Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said last week that with the Ravens being out of playoff contention, we would begin to see more of the young talent on the field as a way to see what the team has moving forward. With the season effectively over for the team, the final three games of the 2015 season is a great transition into the 2016 season.
Let’s get out there and see how good you can get – how well you can play – for the next three weeks of the season, because our ending point this year is our jumping off point next year. In my mind, next year’s season has already begun. We’re developing these guys. We’re developing what we’re going to be next year, so let’s go, man. Let’s see how good we can get.
After losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 34-14, did we actually see players like Jumal Rolle, Tray Walker, Jeremy Butler, Brent Urban, and others on the field? Did they see more action than last week?
Once again, the Baltimore Ravens saw their full offensive line play every snap, which is refreshing after a season that guys have had to miss blocks of plays or even games due to injury. Just like last week, we also saw James Hurst show up for a couple of plays as an extra blocker.
With Javorius Allen being benched during the game, the Ravens utilized far more running backs than they normally would, with Terrance West leading the charge with 46% of the snaps. Even though he saw 31 total plays, West only rushed 7 times, but was able to get 35 yards for a 5-yard per carry average. Terrence Magee also got some snaps, some of the first of the season for him, but it was clear that he might not be ready for the big leagues quite yet as he only saw 11 plays for 16% of the offensive snaps. That left starting running back and rookie Allen at 9 plays or 13% of the offensive snaps before his costly fumble had him riding the bench.
Wide receivers are where the big differences are. Last week, wide receiver Kamar Aiken was the big guy on the field, seeing a full 90% of the plays on offense, while this week he had his share drop down to 78% to help make room for others. Jeremy Butler pretty much had the same percentage as his only dropped by 2%, while still being able to catch 3 passes for 60 yards against the Chiefs.
The big winners in terms of snap counts were Chris Givens (56% to 67%) and Daniel Brown (29% to 60%). Sadly for the Ravens and their young wide receivers, neither really made the most of their time on the field. Givens was targeted 5 times but only hauled in a single catch for 17 yards. Meanwhile Daniel Brown saw 3 passes come his way, but couldn't catch a single one. In fact, on one of his targets, Brown fell coming out of his break leading to an interception returned for a touchdown.
It can be a comfort that both Brown and Givens were going up against one of the top tier defenses in the league, so some of their troubles were to be expected. Against a more suspect Pittsburgh Steelers defense this coming Sunday, they might have a better opportunity to perform a little better.
The defense saw the most difference as some younger players got more playing time while other young guys actually saw less. The only player that matches last week's total was linebacker C.J. Mosley, who played every snap in both games. It was clear that the Ravens thought that they could handle the Kansas City Chiefs run game with their typical front, as the secondary all saw a little more action this week.
Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis both got 98% of the snaps this week whereas both were 73% and 86% respectively against the Seattle Seahawks in week 14. Young Shareece Wright got a lot more playing time as he had 98% of the plays this week compared to only 69% last week. Wright continued to impress as he stuck with his coverage well, staying in the hip pocket for most of the game this week. On the other side, Jimmy Smith suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out after only 10 plays, pushing Jumal Rolle into the starting corner spot. Given that Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had only 171 yards through the air, there might be something to the former practice squad player.
Up front, guys like Elvis Dumervil and Brandon Williams got pretty much the same playing time as last week, but that is where the similarities end. Against the Chiefs, the Ravens were less varied up front, but had a few guys get significant upgrades in their snaps. Timmy Jernigan got 71% of the plays this week versus the 56% he had last week, while Lawrence Guy went from 33% to 54% against the Chiefs. Even Carl Davis got some time on the field, some of his first this season, with 5 plays or 9% of the defensive snaps.
The one guy that got his playing time decreased was defensive end Brent Urban, going from 46% of the game against the Seahawks to only 20% this week. However, Urban did notch the first sack of his professional career on Alex Smith.
The only other player this week that sacked Alex Smith was Za'Darius Smith, who saw a pretty good increase in playing time. Going from 43% to 57%. Clearly that extra few snaps made the difference as Smith sacked Alex Smith twice, both early in the game.
Zachary Orr continues to poach snaps away from veteran linebacker Daryl Smith, mostly in coverage duties as Smith looks like that part of his career might be over. With the Ravens pushing Orr into coverage the second half of this season, he figures to be a pretty big part of the defense next year as the coaches might want to have him rotate in more frequently to prepare for the eventual retirement of Daryl Smith.
Overall, the offense looked pretty similar even if a few players did see more playing time. On defense, defensive coordinator Dean Pees continues to try new things and see if any of his young players are ready to step up to the next level. With both Brent Urban and Za'Darius Smith getting sacks, he might have found two that want more time on the field.