Following free agency and the draft, the Ravens boast one of the league’s best rosters yet again heading into the 2021 season. There are still areas for improvement, however, including needing more from specific players. Here are three players that need to take their game to the next level this season.
First on the list is inside linebacker Patrick Queen. The 2020 first-round pick out of LSU certainly flashed the potential to be a really good linebacker at the NFL level as a rookie. That being said, Queen has some work to do if he is to take that next step. While he was no stranger to making splash plays as a rookie, particularly as a blitzer, Queen had many instances of being lost in coverage or being out-muscled in the run game. These things can be corrected over time, especially with a normal offseason this year, something all rookies were robbed of in 2020.
Queen started only one season at LSU before heading to the NFL, so he is still very much an unfinished project. The potential to be one of the better linebackers in the NFL is there, but Queen must show massive improvement in Year 2 in both the physical and mental aspects of the game.
After losing long-time edge rusher Terrell Suggs following the 2018 season, Baltimore drafted none other than the player who broke Suggs’ college sack record, Jaylon Ferguson. Ferguson now enters his third season in the NFL and despite showing flashes here and there, has yet to carve out a defined role on defense.
In two seasons with the Ravens, Ferguson has only gotten 4.5 sacks. While he did take major strides as a run defender last season, Ferguson found himself inactive or with very little playing time in some games after Baltimore traded for Yannick Ngakoue. With both Ngakoue and Matthew Judon now gone, Ferguson has a chance to step up and earn more playing time. Considering the fact that the Ravens will have two rookies at the outside linebacker position, Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, and Pernell McPhee will all need to shoulder the load until one or both rookies are ready for more responsibilities on their plate.
Another player entering Year 2 for Baltimore is offensive lineman Tyre Phillips. Phillips played both right guard and right tackle at different points in the season as a rookie for the Ravens, though he left a lot to be desired at each spot. It’s hard to be too critical of Phillips’ play last season though given the circumstances. Not only did Phillips have to deal with an unprecedented offseason shakeup like other rookies, but he also had to change positions from where he played in college. Combine these two things with being moved from one spot to another during the season and you have a recipe for a rocky first year.
Phillips has the chance to become the future right tackle for Baltimore now that Orlando Brown Jr. was shipped off in a trade with the Chiefs. Whether Phillips or recently signed veteran Alejandro Villanueva starts the season at right tackle remains to be seen, but Phillips is certainly in the long-term plans for the franchise if he can develop. Even if Phillips doesn't win the starting job over Villanueva, being the swing tackle will be a very important position considering that starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley is returning from a season-ending ankle injury.