While everyone is familiar with the talents of Baltimore’s stars like Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Marshal Yanda and Justin Tucker, there are several underappreciated players in the purple and black.
One of the most overlooked players on the Ravens’ roster, Za’Darius Smith is consistently overshadowed by starting outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon. While Smith does not have a stat sheet like Suggs and Judon, he was a major component to the success of the Ravens 2017 defense.
Smith is one of the team’s best pass rushers, despite only having 3.5 sacks last season. Smith is more effective in applying pressure than Judon, but he is rarely able to finish the play with a sack. This leads to other players benefiting from Smith’s skills, and thus stealing his thunder. Smith was used as an interior pass rusher several times last year as well.
Javorius “Buck” Allen
Now entering his fourth year, Allen has always been dwarfed by his teammates in the NFL. After showing promise in place of an injured Justin Forsett as a rookie, Allen took a backseat to an emerging Terrance West and rookie Kenneth Dixon in 2016. After injuries to both West and Dixon in 2017, Allen would yet again be overlooked in favor of breakout star Alex Collins.
Still, Allen is a determined, hard runner. On several occasions in 2017, Allen played a major role in closing out victories for Baltimore with his drive-sustaining runs late in the fourth quarter. With Collins set to lead the backfield and Dixon returning from injury, Allen will yet again have to fight for much deserved recognition.
Moore is a player who made greater strides in his sophomore season than people will credit him for. While improving on his outstanding coverage skills on special teams, Moore at the same time elevated his performance as a wide receiver. Moore went from seven receptions for 44 yards and zero touchdowns in 2016 to 18 receptions for 248 yards and three touchdowns in 2017, and he is a prime candidate for the starting return role in 2018. There is reason to be excited about the former fourth round pick.
Carr deals with far more scrutiny than his play warrants. Aside from a couple of undesirable games, most notably against Antonio Brown in week 14, Carr was a solid addition to the Ravens’ secondary in 2017. Carr was a giant improvement from previous cornerback Shareece Wright. Carr is a reliable piece to Baltimore’s defense. In his first year in Baltimore, Carr recorded four interceptions and started all 16 games. His durability makes him a great asset to any secondary, especially an oft-injured group in the Ravens. Carr admittedly struggles against top receivers, but there are not many cornerbacks in the NFL who can stack up against a player of Brown’s caliber the like Jimmy Smith can.
Levine has long been known for his leadership and excellent special teams contributions, but many fans do not realize how much Levine offers as a defensive player. Versatile perfectly describes Levine, as he can play safety, nickel corner and even linebacker on passing downs. The Ravens desperately lacked linebackers with the ability to cover the middle of the field in 2017, so Levine was often deployed alongside C.J. Mosley in dime packages. Along with his one interception in coverage, Levine also had three sacks last season, playing a key role as a frequently disguised blitzer. While Levine does not get the same recognition as the starters, players like him are extremely valuable in today’s passing league.