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Ravens 2021 awards and superlatives

Handing out some accolades and titles for the 2021 Ravens

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

The 2021 season did not end on a high note for the Ravens, as they lost the final six games of the year and finished with an 8-9 record. Injuries continued to amount throughout the season and ultimately took their toll on the team’s playoff hopes down the stretch.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though, as many players had impressive individual seasons. Let’s go through some hypothetical team awards and accolades and see which Ravens are most deserving of them.

MVP: Mark Andrews

Not much more can be said about Mark Andrews’ 2021 season that hasn’t already. On either side of the ball, he was the Ravens’ most consistent and dominant player this season. He started all 17 games and posted career-best numbers across the board, setting the franchise record for most single-season receiving yards with 1,396.

Andrews also caught a whopping 107 receptions and scored nine times. Over the final five games of the season, Andrews posted 85+ receiving yards in every contest and caught four touchdowns. All but one quarter of this stretch came with Tyler Huntley and Josh Johnson under center, too, after Lamar Jackson suffered an ankle injury.

It was the best receiving season ever from a Ravens’ pass-catcher. Andrews also made huge strides as a blocker, too, which was previously not a big strong suit of his game. Andrews’ elite campaign earned him first-team All-Pro honors and another Pro Bowl selection.

OPOY: Marquise Brown

Instead of recognizing Andrews again in this spot, let’s give the Offensive Player of the Year title to someone else — Marquise Brown.

It was a tale of two seasons for “Hollywood.” During the second half of the year, he was negatively impacted by the absence of Jackson more than anyone. He did not catch a touchdown after Week 7 and posted five straight sub-50-yard receiving games to end the season.

Huntley and Brown were never able to establish a good rapport and the second-year quarterback simply did not air the ball out very often. Brown’s contributions over the first half of the season, though, should not be forgotten.

He started the 2021 campaign on a tear, catching seven touchdowns in the first seven games and recording three 100-yard receiving games against the Chiefs, Colts and Vikings. Aside from an ugly multiple-drop performance in Week 3, Brown was really good and appeared on his way to a breakout, Pro Bowl-type season.

Even after a falling off late, he still finished with career-highs in receptions (91) and receiving yards (1,008), both of which ranked second on the team. Lamar Jackson missed too many games to be considered here and no other skill player had the impact that Brown did, aside from Andrews.

DPOY: Tyus Bowser

Calais Campbell, who finished as the Ravens’ highest-graded defensive player on PFF (80.8), is a strong choice here after another great individual season. Campbell did miss two games and was limited in a couple of others due to injury, though.

Instead, let’s recognize Tyus Bowser, who was one of the most consistent players on the roster and took his game to another level in 2021. Bowser led the team in sacks with seven and added 59 tackles (eight tackles-for-loss), 15 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.

He stuffed the stat sheet across 17 games and really stepped up in a larger role. Bowser was his usual stout self in pass coverage while adding more as a pass-rusher and run defender. He really came on strong in the middle of the season with a dominant two-game stretch against the Bears and Browns in Weeks 11-12.

Bowser’s standout 2021 season make the fact that he suffered a torn Achilles in the Week 18 finale an even tougher pill to swallow. Here’s to a speedy and full recovery.

OROY: Rashod Bateman

It wasn’t the most consistent rookie season from Rashod Bateman, but he showed a lot of promise in 12 games. He posted three games of 80+ receiving yards and looked very much as advertised as a route-runner.

Bateman’s workload down the stretch fluctuated, as did the Ravens’ passing game as a whole. In the seven games where he was targeted six or more times, though, Bateman recorded 50+ receiving yards in all but two of them. His best game of the season came in a Week 14 loss in Cleveland, where he caught seven of eight targets for 103 yards.

He almost slots in here as the team’s Offensive Rookie of the Year by default considering only Ben Cleveland and Tylan Wallace are other candidates. Even so, Bateman flashed quite a bit and there’s reason for optimism heading into 2022.

It will be nice for both him and Jackson to finally get some time to consistently work together and establish a good connection.

DROY: Odafe Oweh

Odafe Oweh missed the final two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury but previously started the first 15. In that span, he exceeded expectations and was one of the Ravens’ best, most impactful defenders.

Oweh finished second on the team with five sacks and led the team in forced fumbles with three. He made several game-altering plays in the first half of the season, highlighted by a forced fumble late in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ Week 2 win over the Chiefs.

Like Bowser, Oweh had 15 quarterback hits exactly and was strong as a run defender and edge-setter. Eight of these 15 quarterback hits came during the first five weeks of the season, where Oweh quickly emerged as one of the best defensive rookies in the NFL.

