The Baltimore Ravens had nearly all of the healthy members from their 2021 rookie class active for their narrow 20-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Following their fifth straight defeat, the Cincinnati Bengals secured the AFC North division title and they fall to .500 with a 8-8 record.
Their active list included wide receiver Rashod Bateman, offensive guard Ben Cleveland, defensive back Brandon Stephens, and wide receiver Tylan Wallace. First-round rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh was the only first-year player on the active roster that did not suit up for the game due to a foot injury.
Here’s a breakdown of how the rookies fared in Week 17:
WR Rashod Bateman
The first-round rookie was a popular target for backup quarterback Tyler Huntley throughout the game. He led the team in targets (10) and receptions (seven) and finished second behind Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews with 61 receiving yards. Three of his catches resulted in first downs and a couple of others had the opportunity to do the same and then some had he not lost his footing on a few occasions. Bateman ran crisp routes, showed some shiftiness after the catch, and gained consistent separation even when he was being guarded by All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
OG Ben Cleveland
The third-round rookie rebounded from a poor run blocking game last week with a strong one against the Rams formidable front but didn’t hold up nearly as well in pass protection. Cleveland shared part of the blame for a pair of sacks in the first half and gave up a quick pressure to Aaron Donald on a key third-and-goal in the second quarter where Huntley had slot receiver Devin Duvernay wide open in the back of the end zone but couldn’t deliver an accurate pass.
Both sacks that he had a hand in giving up were a result of not picking up blitz or stunt by the first-year offensive lineman. On the first, he got thrown to the ground by Donald as A’Shawn Robinson, who he began the play blocking, came around for the sack. The second nearly stalled a scoring drive just before halftime on a play where he attempted to assist center Trystan Colon with a double team block but left running back Devonta Freeman one-on-one with a blitzing linebacker Troy Reeder.
DB Brandon Stephens
The third-round rookie had a relatively quiet outing overall. Even though he started the game, he rotated heavily with second-year pro Geno Stone. While Stephens wasn’t targeted much in single coverage, he was a little late to close on wide-open receivers to prevent receptions down the field. He only recorded a pair of solo tackles, one of which resulted in a clutch stop on third down to force a punt. The Rams were facing a third-and-3 from their 32-yard line when Matthew Stafford threw a short pass to tight end Tyler Higbee in the flat and Stephens fought through a wash of players to drag him down for just a two-yard gain.
WR Tylan Wallace
The fourth-round rookie saw the field early and often on offense but didn’t see any targets come his way. However, he did continue to make his presence felt on special teams on punt coverage especially where he helped pin the Rams back deep by downing Sam Koch’s first punt of the game at their four-yard line.