Role players have often proven their value on the football field with the less dazzling “between the highlights” plays. Often the biggest thing standing between the organization and the chance at a title is not the star with the insane highlight reels or the barking leader on defense trying to keep everyone engaged. It’s the little guy. The ones who makes the solid open-field tackle or the reliable receiver who consistently snares the tough catch. Fans can often forget the names of these ever-important players and their impact on the team.
Here are my picks for what I’m calling the Ravens’ Underappreciated Hall of Fame: Class of 2020.
Duane Starks was a cornerback for the Ravens from 1998-2001, and in his four years with the team he posted a total of 20 interceptions, 56 passes defended and six forceed fumbles. In the 1998 NFL Draft, Starks was the first Ravens’ selection at pick No. 10. Though he was drafted in 1998, and picked up 5 interceptions his rookie season, he didn’t become a full-time starter until the 2000 season.
The reason I say he is underappreciated is simple: take a look at the 2000 Ravens. Hard to be appreciated when you’re joining the likes of, Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson, Chris McAlister, Sam Adams, and others. If you’re listing off the players, chances are it takes you a minute to finally get to him. But some quick notes on Starks may remind fans why he was a significant player for the Ravens.
Starks intercepted six passes that season, the most of anyone on the team.
Starks not only led the team in passes defended in 2000; he led the league in passes defended (23).
When you add all that together, along with his two fumble recoveries that year, you can make a compelling case he should’ve made the Pro Bowl in 2000. He also had an impressive pick-six in Supe Bowl XXXV which helped seal the deal for Baltimore.
Duane, welcome to the Ravens’ Underappreciated Hall of Fame.
Jarret Johnson played DE/OLB for the Ravens from 2003-2011. While Johnson never had a singular breakout season like some others, the case for him hinges on consistency. In his nine seasons with the team, he posted 20 sacks, nine forced fumbles, and 55 tackles for loss.
If you zoom in a little bit you find a lot of good stuff when it comes to him. Playing next to Terrell Suggs most of your career is of course going to open up opportunity for yourself as most of the attention will be on the other side, and JJ was able to produce at a good level through the years. In two seasons (2008 and 2009) he combined for 11 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He even nabbed two interceptions in 2009. In 2010 he put up 73 combined tackles, the third most on the team.
His prime was exactly what you could hope for from a role player, he never ran over the league, but he was a solid, productive outside threat for most of his tenure in Baltimore.
Jarret, welcome to the Ravens’ Underappreciated Hall of Fame.
Cary Williams began his Baltimore tenure midway through the 2009 season and stayed on until 2012. He was in some ways the best corner on the team in 2012 - remember that Lardarius Webb only played six games that year.
The consistent starters that year were really Williams and Corey Graham, meaning that it was mostly up to Cary Williams to carry the load on the outside 1-on-1 matchup. He delivered on his role, and stepped up tremendously for the team that needed him.
Williams began the 2012 season with zero interceptions for his career, despite having already starting 18 games. He walked out of the regular season with four, which tied Ed Reed for most on the team. Not to mention he posted two interceptions in the playoffs. Cap that off with his 17 passes defended and 67 solo tackles and I think we have ourselves a valuable player.
Now 2012 was really his only standout year unless you want to point to his 18 defended passes and two forced fumbles in 2011, which I just did, but his impact on the Super Bowl team was undoubtedly key and he certainly makes the cut for being under appreciated.
Cary, welcome to the Ravens’ Underappreciated Hall of Fame.
Gus Bus! The public school transportation vehicle himself has had a wonderful first two seasons in Baltimore. He’s been putting up solid numbers with limited touches and has proven to be a reliable No. 2 running back for the team.
In 2019, Edwards was only on the field for 36-percent of the offensive snaps yet posted over 700 rushing yards. He averaged 5.3 yards per attempt, which was a little more than Mark Ingram, and he had the Ravens longest run of the season against the Texans.
Reliability is the best thing you can hope for out of role players and Edwards is a shining example of it. If you need any more convincing, he’s yet to drop a pass in his NFL career.
Gus, welcome to the Ravens’ Underappreciated Hall of Fame.