He wasn’t quite as consistent during the latter half of the season but it was still a promising rookie campaign all-around. An honorable mention for this spot could go to Brandon Stephens, who wound up starting 11 of 17 games in the secondary and improved as the season progressed.

MIP (most improved): Anthony Averett

You could probably make a good case for a few different players here. This could be controversial to some but I think Anthony Averett, who had a pretty strong 2021 season, deserves some love.

Averett was quietly one of the Ravens’ most important defenders this year. He was projected to be the No. 4 cornerback on the depth chart but wound up No. 1 late in the season as the team’s top corners continued to get injured. In an expanded role, Averett largely held his own despite being one of the most targeted players at the position.

He was targeted 101 times across 14 starts. It wasn’t a flawless season by any means, as Averett had a few not-so-great performances and allowed some big plays at times. However, he was pretty consistent, led the team in interceptions and exceeded expectations in a role larger than anyone anticipated him playing.

Averett went from being an up-and-down rotational corner to a reliable starter. Even after Marlon Humphrey suffered a season-ending injury, the Ravens’ secondary was still playing at a pretty respectable level with Averett as CB1 — until he unfortunately got hurt also.

CPOY (comeback): Tavon Young

Tavon Young wasn’t able to finish Week 2 of 2020 before suffering yet another season-ending injury. After a long rehab last offseason, he worked his way back into the lineup by the 2021 season opener and wound up playing in all 17 games this year. This was the first time he did not miss a game since his rookie season in 2016.

He was on the injury report here and there, like a lot of other players on the roster, but drew seven starts on the season. It took a little while for Young to get his legs back under him but eventually he started to resemble the player the Ravens gave a three-year contract extension to in 2019.

He had some nice moments on the year, particularly early in the season. Young came up with a key interception against the Chiefs and Week 2 and played a great game against the Colts in Week 5.

Best free agent signing: Kevin Zeitler

The first and biggest move the Ravens made in the offseason was signing Kevin Zeitler to a three-year deal worth just north of $20 million. The hope was that he could solidify the right guard spot on the offensive line with strong interior play. The return on investment was definitely there in 2021.

It wasn’t a flashy season for Zeitler but his name wasn’t called often on Sundays, which is a good thing at his position. He was one of the few mainstays up front having never missed a game on the season and starting all 17 of them.

In over 1,200 snaps, Zeitler allowed just one sack and was flagged seven times. He finished the season with a strong PFF grade of 77.0, good for fourth-best on team. He made a positive impact as both a run and pass blocker, and the Ravens have to feel good about having signed him in hindsight.

Justin Houston, who also had a nice individual season, could also be considered here, along with the re-signing of Bowser,

Worst free agent signing: Derek Wolfe

This is technically a re-signing, but still. After a good debut season with the Ravens in 2020, they gave veteran Derek Wolfe a three-year contract extension this past offseason.

Unfortunately, Wolfe never ended up taking the field in 2021.

After suffering a back injury in the preseason, Wolfe was expected to return at some point in the middle of the year. His return date kept getting pushed back, though. Eventually he did return to the practice field once or twice but never was activated before ultimately being shut down for the rest of the season.

It was a strange development and an unfortunate one, as Wolfe brings a lot to the table on the defensive front. Impressively, the Ravens were still able to post a top-ranked run defense without his services. Here’s hoping Wolfe will be back on the field in 2022.

Best victory: 36-35 over the Chiefs, Week 2

This was a monumental win for a number of reasons.

First, the Ravens finally got over the Kansas City-sized hump that has plagued them for the past few seasons. Second, Lamar Jackson squashed the notion that he’d never be able to beat Patrick Mahomes. Jackson and the Ravens also came back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, which was something else doubters said could not happen.

Third, the sequence of events that ended the game was special. Odafe Oweh forcing a fumble on the Chiefs’ final drive prevented them from kicking a game-winning field goal. Then, when the Ravens got the ball back, John Harbaugh opted to go for it on fourth-and-short instead of punting. Jackson rushed for a first down and the deal was sealed.

It was also a home primetime game on Sunday night, which only added to the excitement and flair.

Best moment: Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal in Week 3

The Ravens really shouldn’t have needed a last-second field goal to beat the Lions in Week 3. But, after allowing 10 straight points in the fourth quarter, they suddenly found themselves trailing by one with only a minute remaining.

After Jackson connected with Sammy Watkins for a 36-yard gain on 4th-&-19, which was incredible, something even more incredible happened. Justin Tucker trotted onto the field and boomed a 66-yard field goal, the longest in NFL history, off the bottom post and through the uprights.

Watching in real time and even looking back months later, this was nothing short of amazing.