Kansas City’s win over the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football completed the first quarter of the 2018 NFL season. The Ravens sit at 3-1 after some solid performances that culminated in a Sunday night upset over the AFC favorite Pittsburgh Steelers.
There’s plenty of credit to go around for Baltimore’s hot start, with some of the obvious factors being Joe Flacco’s improved play, John Brown’s breakout performances and a defense that’s made it’s bones in the second half. But who are some of the underrated contributors that have collectively led to all this coming together? Let’s take a look:
CB Brandon Carr
Carr has been one of the more underrated players in the NFL since he entered it, and has been just that since joining Baltimore in 2017. That’s been especially true through four games this season, as Carr has stepped in admirably for the suspended Jimmy Smith.
It remains to be seen if Carr will remain in the starting lineup now that Smith will be back in action moving forward, but it would be hard to argue against him still receiving legitimate playing time. He especially came up big on Sunday night, redeeming himself the Steelers who gave him fits in last year’s matchup at Heinz Field.
Smith and Marlon Humphrey are the two marquee players at the position for Baltimore, but Carr deserves props for playing up to the status quo. He’s a majorly underrated performer up to this point.
TE Maxx Williams
Its hard to argue that Williams has been anything other than a disappointment at tight end for Baltimore since they picked him in the second round of the 2015 draft. Expectations were high for the former Minnesota standout, but his speed didn’t seem to translate, and a rash of injuries kept him off of the field.
This was the first offseason in which there was relatively no buzz around Williams thanks to the presence of Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, and he’s been surprisingly effective in the limited action he’s seen in Hurst’s absence. What’s funny about that is he’s done so by being a much different player than he was expected to be.
Rather than the out-and-out vertical threat he was drafted to be, Williams now looks to be a multi-tool utility player able to bring more to the table than a one dimensional tight end. He’s lined up in the backfield, been involved in trick plays, and proven to be a nice chain mover for Joe Flacco over four weeks.
In three of those games he had multiple catches, including a 5 for 51 stat line against the Steelers. He’s certainly made a case to continue to be involved going forward, even with Hurst expected to return soon.
RB Buck Allen
On an offense that’s been full of surprises up and down the lineup, it’s easy to forget about the quietly productive Allen. You could make a case for him being one of the more underrated Ravens of the last few years, as he’s always hung around and produced well as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
He’s run it well, caught the ball effectively, and moved the chains on the critical downs when they’ve needed a sure handed option at the position. Allen and Alex Collins should be quite the dynamic duo over the next three quarters of the year.
OC Marty Mornhinweg
Marty has received a lot of heat from Baltimore’s fan base after being thrust into the position following Marc Trestman’s unceremonious mid season firing in 2016. Some of it was deserved, His lack his of creativity seemed to cost the Ravens offense drive in and drive out, but his game plans this season have been much better.
With legitimate NFL depth at the skill positions and a fully healthy Joe Flacco for the first time, Mornhinweg has shown some real ingenuity in both the traditional sense and otherwise. He’s made great usage of John Brown, surprised defense with trick play looks and has Flacco looking comfortable.
Mornhinweg’s seat appears secure for the first time in several years. If he can keep pushing this offense to even higher levels, it’s fair to wonder just how far this team can travel.