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Ravens News 1/14: Rare Free Fall and more

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Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A rare free fall: Ravens went from No. 1 seed to out of playoffs in six weeks - Jamison Hensley

On Nov. 28, Baltimore was 8-3 and atop the AFC despite losing its top two running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards), two Pro Bowl cornerbacks (Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters) and an All-Pro left tackle (Ronnie Stanley) to season-ending injuries. The Ravens had beaten the Kansas City Chiefs, the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. Their projected playoff chances were at 93.1%, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

Then, week by week, the Ravens went from a team in control of its playoff fate to one that suddenly struggled to finish games. Five of Baltimore’s defeats in its season-ending six-game losing streak were by a combined eight points. Failed 2-point conversions, late defensive collapses and a critical injury to quarterback Lamar Jackson all led to small margins of defeat and a large amount of pain.

This type of late-season collapse isn’t unprecedented, but it’s occurred only a couple of times over the past three decades. The last team to drop from the top seed in the conference to out of the playoff race in the final six weeks of the regular season was the 2002 Miami Dolphins, who went from being 7-4 in Week 12 to getting bounced from the postseason.

Grading the Ravens, Part 2: A lot of average marks on defense while special teams ace test - Jeff Zrebiec

Outside linebackers

Final grade: C

The Ravens again struggled much of the season to put pressure on the quarterback without blitzing and that has to fall partly on the outside linebackers. The Ravens finished with 34 sacks. Only eight teams had fewer. Still, there were solid performances here, even if the numbers don’t necessarily reflect that. Tyus Bowser took a step forward. Rookie first-round pick Odafe Oweh looked the part. Veteran Justin Houston essentially provided what he was signed for. Partly because of injuries, the Ravens, though, got very few contributions from Jaylon Ferguson, Pernell McPhee and Daelin Hayes.

Top-of-class: Bowser had his best NFL season and was arguably the defense’s most consistent performer. He finished with a career-high seven sacks and two forced fumbles, and his versatility and effort level were on display all year. The Ravens fear he sustained an Achilles tendon tear in the regular-season finale and that could jeopardize the start of his 2022 campaign.

Incomplete: The Ravens drafted Oweh knowing some development was going to be required. The former Penn State standout was probably further ahead than most expected. He had five sacks, 13 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles over his first 11 games, but he seemed to hit a bit of a rookie wall and then a toe injury knocked him out of the final two games. Oweh’s last sack came in Week 12. All in all, though, there’s an awful lot to like about Oweh’s potential.

Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 2021 season - Mike Preston

Defensive line

Few teams can run against the Ravens and 2021 was no exception. The Ravens allowed only 1,436 yards and 3.8 yards per carry. Despite injuries, both end Calais Campbell and tackle Brandon Williams were forces in the middle, even though Williams didn’t play well until the second half of the season. Campbell was eighth on the team in tackles with 49 and Williams was 12th with 35.

Campbell will probably be invited back if he chooses but the Ravens might part ways with Williams. Justin Madubuike, who finished his second season, might be able to step into a starting position. He had 36 tackles last season but it’s questionable if tackles Justin Ellis (18 tackles) and Broderick Washington (16 tackles) are ready to become full-time starters. The Ravens might look to the draft to find starters, especially pass rushers, because only Madubuike and Campbell provided pressure. Grade: B-

Secondary

The Ravens started the season without Peters, and then it just kept getting worse with season-ending injuries to cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety DeShon Elliott Humphrey, though he wasn’t playing well before he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a Week 13 loss in Pittsburgh. Safety Chuck Clark (80 tackles) was playing well at the end of the season and was starting to emerge as a team leader. But the Ravens couldn’t matchup physically at the end of the year, not with cornerbacks like Chris Westry and Kevon Seymour. Who? That’s my point. The Pittsburgh game might have been the last for veterans Jimmy Smith, a cornerback, and safety Anthony Levine Sr. Grade: D

Best NFL players at every position in 2021: Highest-graded veterans, rookies and surprises - Seth Galina

TIGHT END

Best overall: MARK ANDREWS, RAVENS

Regular-season PFF grade: 91.5

This season didn’t go the Ravens’ way, as they didn’t make the playoffs. However, on the bright side, Andrews did ascend to the top of the tight end rankings. He was the most targeted tight end (149 targets), caught the most passes (107 receptions) and gained the most yards (1,361 receiving yards) while finishing third in yards per route run (2.18). It was also Andrews’ best season as a run-blocker, as he boasted a 75.3 grade.

Some Popular Picks for Ravens With 14th Selection in NFL Draft - Todd Karpovich

FanNation NFL Draft

The Pick: Charles Cross, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State

Analysis: ”Keeping a wide base with great knee bend, Cross stays on balance and can recover quickly because of it. His reactive quickness to mirror in pass protection is excellent. Anchoring at an above-average level, he uses his base to maximize his strength.”

USA Today

Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georgia

Analysis: ”The Ravens grab a tank of a nose tackle here that gives them a great chance to have a dominant defense again with players returning from injury.”

NBC Sports

The Pick: Kenyon Green, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M

Analysis: ”Lamar Jackson’s at his best when he’s on the move, but that mobility should be up to him instead of being thrust upon him by shaky offensive line play. Jackson was sacked 38 times this year, far and away a career-high, and he’s the future of the org. They need to keep him clean. Green is gigantic and is probably a Top 10 talent, so this could be a relative steal.”

Sporting News

The Pick: Kaiir Elam, Cornerback, Florida

Analysis: ”The Ravens are ending the season as an injury-riddled mess at cornerback and need a jolt of rejuvenation in coverage to boost their blitzing scheme. Elam’s physical strength and length stand out. He is also very efficient in coverage because of his athleticism.”