Flacco. Asking Wagner to stop a player of Phillip’s capability was a bit much, however, but the Ravens had no other options with Jah Reid inactive. It is worth noting that Wagner did make some nice blocks during the game, albeit inconsistently.
Undrafted rookie safety Brynden Trawick made the biggest mistake of the game. With Jacoby Jones set to catch a punt deep in Ravens’ territory, the rookie ran into his own teammate, effectively taking both Jones and himself out of the play and giving the offense poor field position. What makes this play so costly, however, is the subsequent knee sprain that knocked Jacoby Jones out of the game and will keep him out an additional 4-6 weeks.
The one saving grace of the rookie class amongst the rout by the Denver Broncos is undrafted wide receiver Marlon Brown. With Jones out for the game, Brown immediately stepping into the lineup, catching 4 balls on 6 targets with 65 yards and a touchdown. He constantly fought for the ball, never giving up on a play. In a game where the offense went stagnant in the second half and the Ravens’ receivers failed to haul in passes, Marlon Brown refused to give up. He should be due more playing time, even when Jacoby Jones returns.