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Ravens News 5/12: Trench battles and more

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Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

What Fifth-Year Option Decisions Teach Us About How NFL Teams Evaluated Their 2017 Drafts - Danny Heifetz

16. Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Baltimore Ravens

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

When the Baltimore Ravens embarrassed the New England Patriots in a 37-20 win in November, the attention went to quarterback Lamar Jackson. But Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon threw praise onto Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, the former Alabama cornerback who has blossomed into one of Baltimore’s key defenders: “Week in and week out, our best player,” Judon told The Athletic after the game.

Humphrey ended the year as one of three players with at least three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. (Humphrey brought two fumble recoveries back for touchdowns.) Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the top 24 cornerbacks in football each of the past two seasons.

Jackson and the Ravens’ record-setting offense gets all the credit, but Baltimore’s defense is a huge reason they are expected to contend for a Super Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens Will Have Fierce Competition in Trenches - Todd Karpovich

Fluker, Phillips, Bredenson and second-year player Ben Powers will likely battle for the starting job at right guard. The Ravens prioritized upgrading the offensive line this offseason and succeeded in adding valuable depth.

On the defensive line, the Ravens need to replace Michael Pierce, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. Baltimore added a pair of veteran players Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. The Ravens also selected two defensive linemen in this year’s draft — Justin Madubuike (third round) and Broderick Washington Jr.

“Those guys are going to come into great rooms,” Harbaugh said. “They have two great coaches [defensive line coach Joe Cullen and offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris]. They do a great job of coaching those guys upfront. They’re going to be coached by the best, so we expect them to get up to speed really quickly. I really expect those guys

“Even with our present situation, we’re going to go to work next week with some individual meetings, some of those virtual meetings we’re going to have. [We’ll] start teaching the playbook right away, and we will be expecting those guys to contribute for us right out of the gate.”

Patriots, Ravens among NFL teams with biggest chip on shoulder - Marc Sessler

The entire AFC North

Those same Titans operated as a chaos-inducing, third-party candidate by marching into Baltimore and thrashing the Ravens. To the naked eye, Baltimore appeared lost in the latter stages of a belladonna voyage as Derrick Henry flung dazed defenders into the terrible Maryland night. In a flash, the mighty Ravens — their 14-2 record, their MVP quarterback and all their boasts — were reduced to salt. Few teams burn more brightly for a chance to make things right.

The North also houses the Browns, who hit the field as an overhyped, unprepared, absurd mess that left Baker Mayfield’s Q-rating riding the ocean floor. This offseason’s under-the-radar status feels right for a Cleveland club with a stacked roster. The Steelers missed the playoffs due to a Biblical plague of injuries, while the Bengals — suddenly hot to trot with Joe Burrow under center — refuse to be dismissed. Talent alone suggests three teams from the North should qualify for the AFC’s new seven-slot playoff field — or something went very wrong.

PFF All-Decade Top 101: The best NFL players from the 2010s - Sam Monson


Steve Smith was drafted in 2001, so most of his best seasons predate the past decade, but he was so good that even in the second half of his career he was one of the best receivers PFF has seen. Smith was an incredibly physical presence, breaking double-digit tackles after the catch in six of the seven seasons he played this decade. Smith was a dynamic and complete receiver, bringing an attitude to the position that couldn’t have hurt. He had five straight seasons with a PFF grade of 79.0 or better in the decade.