At 3-1 and in control of the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens are off to a strong start to their 2023 campaign. Baltimore Beatdown staff’s breakout player of the first quarter:
WR Zay Flowers
Selected in the first round of the draft, he was expected to serve as the third or fourth receiving option during his rookie season. Yet injuries to Mark Andrews, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman thrust Flowers into a prominent role immediately. Through the first month of the season, Flowers leads the Ravens pass catchers in targets (29), receptions (24), yards (244) and first downs (10). His 29 touches trail only Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson while his 255 yards from scrimmage leads the team. Flowers has not dropped a catchable pass, generated explosive plays in three of four contests and has created 115 yards after the catch with four broken tackles. Zay’s rare speed, quickness and overall elusiveness have helped him become the three-level playmaker that unlocks Baltimore’s offense.
DB Kyle Hamilton
No Ravens player received more hype this offseason than the 2022 first-rounder after he had such an incredibly strong second half of his rookie campaign. Hamilton hasn’t just lived up to it but has exceeded those lofty expectations through the first four games of his second season. Fourth-year players Patrick Queen and Geno Stone were in strong consideration for me but Hamilton was the clear and obvious answer. The second-year pro is well on his way to a sensational breakout sophomore campaign with the way he has continued to display his rare positional versatility and impressive playmaking ability. Hamilton has already recorded 21 total tackles including several clutch open field takedowns that prevented potential touchdowns, two tackles for loss, three sacks, three quarterback hits, a forced fumble, two pass deflections, and his first official career interception. The Ravens have a star in making who is already establishing himself as one of the best defenders in the league, regardless of position.
CB Brandon Stephens
Entering the season, one of the biggest question marks on an otherwise strong roster for the Ravens was the cornerback position, especially after the injury to Marlon Humphrey. The unit has more than held its own through four weeks, however, and that is largely in part to the improved play of third-year cornerback Brandon Stephens. Stephens has done his job so far this season as the team’s No. 1 cornerback while Humphrey remains sidelined. When Humphrey does return to action, Baltimore could be looking at top tier group of cornerbacks.
DE Jadeveon Clowney
When the veteran Clowney signed late in training camp, the belief was that he could come in, be a solid run defender, and maybe generate some pressure here and there. Through four weeks, Clowney is on pace to break the Baltimore Ravens record for pressures in a single season. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s missed a couple sacks and has been coined “Mr. Almost” by Marlon Humphrey, but Clowney has been consistently causing havoc in the backfield. While many young players have stepped up in place of injured stars and performed admirably, no other player has exceeded expectations in the way Clowney has. Going into the season, the edge position was viewed as a position of weakness on the team. Now, with the recent signing of Kyle Van Noy, the expected return of Odafe Oweh, and the emergence of Clowney, the Ravens should feel very comfortable with their group going forward.
CB Brandon Stephens
After another up-and-down preseason, Stephens’ stock was not high heading into Week 1. However, he’s flipped a switch since the start of the regular season and emerged as one of the Ravens’ most important and impactful defenders through four games. In Marlon Humphrey’s absence, Stephens has stepped up as the team’s top cornerback. He’s covered opposing top wideouts admirably, limiting big plays and not allowing any touchdowns. With Humphrey out as well as Marcus Williams, Stephens’ emergence has been paramount to the Ravens having one of the league’s top defenses thus far.
— Frank Platko