NFL’s most underappreciated players: One for each AFC team - Cynthia Frelund
Baltimore Ravens: Matt Judon
Judon’s value goes beyond his raw totals in pressures (though his 33 QB hits did rank fourth in the NFL in 2019) and sacks (9.5). His play must be contextualized based on what he is asked to do. First of all, you must focus on his production as a true outside linebacker (where more than 80 percent of his snaps take place), especially now that Calais Campbell is on the team. Secondly, you have to use data to help understand the strategy of when his key pressures occurred. Five of Judon’s sacks came on third down. With the way the Ravens worked last season — specifically, the uniqueness of their offense — the value Judon brought, especially after the loss of Za’Darius Smith, shored up a key spot in the front. With Campbell up front this season, look for Baltimore’s overall sacks and pressures to increase.
Eric DeCosta Likes the Potential of Undrafted Rookie Tight Ends - Clifton Brown
Breeland was having a huge year through six games at Oregon (26 catches, 405 yards, six touchdowns) before a season-ending knee injury cost him in the draft. The injury did not, however, lower DeCosta’s opinion of Breeland.
“We thought he was one of the best tight ends in the draft this year,” DeCosta said during a conference call with PSL Owners. ”We’re very excited to get him. We think he’s got a real good chance.”
Breeland is a better-known prospect than Wolf, who played as a grad transfer at Georgia last year after spending three seasons at Tennessee. Wolf caught 13 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown last season, and he’s not the only person in his family pursuing an NFL career. His older brother, Ethan, was on the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad last season.
“He’s probably not as household of a name as Jake, but he’s another guy we felt was a draftable prospect,” DeCosta said. “We’ve got two guys with a realistic, possible, chance to make our team. As you all know, tight end is a very important position in our offense.”
The Ravens added a second-round running back in J.K. Dobbins to the mix, as well as two receivers in Devin Duvernay and James Proche. Otherwise, most of the league’s top offense from a year ago will return.
They’re hopeful that Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin can take major steps forward in their second seasons in the NFL, too, which will make the Ravens’ offense more well-rounded.
The Chiefs, who didn’t have a running back eclipse 4.6 yards per carry or 500 rushing yards last season, may have found their answer in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the 32nd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The dynamic threat out of LSU will join an offense that has weapons all over the board.
Who has the edge?
As hard as that might be for Ravens fans to understand, Mahomes has done things at the quarterback position the NFL has never seen before. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has a leg up on Jackson right now.
That’s not to say the gap is necessarily wide, however, as Jackson made defenses look silly in 2019. If Jackson is able to build off his stunning second year in the NFL, and the Ravens are able to slow down Mahomes and the Chiefs with their outstanding secondary, this game should live up to everything it’s hyped to be.
2000 BALTIMORE RAVENS
In a span of five years, the Ravens went from the most hated team on Lake Erie — their abrupt move from Cleveland — to Super Bowl champions; it was a feat never accomplished by the Browns organization.
Baltimore did it on the back of a historic defense, led by future Hall of [Fame] players Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson. Offensively, the Ravens boasted a two-headed monster rushing attack between Jamal Lewis and Priest Holmes while Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden led the way. The Ravens defense yielded 10 or less points in 15 of 19 games played that season — an incredible feat that has the unit down as an all-time great.
The dynamics of Baltimore’s move from Cleveland, the firing of Bill Belichick in the process and the build up to a championship program in 2000 would undoubtedly be filled with juicy details. The Ravens, in their first-ever draft in 1996, promptly selected franchise cornerstones in Ogden and Lewis with their first two picks.
Who wouldn’t want to watch these stories play out, other than maybe the city of Cleveland?